Potential Health Benefits of Buttermilk

A glass of milk (left) and a glass of buttermilk (right)
Ukko-wc/Wikimedia Commons

Homestyle buttermilk is the slightly sour liquid that is left over after whole milk is churned into butter. Buttermilk is lower in fat than regular milk because the fat has been removed to make butter. There are a number of health benefits that may be associated with cooking with buttermilk, such as being a digestive aid and other potential health properties related to its rich vitamin and mineral composition.

Nutritional Facts

One cup of buttermilk has 99 calories and 2.2 grams of fat, whereas whole milk has 157 calories and 8.9 grams of fat. Read the labels as some brands of buttermilk are higher in fat than others.

Buttermilk is high in potassium, vitamin B12, calcium, and riboflavin as well as a good source of phosphorus. Buttermilk can be fresh, frozen, and sold in powdered form.

Digestive Benefits

Those with digestive problems are often advised to drink buttermilk rather than milk, as it is more quickly and easily digested. Buttermilk has more lactic acid than skim milk.

Buttermilk made at home is a rich source of probiotics. Like yogurt or kefir, buttermilk that contains active cultures can help build healthy bacteria in the stomach that may have been lost due to taking antibiotics. These healthy bacteria enhance digestion, aid in nutrition, and combat digestive issues from flatulence to Crohn's disease. Those suffering from indigestion or reflux may find that the richness of buttermilk soothes an inflamed esophagus.

If you want these digestive health properties, check that your buttermilk contains live cultures. Buttermilk that has been pasteurized will have killed the bacteria and cultures after it produced the tangy acid.

Bone Growth and Osteoporosis

One of buttermilk's greatest benefits is its calcium content. You need 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily, and each cup of low-fat buttermilk gives you 284 milligrams, just over a quarter of your goal. Getting ample calcium in your diet may help slow bone loss as you age, may help support new bone growth, and may stave off osteoporosis. Calcium is also known to support cell communication and muscle contraction.

Detox Your Body

If you add buttermilk to your diet, then you increase your riboflavin, or vitamin B-2 consumption. Riboflavin activates enzymes in your cells, which helps drive energy production. Riboflavin also supports liver function, a key process for detoxifying your body of toxins. Riboflavin helps your body make uric acid, a strong antioxidant. One cup of buttermilk has 377 micrograms of riboflavin, which is nearly one-third of your body's daily requirement. 

Protein-Packed

Protein is especially important for strong bones, muscles, and skin health. One cup of buttermilk has 8.1 grams of protein, which is about the same as one cup of low-fat milk.

Calorie Counting

For those watching their caloric or fat intake, you can try putting a couple of tablespoons of buttermilk on your baked potato or in mashed potatoes as a substitution for sour cream or butter. You will get both the buttery flavor and the slight tang of sour cream with a fraction of the calories. You can also make a sour cream substitute using buttermilk powder.