“Nectar is for Gods and goddesses, buttermilk is for human beings,” a quote that sums up the importance of buttermilk in our lives. Buttermilk is probably one of the most common dairy products in an Indian household. Since ancient times buttermilk has had several usages. Some of them include curing stomach ailments, clearing skin blemishes, and adding flavour to our favourite dishes. Buttermilk is one of the most commonly used ingredients in Ayurvedic treatments. It has another name, and it is “grandma’s probiotic” due to its high gut-friendly microbial population.
Buttermilk is a fermented drink made up of milk or milk substitutes. It is an acidic food that contains lactic acid produced by microorganisms. Therefore, it has a very high nutritional value. In addition, it offers several health benefits. For example, it has anti-cancer benefits. Buttermilk also detoxifies the body, improves gut health, heals acne scars, prevents dandruff, and has several key benefits. It also improves heart health and circulation and has anti-inflammatory properties. Buttermilk is a superfood full of nutrients, minerals, vitamins and proteins. In addition, it is rich in antioxidants.
There are four types of buttermilk: traditional buttermilk, acidified buttermilk, spiced buttermilk, and cultured buttermilk.
Nutritional Values of Buttermilk
Per 100 ml of buttermilk contains:
- Calories: 40
- Carbohydrates: 4.8 g
- Proteins: 3.3 g
- Fats: 0.9 g
- Cholesterol: 4 mg
- Dietary fibres: 1g
Health Benefits of Buttermilk
1. Reduction of Cholesterol
Buttermilk can help manage heart health by regulating cholesterol levels in the blood and arteries. There are two types of fats in our body: healthy fats (unsaturated fats) and unhealthy fats (saturated fats). While consuming about 40-70 g of healthy fats every day is essential, cutting down on unhealthy fats is necessary. These saturated fats can raise LDL-cholesterol levels in our body, accumulating in blood vessels and arteries. Excessive deposition of LDL cholesterol can put you at risk for heart diseases like hypertension, atherosclerosis, and even stroke.
Many studies have shown that regular buttermilk consumption can reduce the LDL-cholesterol levels in the blood. As components of buttermilk reduce the assimilation and absorption of cholesterol in the intestine.
2. Improves Gut Health
Buttermilk is a good source of probiotics, which can improve gut health. Probiotics are healthy microorganisms found in certain foods, especially dairy, that help provide us with many vitamins and minerals. Additionally, probiotics can also help reduce the pathogenic organisms that enter our gut. Probiotics are essential for efficient digestion, and they are a great source of vitamin B12, especially for vegetarians and vegans. It also has cooling properties, which can help reduce excessive heat in the body.
Moreover, buttermilk can protect against gastric infections due to its antibacterial property. For example, a study suggests that specific proteins found in buttermilk were able to act antagonistically against the pathogen Helicobacter pylori, which causes gastric and intestinal ulcers. Therefore, this is a great preventative measure for people prone to gastric health problems. Additionally, buttermilk can help promote regular bowel movement and relieves constipation by strengthening the digestive system.
3. Anticancer Effects
Many studies demonstrate that buttermilk may show inhibitory activity towards growing cancer cells. In addition, a study proves that buttermilk has anti-proliferative effects on cancerous cells only. Additionally, buttermilk contains specific proteins, like a selenium-carrier protein, which can reduce the growth and differentiation of breast cancer cells.
The components in buttermilk that contribute to its anticancer properties are bioactive lipids and proteins. Some of these lipids are phospholipids and sphingolipids. These lipids can induce cancer cell death by a process called apoptosis. In addition, it can interfere with DNA synthesis in the cancerous cells and make them defective, therefore triggering affected cell death.
Furthermore, buttermilk can help cancer patients in more ways than one. For example, cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiotherapy are often weak, dehydrated, and unable to digest complex foods. Therefore, administrating buttermilk to these patients can provide them with sufficient nutrition while limiting the load on their digestive system.
4. Antibacterial and Antiviral Effects
Multiple research studies have suggested buttermilk for its antibacterial and antiviral effects. In fact, in ancient times, buttermilk was a popular remedy for an upset stomach. Although its mechanism was unknown at that time, its effectiveness was quite evident. Similarly, a study showed that preparations of buttermilk exhibited antibacterial effects towards common pathogens like E.coli, S. typhi, and S. aureus. These pathogens are responsible for gut-related infections, typhoid, and skin infections. Therefore, the regular use of buttermilk may act as a prophylactic measure against common pathogens.
Moreover, another study reveals the antiviral quality of buttermilk lipids on some viruses like HIV, herpes simplex virus, rotavirus, and poliovirus are thwarted. However, this is due to the iron-binding protein lactoferrin in buttermilk. Lactoferrin protein reacts with the peptides and the proteins present in the viruses. As a result, it deactivates them.
5. Antioxidant Source
Today’s lifestyle and diet can cause an accumulation of hazardous chemicals like free radicals in our bodies. Free radicals are highly reactive species that can cause the degradation of cells in our organs, skin. Even worse, they can cause mutations, or defects, in our DNA, which can snowball into a harmful by-product like cancer.
