Buttermilk: Are There Health Benefits?

Medically Reviewed by Mahammad Juber, MD on November 29, 2022
3 min read

You’ve probably had buttermilk before in buttermilk pancakes, biscuits, or ranch dressing. The tangy, creamy liquid is perfect in many recipes. It’s also filled with some surprising health benefits.

While buttermilk sounds like a high-fat drink, it’s actually the opposite. Buttermilk was originally made from milk that was left over after making butter. Churning milk removed the fat by converting it to butter. The churning process left the milk in the churn just a little sour, full of bacteria that are surprisingly good for you. The end result was a versatile liquid, rich with protein and perfect for baking.

Dairy farmers have been using buttermilk for centuries, and it’s considered a healthy, useful dairy byproduct today.

A one-cup serving of cultured 1% buttermilk contains:

  • 110 calories
  • 9 grams of protein
  • 3 grams of fat
  • 13 grams of carbohydrates
  • Less than 1 gram of fiber
  • 12 grams of sugar

Buttermilk is an excellent source of protein, which your body needs to build healthy muscles, skin, and bones. Most buttermilk on the market is also fortified with extra vitamins and minerals, such as: 

The vitamins, minerals, and probiotics in buttermilk provide some excellent health benefits. For instance, the vitamin A in fortified buttermilk is an important part of keeping your eyes healthy. Vitamin A is part of a group of vitamins known as retinoids because they’re a crucial part of keeping your retinas in good shape. Vitamin A also boosts your immune system and keeps your lungs, heart, and kidneys healthy.

Buttermilk provides some other significant health benefits:

It can give you more energy. The riboflavin in buttermilk is a B vitamin that is vital for your body’s energy production systems. Riboflavin also helps regulate your body’s amino acids, which make up proteins.

It can give you another option if you're lactose intolerant. People who have lactose intolerance may find buttermilk easier than standard milk to digest. The process of making buttermilk involves adding bacteria that break down and digest lactose in the milk. The bacteria convert lactose into lactic acid, lowering the total amount of lactose. 

It can make your gut healthier. The healthy bacteria added to buttermilk offer another benefit: they act as probiotics. Your gut is filled with bacteria that help you digest your food. Sometimes after you take antibiotics or have a stomach illness, the number of “good” bacteria in your gut becomes lower than it should be. Probiotics help improve your digestive health by repopulating your stomach with the bacteria you need for digestion/

It can help your bones. Buttermilk is an excellent source of calcium. Your bones, teeth, and blood all include significant amounts of calcium, making it the most common mineral in your body. Calcium is not only important to your body’s bone structures, but also critical to maintaining signaling systems in your blood.

It can help keep your Cholesterol levels healthy. Studies have shown that a small amount of buttermilk each day can help lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels in people with high cholesterol levels. High cholesterol is tied to heart disease and strokes, so keeping your levels to a healthy range will really help your health.

Although people who have lactose intolerance may find they are better able to tolerate buttermilk, remember that it is still a dairy product.

People who have dairy allergies or are particularly sensitive to lactose should be cautious about buttermilk. It's also not a low-calorie food, so if you are trying to limit your calories, be sure to have just one or two 8-ounce servings a day.