What is buttermilk?
Buttermilk is a fermented dairy drink made from milk and a culture of lactic acid bacteria. Traditionally, it was the liquid left over from churning butter out of cultured cream. But today, most commercial buttermilk is made from low-fat or skim milk inoculated with a culture of bacteria that produce lactic acid, which thickens and sours the milk.
The main difference between buttermilk and regular milk is that buttermilk has been fermented, so it contains less sugar (lactose) and more lactic acid. The tangy flavor and thick texture of buttermilk are due to the lactic acid produced by the bacteria.
Buttermilk is relatively low in fat and calories compared to whole milk. One cup (245 grams) of low-fat (1%) buttermilk contains:
- Calories: 99
- Protein: 8 grams
- Carbs: 12 grams
- Fat: 2 grams
- Calcium: 284 mg (28% DV)
- Potassium: 573 mg (12% DV)
Due to its high calcium content, buttermilk is a good source of this important mineral. Buttermilk is also a complete source of protein, providing all nine essential amino acids.
Additionally, buttermilk contains vitamin B12, riboflavin, phosphorus, and vitamin D. The probiotic cultures added to buttermilk provide health benefits as well.
Overall, buttermilk is a highly nutritious dairy product.
Is buttermilk keto-friendly?
The ketogenic or “keto” diet is a very low carb, high fat diet. It’s designed to get your body into a metabolic state called ketosis, in which your body switches from using carbohydrates for energy to using fats and ketones instead.
On keto, carb intake is typically limited to around 5–10% of total calories. For most people, that works out to 20–50 grams of net carbs per day.
Net carbs are total carbs minus fiber. Fiber does not impact blood sugar levels and therefore does not need to be limited on keto.
So is buttermilk keto-friendly given the carb content?
Here are the carb counts again for 1 cup (245 grams) of low-fat buttermilk:
- Total carbs: 12 grams
- Fiber: 0 grams
- Net carbs: 12 grams
12 grams of net carbs is a moderate amount of carbs coming from just one cup.
It would use up nearly a quarter of your daily carb limit if your limit is 50 grams per day.
Therefore, buttermilk cannot reasonably be considered a low carb food. Drinking multiple cups per day would almost certainly knock you out of ketosis.
However, you can still incorporate buttermilk into a well-formulated keto diet in moderation. Here are some tips for doing so:
Tips for drinking buttermilk on keto
– Measure your portions. Stick to 1 cup (245 grams) or less per day. This provides 12 grams net carbs.
– Count it toward your total carb limit. Don’t go over 20–50 grams of net carbs from all sources.
– Pair it with low carb foods. For example, use buttermilk to make low carb smoothies, dressings, dips.
– Consider diluting it. Mixing equal parts buttermilk and water cuts the carbs in half.
– Choose low fat or fat free. Higher fat versions are slightly higher in carbs.
– Buy buttermilk powder. Makes portion control easier. Mix 1 tbsp powder + 1 cup water.
– Use sparingly in recipes. Substitute for only part of the buttermilk in baking recipes.
– Avoid pairing with very high carb foods. For best results, enjoy buttermilk with meals containing healthy fats, protein and low carb veggies.
So in short – yes, you can still enjoy buttermilk while following a keto diet. Just be mindful of portions and include it as part of your daily carb limit.
Here is detailed nutrition information for 1 cup (245 grams) of lowfat buttermilk:
|% Daily Value
Benefits of buttermilk
Here are some of the top health benefits associated with buttermilk:
Rich in calcium and vitamin D
Buttermilk is an excellent source of calcium and contains 28% of the recommended daily intake per cup. Calcium is essential for strong bones and teeth, muscle function, and nerve signaling.
It’s also a great source of vitamin D. Vitamin D aids in calcium absorption and bone health. Some brands of buttermilk are fortified with extra vitamin D.
The calcium and vitamin D in buttermilk may promote bone growth and prevent bone loss, protecting against osteoporosis.
Contains whey protein
Buttermilk is made from the liquid left over from churning butter out of cultured cream. This liquid contains all the water-soluble components of milk, including whey protein.
Whey protein provides all nine essential amino acids and is quickly digested and absorbed. Numerous studies show it can help build muscle mass and strength.
The whey protein in buttermilk makes it more nutritious than regular milk. Buttermilk may enhance muscle growth and maintenance due to its complete protein content.