Antioxidants found in buttermilk, among other foods, can help make free radicals less reactive, thus scavenging them and eventually eliminating them from our bodies. As a result, it can reduce our chances of falling prey to mutation-induced cancers. In addition, they even protect our organs from cellular damage. Furthermore, it can slow down ageing in the skin due to the exact mechanism.
Studies have found the presence of butyrophilin, a hydrolysed protein found in buttermilk, which is a source of antioxidants. Furthermore, evidence suggests that antioxidants can act as protective species against many neurodegenerative diseases.
6. Detoxifies the Body
Vitamin B2 or riboflavin in buttermilk can help detoxify the body. Riboflavin promotes liver functioning while converting our food into energy. The liver’s primary function is to remove the toxins from our body and blood. Furthermore, riboflavin helps synthesise uric acid, an excretory product. As a result, it helps the liver function efficiently.
7. Buttermilk Promotes Kidney Health
Buttermilk is an excellent way to hydrate yourself. Moreover, it contains many minerals like phosphorus, calcium and potassium. These properties help kidney functioning and prevent the occurrence of kidney stones. Additionally, because buttermilk helps liver functioning, the load on the kidneys decreases.
There are many globular proteins along with lactic acid in buttermilk. They can help remove dead skin, heal acne scars, unclog pores, kill bacteria on the skin, and smooth out skin texture. As a result, this can have a combined effect of an even skin tone and a smoother skin texture. Additionally, because buttermilk is a fermented food, it can help reduce inflammation in the skin and body. To make a homemade face mask, you can combine buttermilk with more components like rose water, turmeric, banana paste, fuller’s earth, honey, etc. Then, apply the face mask evenly on clean skin, let it sit for about 15-20 mins, and rinse it with warm water. Using buttermilk as a face mask 2-3 times a week can improve skin quality.
Buttermilk contains many minerals and proteins, which can be beneficial for hair. For example, buttermilk proteins can help nourish the hair and scalp. It can also prevent the growth of dandruff and clean up the scalp. Buttermilk also provides nutrients to the hair, necessary for proper growth, leading to a better hair texture.
Buttermilk with more ingredients like olive oil, coconut oil, eggs, banana paste, rose water, aloe vera, or honey to make a hair mask. This hair mask can be applied 2 to 3 times a week and kept for 15 to 20 minutes. Afterwards, rinse off the hair mask using shampoo and warm water.
How and When to Drink Buttermilk
Buttermilk can be consumed at any time of the day, whether at night or before a meal. However, it is good to drink buttermilk on an empty stomach if one suffers from gut-related problems. This way, the microbes can act efficiently during this time. One can store buttermilk in the fridge for 3-4 days. After this period, you should discard it as it may contain harmful substances.
Buttermilk consumed at night can help you sleep better. Buttermilk contains calcium and tryptophan, an amino acid, which help in the production of melatonin in the brain. Melatonin is a hormone secreted in the brain which helps regulate our sleep-wake cycle. Melatonin production can be affected by the blue light in our electronic devices, thus causing insomnia and irregular sleep patterns. Therefore, drinking buttermilk at night can promote a better quality of sleep.
Additionally, buttermilk enhances flavour and aroma in many dishes. These include traditional Indian recipes like sambar and curries, baked goods like scones, and even sauce.
Recipe using Buttermilk
1. Spiced Buttermilk
- Servings: 4
- Preparation time: 15 mins
- Calories: 150
- Buttermilk: 2 cups
- Water: 2 cups
- Mint leaves: 10-15
- Jeera cumin seeds: half a teaspoon
- Ginger: 1-inch
- Green chilli (chopped): 1
- Salt (to taste)
- Add two cups of water to the buttermilk to dilute it.
- Crush coriander leaves, green chilli, and ginger into a paste
- Add the mixture to the buttermilk, add salt and mix it.
- Strain and pour into a glass or container.
Possible Side Effects, Precautions, and Things to Remember
People who are lactose intolerant, i.e. they cannot properly digest the milk sugar lactose, may develop symptoms like gas, upset stomach, bloating, and diarrhoea. Additionally, some people may be allergic to milk, which can cause hives, wheezing, vomiting, and in extreme cases, anaphylaxis. For people who cannot consume milk, one should use oat milk, almond milk or coconut milk.
Furthermore, buttermilk may contain a high amount of sodium, which may be harmful to people suffering from hypertension. High sodium intake is also a risk factor for heart diseases and kidney damage. In addition, excessive consumption of buttermilk may lead to bloating, gas, upset stomach, and an impaired digestive system. Therefore, the recommended daily intake of buttermilk is 1-2 glasses.
Buttermilk has had multiple uses since time immemorial. Now, it is a popular dairy food in an Indian household. It confers many health benefits, including anticancerous effects, promoting heart health and circulation and anti-inflammatory effects. It is also rich in antioxidants, detoxifies the body, improves gut health, heals acne scars, prevents dandruff, and many more. In addition, it contains many vitamins, minerals and protein; it may be considered a superfood.
