Buttermilk is a fermented milk that, similarly to yogurt, is made by adding cultured bacteria. The fermentation gives buttermilk a distinct, tangy flavor that's welcome in baked goods and pancakes. This bacteria may also offer health benefits and help with digestion.
Source of Probiotics
The lactic acid bacteria used to make buttermilk are considered probiotics, which are friendly bacteria that promote gut health and play a role in digestion. These bacteria help you digest food and absorb nutrients. They also help keep the bad bacteria population down and may decrease your risk of cancer, according to Berkeley Wellness.
Buttermilk and Lactose Intolerance
People with lactose intolerance cannot drink milk because their bodies do not produce enough of the enzyme required to digest lactose, which is the sugar in milk, and drinking milk may cause diarrhea or abdominal pain. People with lactose intolerance may be able to tolerate buttermilk, however, because the lactic acid bacteria break down some of the lactose, decreasing the amount in the milk.
Other Benefits of Buttermilk
Like regular milk and yogurt, buttermilk is a good source of protein, calcium and potassium. To limit fat and calorie intake, use low-fat buttermilk instead of whole versions. A 1-cup serving of low-fat buttermilk has 100 calories, 2 grams of fat, 12 grams of carbs and 8 grams of protein. It also meets 28 percent of the daily value for calcium, 22 percent of the daily value for riboflavin and phosphorus, and 11 percent of the daily value for potassium.
Healthy Uses for Buttermilk
If you enjoy the tangy taste of buttermilk, you can drink it straight -- like a glass of regular milk -- or use it in your bowl of cereal. It also makes a good liquid base for a fruit smoothie. In baked goods, buttermilk helps to create a more tender, moist treat by increasing the rising action of the baking soda.
While some people with lactose intolerance may be able to drink buttermilk without experiencing any stomach upset, it's still a source of lactose and may not be suitable for everyone. You can make lactose-free buttermilk by adding lemon juice or vinegar to lactose-free milk or a milk alternative such as soy milk.
- Cook's Illustrated: 5 Buttermilk Questions You Were Too Embarassed to Ask
- Current Issues in Intestinal Microbiology: Lactic Acid Bacteria as Probiotics
- HealthAliciousNess.com: Nutrition Facts Comparison Tool: Buttermilk, Fluid
- Berkeley Wellness: Probiotics: Pros and Cons
- MedlinePlus: Lactose Intolerance