Buttermilk is a low-fat product that is traditionally made with the white liquid that remains after churning the cream to extract the butter. It is presented as a thick and creamy liquid, with a sour and slightly acidic taste. It is appreciated in many gastronomic cultures, raw or cooked, as a drink or in many recipes. But what’s so healthy about it? Here are the most interesting results from scientific research.
Lowers blood pressure
Increased cholesterol levels, especially triglycerides, and/or excessive blood pressure increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. For the prevention or treatment of too high cholesterol and blood pressure, it is recommended, among other things, not to absorb too much saturated fats in the daily diet. Both the traditionally buttered farmer’s butter milk and the modern buttermilk are healthy, low-fat dairy products and therefore fit into a healthy diet.
Traditionally produced farmer’s butter milk is even said to offer additional health benefits. During buttering, relatively many damaged, empty fat cell walls end up in buttermilk – not to be confused with the fat particles that make up the butter. These fat cell walls, which are rich in phospholipids, proteins and enzymes, are attributed additional health benefits. Scientific studies suggest that drinking 45 grams of buttermilk daily improves blood lipid levels and blood pressure. This effect should be higher in people with elevated cholesterol levels than in healthy people.
However, drinking modern buttermilk from skimmed milk does not improve cholesterol and blood pressure levels. This is probably due to the changed production method, which means that the fat cell walls are missing from buttermilk. However, caution is needed, because more scientific research is needed to draw conclusions.
Lower risk of colorectal cancer
400 milliliters of dairy products per day reduce the risk of colorectal cancer by about 15 percent. It is also claimed that buttermilk reduces the risk of breast cancer. The evidence for this, however, is razor-thin. Nevertheless, buttermilk can indirectly reduce the risk of breast cancer because it provides healthy nutrients and contributes to a healthy weight. Such factors also play a role in the development of cancer.
Healthy for the gut
Fermented dairy products such as buttermilk contain lactic acid bacteria and other probiotic bacteria such as lactobacilli and bifidobacteria. Such probiotic bacterial strains have a positive effect on the intestinal flora. The gut bacteria are essential for the digestion of our food, can reduce inflammation and possibly protect against intestinal diseases. As early as 1908, the Russian Nobel laureate Eli Metchnikoff recognized that fermented dairy products and probiotics are of great importance for our gut health. However, this was only taken seriously later.
Suitable for people with lactose intolerance
Some people do not tolerate lactose or lactose from dairy products well. This is also known as lactose intolerance. Lactose is present in all known dairy products. Sour, fermented dairy products such as yoghurt and buttermilk are generally better tolerated than normal, sweet milk. Sour milk products have a lower lactose content because some of the lactose has already been digested by the lactic acid bacteria.
Easier to digest
In addition, sour milk products have a high viscosity and a low PH value, which makes the stomach drain more slowly than with normal sweet milk. The body then has more time to digest lactose from buttermilk. For some, buttermilk still causes discomfort. Then it is better to do without buttermilk and take an alternative product.
May help with cystitis
The intestinal bacteria Escheria coli , also known as E. coli – is one of the risk factors for cystitis. Fermented dairy products such as buttermilk, contain lactic acid bacteria and other probiotic bacterial strains. Both have a positive influence on the intestinal flora and strengthen the immune system. In addition, probiotics safely reduce the risk of cystitis by making the E. coli bacteria less likely to settle on the mucous membrane of the urethra and bladder. The extent to which buttermilk can actually be regarded as a tool for preventing or treating urinary tract infections is still unclear and requires more scientific research.
Cleanses and soothes the skin
Dairy products have been associated in many ways with skin health. In some people, the consumption of dairy products exacerbates acne. On the other hand, dairy products contain healthy nutrients that can positively affect the skin. For example, lactic acid has been used for years in fermented dairy products against sunburn and excessive pigmentation. Fermented dairy products also have a beneficial effect on the intestinal flora, which can relieve inflammation of the skin.
A scientific study conducted in Japan in 2015 shows that essential phospolipids – also contained in buttermilk – can improve skin elasticity and moisture and reduce wrinkles. For this study, however, such high dosages were used that cannot be achieved by drinking buttermilk. Furthermore, it is not yet known whether it is better to consume fermented dairy products or apply them directly to the skin with a cotton pad. This needs to be further researched.
Buttermilk can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer. In addition, there is evidence that buttermilk has positive effects on the intestinal flora and immune system. So as long as you don’t have (severe) lactose intolerance: buttermilk is good for everyone.
Cassidy is a certified dietician with a focus on patients suffering with diabetes. She has more than 10 years of experience, working with patients of different background. She writes health-related article for the Scientific Origin.