Buttermilk may be prepared in many ways and can add flavour to any traditional dish. Incorporating buttermilk into our daily lives, in the form of a drink or face mask, may prove to have great benefits.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Is buttermilk acidic or alkaline?
A. Buttermilk is acidic because of lactic acid, produced by fermenting microorganisms.
Q. Is buttermilk a superfood?
A. Yes, buttermilk is a superfood since it has an abundance of nutrients, minerals, vitamins and proteins.
Q. Is buttermilk a probiotic?
A. Yes, in fact, buttermilk has been referred to as a “grandma’s probiotic” due to its high gut-friendly microbial population.
Q. Is buttermilk anti-inflammatory?
A. Yes, because buttermilk is a fermented food, it can help reduce inflammation in the skin and body.
Q. Does buttermilk increase gut bacteria?
A. Yes, buttermilk is an excellent source of probiotics. Therefore, this can increase the level of gut bacteria. As a result, they can aid in digestion and prevent the growth of harmful pathogens in our stomach and intestines.
Q. Can we drink buttermilk daily?
A. Yes, one can consume buttermilk daily, but not in excess. The recommended daily intake of buttermilk is 1-2 cups.
Q. Which is the best time to drink buttermilk?
A. Buttermilk can be consumed at any time of the day. Have it at your convenience. Be it at night, before a meal, or on an empty stomach.
Q. Is it okay to drink buttermilk at night?
A. Yes, it is okay to drink buttermilk at night along with dinner. Drinking buttermilk at night may impart a cooling effect on the body and promote sleep.
Q. Can I drink buttermilk on an empty stomach?
A. Yes, in fact, drinking buttermilk on an empty stomach can offer many health benefits. These regulate gut health, promote better heart health and circulation, and detoxify the body.
Q. Is drinking buttermilk good for you?
A. Yes, drinking buttermilk is very beneficial to health. It can regulate gut health, promote better heart health and circulation, and detoxify the body.
Q. Is buttermilk healthier than milk?
A. Although both buttermilk and milk contain similar nutrients and minerals, buttermilk contains less fat and fewer calories. Buttermilk has only 50% of the calories and fat found in milk.
Q. Is buttermilk good for gas?
A. Buttermilk helps strengthen the digestive system. However, excessive consumption may lead to bloating or gas. Additionally, if you’re lactose intolerant or allergic to milk, it may lead to an upset stomach or gas as well. Therefore, use milk substitutes.
Q. Is buttermilk a probiotic?
A. Yes, buttermilk is an excellent source of probiotics or healthy gut bacteria. They can aid in digestion and prevent the growth of harmful pathogens in our stomach and intestines.
Q. Is buttermilk good for the liver?
A. Yes. Buttermilk contains vitamin B2 or riboflavin, promoting liver functioning while converting our food into energy. Furthermore, riboflavin helps synthesise uric acid. In addition, it is an excretory product, thus enabling the liver to function efficiently.
Q. Is buttermilk good for uric acid?
A. Yes. Buttermilk contains vitamin B2 or riboflavin, promoting liver functioning while converting our food into energy. Furthermore, riboflavin helps synthesise uric acid. Therefore, it enables the liver to function efficiently.
Q. Is buttermilk good for your kidneys?
A. Yes. Buttermilk improves kidney functioning and prevents the occurrence of kidney stones.
Q. Is buttermilk good for constipation?
A. Yes, buttermilk helps strengthen the digestive system and prevents constipation.
Q. Does buttermilk whiten skin?
A. Buttermilk helps reduce skin blemishes, unclogs pores, and removes dead skin cells. As a result, this can lead to a brighter skin tone and an even and smooth skin texture.
Q. Is buttermilk good for body heat?
A. Yes, due to its cooling properties, buttermilk can help reduce body heat.
Q. Is buttermilk good for stomach problems?
A. Yes, buttermilk helps regulate gut health due to the probiotics present. Additionally, because of the antibacterial effects of buttermilk, it can prevent and heal many gastric and intestinal infections.
Q. Can buttermilk cause gas?
A. Buttermilk can cause gas in people with lactose intolerance or milk allergies. Additionally, excessive consumption of buttermilk may also lead to gas.
Q. Can I drink only buttermilk for three days?
A. It is not advisable to drink only buttermilk for three days as it can lead to bloating, gas, upset stomach, and an impaired digestive system. Instead, consume 1-2 glasses of buttermilk everyday along with regular meals.
Q. Why do we feel sleepy after drinking buttermilk?
A. Buttermilk contains an amino acid called tryptophan, which promotes the synthesis and secretion of the hormone melatonin. Melatonin helps regulate our sleep-wake cycle. Therefore, drinking buttermilk at night can promote a better quality of sleep.
Q. Which is better, kefir or buttermilk?
A. Both buttermilk and kefir offer many health benefits. However, the main difference is their carbohydrate content and dietary fibre content. While buttermilk provides a lower carbohydrate content, kefir offers a higher dietary fibre content.