There’s nothing better than a tall glass of buttermilk on a hot summer day! In countries like India, buttermilk has traditionally been a staple drink. Buttermilk also features in marinades and soda bread in many American households. And of course, your favorite pancakes just wouldn’t be the same without a splash of buttermilk. But the humble buttermilk isn’t just a thirst-quencher or a savory ingredient. It has long been valued for its medicinal properties in the ancient science of ayurveda. It can do wonders for your health and wellness, and even help your body put up a fight if you’re unwell!
So what exactly is buttermilk? Traditional buttermilk is the liquid left over after butter was churned, had either fresh or fermented. The readymade version of this you see in stores today is often cultured buttermilk, which is essentially milk that has been fermented with beneficial bacteria.1
Here’s a look at the health benefits of the yummy and versatile buttermilk:
1. Gives You A Nutritional Boost
Buttermilk can give you important nutrients like iron, potassium, phosphorus, sodium, and zinc as well as vitamins A, D, E, and B. But where it really scores is as a rich source of calcium and protein. One cup (245 g) of this nutritious drink gives you 282 mg of calcium. This in turn can add to your calcium reserve, which your body needs to keep your teeth and bones strong. Calcium is also used for the process of expanding and contracting blood vessels and muscles, to release enzymes and hormones, and transmit signals through your nervous system.2 A good helping of this mild drink can up your calcium quotient and help prevent problems like osteoporosis.
The milk fat globule membrane (MFGM) found in buttermilk is rich in bioactive proteins.3 One cup of buttermilk gives you 7.86 grams of protein. Protein is used by your body for making new cells and repairing cells, aside from aiding growth and development. It’s important for healthy muscles, brain cells, hair, skin, and nails.4 Ideally, for an adult, protein should make up 10 to 30% of the total calories consumed.5 6
2. Is A Nourishing Way To Stay Hydrated
Are you in the habit of reaching for sugary sodas when you feel thirsty? Try buttermilk instead. While a cup of buttermilk does give you 152 kcal, it’s a nutritionally dense drink, unlike sodas or other sugary drinks. And if you want to ease up on the calories, go for a low-fat version which brings the calorie count down to 98 kcal.7 Substituting unhealthy, nutritionally poor drinks with low-fat buttermilk may even help you manage your weight.
3. May Be Suitable For The Lactose Intolerant
Here’s another piece of good news. If you’re excited about the nutritional benefits that milk or milk products can offer but are lactose intolerant, buttermilk might just be the thing for you. According to research, fermentation reduces the lactose content of milk products, converting it into lactic acid. One study found that lactose intolerant people who exhibited signs of diarrhea and abdominal distress upon consuming 500 ml of milk were able to consume the same amount of fermented milk products without problems.8 But go easy at first and see if you are showing any signs of lactose intolerance when you have buttermilk. Work up to larger quantities slowly.
4. Eases Wrinkles
Did you know that buttermilk is also good for your skin? In fact, legend has it that Cleopatra bathed in it to keep her skin smooth and healthy. If so, she certainly has science backing her up! Buttermilk contains lactic acid. This alpha-hydroxy acid can smoothen skin and eases wrinkles and fine lines.9
How to use: Simply apply buttermilk on your face and neck, leave it on for a while and rinse off. If you’re not looking for a full body treatment, draw a warm bath, add 2 to 4 cups of buttermilk to it, and settle in for about 20 minutes for a relaxing soak. Then scrub your skin with a washcloth using circular motions and rinse off for smooth skin.10
5. Rejuvenates Sun-Damaged Skin
We all know that the sun’s rays can damage your skin. The most immediate and visible signs of this could be a tan or sunspots. Lactic acid causes the outer layer of skin, known as the epidermis, to shed and thus induces remodeling of skin. Studies have found skin treated with lactic acid to have lower deposits of melanin, the pigment that gives skin color. It was also found that collagen I and procollagen were increased after treatment with lactic acid.11 If you have sun-damaged skin, leverage the power of lactic acid by using buttermilk.
