Is Sour Cream Healthy? Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Rich in vitamin A, calcium and other nutrients, sour cream may improve eye, bone and brain health.
Image Credit: YelenaYemchuk/iStock/GettyImages

Sour cream makes an excellent addition to baked potatoes, homemade ice cream, soup, salad dressings and even smoothies. And sauces, dips and cakes wouldn't taste the same without it.

This savory ingredient can turn any meal into a feast. But did you know that it's good for your health, too? Rich in vitamin A, vitamin E, calcium, phosphorus and selenium, sour cream has its place in a balanced diet.

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Sour Cream Nutrition Facts

Sour cream is made by fermenting cream with live, active cultures from lactic acid bacteria, according to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut and other fermented foods contain live cultures, too.

Although the microorganisms in sour cream are usually destroyed during processing, some brands (like Green Valley) add probiotics back in.

Sour cream's calories and nutritional value depend on the brand and fat content. According to the USDA, 1 cup of regular sour cream provides:

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  • 455 calories
  • 44.5 grams of fat
    • 23.3 g saturated fat
  • 10.6 grams of carbs
    • 7.8 g sugar
  • 5.6 grams of protein
  • 30% of the DV for riboflavin
  • 32% of the DV for vitamin A
  • 20% of the DV for vitamin B12
  • 18% of the DV for calcium
  • 14% of the DV for phosphorus
  • 15% of the DV for selenium
  • 6% of the DV for potassium
  • 5% of the DV for magnesium

Most of the calories in sour cream come from fat. Light varieties have as little as 29 grams of fat and 327 calories per cup, according to the USDA. Their carb content, though, tends to be higher.

You can also opt for fat-free sour cream, which has 170 calories per cup and 36 grams of carbs, according to the USDA.

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Sour Cream Benefits

Sour cream is a good source of calcium, phosphorus, vitamin B12 and other essential nutrients that support overall health. Here's what it can do for you.

1. It Helps Protect Your Bones and Teeth

Rich in calcium and phosphorus, this dairy food promotes strong bones and teeth. Calcium supports the bones and may help prevent osteoporosis and fractures, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

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Phosphorus, which is the second most abundant mineral in the human body, also supports bone formation, energy production and protein synthesis, per the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

2. It Helps Prevent Vitamin B12 Deficiency

One of the most important health benefits of sour cream lies in its high vitamin B12 levels. The vitamin, which occurs only in animal foods (and fortified plant-based foods), contributes to DNA synthesis and helps your body produce red blood cells. It also plays a crucial role in brain function, the NIH notes.

Your body needs B12 to metabolize protein, enzymes and other nutrients. Low levels may contribute to appetite, fatigue, constipation, depression and nervous system damage along with anemia, neurological problems, and even diabetes and gastric cancer, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI).

In fact, getting enough vitamin B12 has been shown to reduce feelings of stress and improve mood overall, found a September 2019 review published in the journal ​Nutrients.

This nutrient occurs naturally in meat, fish, dairy and eggs. Therefore, vegans and vegetarians are more likely to develop deficiencies, per the NIH. If you're a vegetarian or you simply prefer to avoid cheese and fatty meats, sour cream can be a healthy choice. Another option is to include fortified grains, orange juice and soy foods in your diet, but these products are often heavily processed or high in refined carbs.

3. It Can Keep Your Eyes Healthy

Vitamins A and E, two key nutrients in sour cream, promote eye health. A diet rich in vitamin A and beta-carotene is linked to protection against cataracts, according to the American Optometric Association(AOA).

Vitamin E may also slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration and boost cellular health, per the AOA. Furthermore, it can delay cataract formation and improve immune function.

Can Sour Cream Make You Gain Weight?

Eating too much of any food can lead to weight gain, which happens when you take in more calories than you burn, according to the Mayo Clinic. That said, higher-calorie foods like sour cream are easier to overeat than low-calorie foods like fresh fruits and vegetables.

But sour cream can still be part of a healthy diet, and it won't stop you from maintaining or even losing weight. The key is to enjoy sour cream (and all of the foods that you love) in moderation and make sure it fits into your overall calorie needs. Plus, you can always opt for fat-free or light versions, which are lower in calories.

In fact, if you're on a low-carb or ketogenic diet, it might help you lose the extra pounds. High-fat, low-carb diets, such as the keto diet, may suppress appetite and reduce the desire to eat, according to a May 2020 review in ​Nutrition Research.​ And eating less overall can potentially help to reduce your body fat.

Keto diets may also reduce total fat mass and visceral fat without affecting lean mass when combined with strength training, found a July 2018 study in the ​Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition​. This approach, though, doesn't help with muscle growth. Researchers point out that eating enough protein and carbs — along with more calories overall — is more effective for building lean mass.

Can Sour Cream Raise Cholesterol?

This dairy food has 23.3 grams of saturated fat per cup — that's about 117 percent of the maximum DV. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends eating no more than 13 grams of saturated fat per day on a 2,000-calorie diet. When eaten in large amounts, saturated fat may raise blood cholesterol levels and lead to heart disease.

Saturated fat does not increase the risk of stroke and coronary heart disease (CHD), according to an April 2017 study published in the ​Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism​. However, replacing it with polyunsaturated fats can significantly lower CHD risk.

What's more, fermented dairy foods have little or no effect on cardiovascular function and all-cause mortality, per an April 2017 meta-analysis in ​the European Journal of Epidemiology​. In fact, they may help protect against heart disease, diabetes and stroke.

The bottom line: Most studies are conflicting, so it's hard to tell whether or not saturated fat affects your heart. To stay on the safe side, watch your portions and use sour cream in moderation.

Tip

Switch to Greek yogurt, which is just as delicious but higher in protein and lower in fat. Alternate between the two to keep your diet varied and prevent nutrient deficiencies.

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