How to use: Apply buttermilk to the suntanned skin or dab it on sunspots to lighten your skin.12
6. Controls Cholesterol
High cholesterol levels can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. Buttermilk can be your secret weapon here! One study found that the daily consumption of 45 gm of buttermilk for 4 weeks was associated with lower fasting serum total cholesterol levels, LDL or “bad” cholesterol, and triacylglyceride (TAG) levels in the blood. Buttermilk is thought to work primarily by inhibiting the absorption of cholesterol by your intestines.13 So, add buttermilk to your diet to decrease levels of artery-clogging cholesterol.
7. Lowers Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is associated with serious health issues like heart failure, stroke, heart attack, and kidney disease. Research now shows that buttermilk can be helpful if you’re trying to manage your blood pressure. One study observed that people whose diets were supplemented with 45 g of buttermilk per day for 4 weeks experienced a reduction in blood pressure. This was attributed to the milk fat globule membrane (MFGM) found in buttermilk and its effect on the angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) system. ACE has a role to play in modulating blood pressure. So sipping on some buttermilk might just do your blood pressure levels a whole lot of good!14 So, sipping on some buttermilk might just do your blood pressure levels a whole lot of good!
8. Helps Treat Diarrhea And Other Digestive Disorders
Buttermilk, which is known as takra in ayurveda, is considered to help with proper digestion as it has tridoshahara properties. That is, it can regulate all the three doshas or bodily humors – vata, pitta, and kapha. Buttermilk that is sweet rather than sour, as well as free from fat and not very thick, is beneficial for those suffering from abdominal disorders.15 It is also helpful in other gastrointestinal disorders, known in ayurveda as grahani roga, a term that refers to conditions like irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s disease which can make it difficult for your body to properly absorb nutrients.16
Modern research backs this up too. Infectious diarrhea, a common condition, is usually caused by viruses, bacteria, or protozoa which are transmitted through contaminated food or drinks. Research shows that lactobacillus and bifidobacteria present in probiotic buttermilk has antimicrobial properties. One study found that 100% of the patients with infectious diarrhea who were treated with buttermilk alongside medication recovered while only 73.33% who used medication only recovered. None of the buttermilk group experienced a recurrence of the condition, whereas the diarrhea returned in 10 days in 26.66% of those who used medication only.17
9. Prevents Yeast Infections
Vaginal yeast infections are a common problem that most women have encountered at some point or the other. But probiotics found in buttermilk can be beneficial for maintaining urogenital health. The vagina is a balanced ecosystem where dominant Lactobacilli strains create a hostile acidic environment for harmful microorganisms. Certain factors like taking antibiotics or using birth control pills may disturb the balance of this environment, resulting in the overgrowth of yeast. But balance can be restored by consuming beneficial bacteria through buttermilk.18 19 Adding some buttermilk to your daily diet can help keep yeast infections at bay.
10. Features In Ayurveda’s Anti-Diabetes Regimen
Ayurveda considers regular exercise, a healthy diet that restricts excess sugar, wine, excess oil etc., and the use of rasayana herbs like amalaki to be beneficial in preventing diabetes. The consumption of buttermilk is also recommended as a preventive measure. Other dietary components that may be helpful include preparations of barley, green gram, drum-stick, fenugreek, snake gourd etc.20
11. Helps Treat Hemorrhoids
According to ayurveda, buttermilk can also be useful for treating hemorrhoids. Improper diet and unhealthy habits are thought to lessen your digestive fire. These lead to the accumulation of waste or toxins in your body, resulting in hemorrhoids. Simple remedies for this disease suggested by ayurveda include herbs that are taken with buttermilk. Two common remedies include
- A preparation consisting of 1 gm each of the fruit of ajwain (ptycotis) and black salt taken with buttermilk 2 times in a day.
- A preparation of 1 gm of the root of citraka (leadwort) powdered and mixed with buttermilk taken twice a day. 21
12. Tackles Insomnia
Buttermilk may also be useful in beating insomnia. One study found that when a concoction of buttermilk and ayurvedic medicinal formulations nirgundi swaras and sashamoola kwatha was used for performing takradhara on people suffering from insomnia they experienced relief. Takradhara is a process where medicated buttermilk is slowly poured over your head. Upon completion of the treatment, it was found that 73% patients experienced relief from drowsiness, 58% from fatigue, 72% from headache, 60% from yawning, and 67% from malaise.22
|↑1||Hill, Louella. Kitchen Creamery: Making Yogurt, Butter & Cheese at Home. Chronicle Books, 2015.|
|↑2||Calcium. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑3, ↑14||Conway, Valérie, Patrick Couture, Sylvie Gauthier, Yves Pouliot, and Benoît Lamarche. “Effect of buttermilk consumption on blood pressure in moderately hypercholesterolemic men and women.” Nutrition 30, no. 1 (2014): 116-119.|
|↑4||Protein. Department of Health & Human Services.|
|↑5||Protein in diet. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑6||Basic Report: 01230, Milk, buttermilk, fluid, whole. USDA.|
|↑7||Basic Report: 01088, Milk, buttermilk, fluid, cultured, lowfat. USDA.|
|↑8||Alm, Livia. “Effect of fermentation on lactose, glucose, and galactose content in milk and suitability of fermented milk products for lactose intolerant individuals.” Journal of Dairy Science 65, no. 3 (1982): 346-352.|
|↑9||Smith, Walter P. “Epidermal and dermal effects of topical lactic acid.” Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 35, no. 3 (1996): 388-391.|
|↑10||Blume, Lesley MM. Let’s Bring Back: An Encyclopedia of Forgotten-Yet-Delightful, Chic, Useful, Curious, and Otherwise Commendable Things from Times Gone By. Chronicle Books, 2013.|
|↑11||Yamamoto, Yuki, Koji Uede, Nozomi Yonei, Akiko Kishioka, Toshio Ohtani, and Fukumi Furukawa. “Effects of alpha‐hydroxy acids on the human skin of Japanese subjects: The rationale for chemical peeling.” The Journal of dermatology 33, no. 1 (2006): 16-22.|
|↑12||London, Davina. Skin Cures from Your Kitchen Cupboard. Dorrance Publishing, 2014.|
|↑13||Conway, V., P. Couture, C. Richard, S. F. Gauthier, Y. Pouliot, and B. Lamarche. “Impact of buttermilk consumption on plasma lipids and surrogate markers of cholesterol homeostasis in men and women.” Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases 23, no. 12 (2013): 1255-1262.|
|↑15||Tiwari, Vinay, Gurmel Singh, and Abdul Khader. “TAKRA PRAYOGA IN UDARA ROGA.”|
|↑16||Raina, Triveni, and Dalip Sharma. “TAKRA: AN ALONE WAY TO TREAT GRAHANI-A LITERARY REVIEW.”|
|↑17||Nag, Anamika, Neelam Kumari, and Kripa Sharma. “Determining the efficacy of probiotic buttermilk on patients suffering from infectious diarrhea.” (2011).|
|↑18||Health benefits of taking probiotics. Harvard Health Publications.|
|↑19||Cash, Jill C., and Cheryl A. Glass, eds. Family practice guidelines. Springer Publishing Company, 2017.|
|↑20||Madhumeha (Diabetes mellitus). National Health Portal.|
|↑21||ARSHA(Piles). National Health Portal.|
|↑22||Poonam, Mohod, Mohod Sharad, S. Shivani, and Kour Kirandeep. “TAKRADHARA THE DIVINE PROCEDURE FOR IMPROVING QUALITY OF THE SLEEP.” International Journal of Ayurveda and Pharma Research 3, no. 11 (2015).|