Probiotics for gut health
Traditionally made buttermilk contains probiotic bacteria, primarily various species of Lactobacillus. Probiotics provide health benefits by enhancing gut health.
They balance levels of beneficial and harmful bacteria in your digestive system. A healthy gut microbiome is linked to improved immunity, brain function, mood, and metabolism.
The probiotics in buttermilk make it easy to get more healthy bacteria into your diet.
May benefit heart health
Buttermilk contains a specific probiotic known as Lactobacillus reuteri that may improve several heart disease risk factors.
Studies show this probiotic can reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol while increasing “good” HDL cholesterol. It also decreases triglycerides and blood pressure levels.
By improving cholesterol levels and blood pressure, L. reuteri may lower your risk of heart disease. The probiotics in buttermilk are thought to be responsible for some of its potential heart health benefits.
Helps regulate blood sugar
The probiotics in buttermilk may help improve glycemic control and insulin sensitivity, particularly in those with diabetes or obesity.
In a study in people with type 2 diabetes, taking Lactobacillus acidophilus for 6 weeks decreased fasting blood sugar by 13.7% and HbA1c by 0.6%. Other studies show similar results.
The probiotics in buttermilk may act in a similar way and aid blood sugar control. Buttermilk’s whey protein may also slow digestion after meals and prevent spikes in blood sugar.
Supports weight loss
Probiotics and protein – both found in buttermilk – may encourage weight loss.
Studies show probiotics reduce calorie absorption from food, promote feelings of fullness and decrease appetite. A healthy gut microbiome is also linked to less weight gain.
Meanwhile, protein enhances satiety and increases calorie burning after meals. Buttermilk’s whey protein content specifically may aid weight loss due to its effects on appetite and metabolism.
Drinking buttermilk can easily fit into a weight loss diet. It may support your efforts by improving gut health, increasing protein intake and controlling hunger and cravings.
Milk contains various antioxidants, including vitamin E, beta-carotene, selenium, and zinc. Many of these are retained in buttermilk after churning.
Antioxidants help neutralize harmful free radicals and prevent oxidative damage that can lead to disease. Buttermilk’s antioxidants may support your body’s defenses against cancer, heart disease, and premature aging.
Easy to digest
The culturing process makes buttermilk much easier to digest than regular milk.
Fermentation pre-digests the lactose, so buttermilk contains up to 30% less lactose than milk. The probiotics may also aid digestion for those sensitive to dairy.
Many people who cannot tolerate regular milk find that they can easily digest and drink buttermilk without discomfort or symptoms. The nutrients in buttermilk also appear to be very bioavailable compared to milk.
Downsides of buttermilk
Buttermilk has several benefits and can be included on a healthy diet. However, there are a few downsides to consider:
High in calories and fat
One cup (245 grams) of buttermilk contains almost 100 calories and 2 grams of fat. It’s much higher in calories than skim milk or fat free yogurt.
Going overboard on buttermilk can easily lead to excessive calorie intake, which could contribute to weight gain. Stick to small portions to keep calories under control.
Buttermilk contains less lactose than regular milk since the culturing process converts most of the lactose to lactic acid.
However, each cup still provides 6–8 grams of lactose. People with lactose intolerance may need to avoid buttermilk entirely or limit their portions.
May cause allergies
Buttermilk contains casein and whey, the two proteins found in cow’s milk. 3–4% of children develop allergies to these milk proteins.
Symptoms of dairy allergy can include hives, congestion, coughing, and wheezing. Those with a milk allergy must avoid buttermilk.
Added sugar and salt
Some brands add sugar to buttermilk to balance the tartness. Flavored varieties may contain added salt as well. Check labels and choose unflavored versions to limit your intake of added sugar and sodium.
Traditional buttermilk is made from cow’s milk. It’s not suitable for vegetarians or vegans.
However, some brands make cultured non-dairy versions from rice, soy, coconut or almond milk. These provide an option for those avoiding dairy.
Other Frequently Asked Questions
Here are answers to some other common questions about drinking buttermilk on a keto diet or for health:
Is buttermilk keto approved?
Buttermilk is not considered a keto-friendly beverage due to the carb content. However, it can fit into a well-planned keto diet in moderation. Stick to 1 cup (245 grams) or less per day and count the 12 grams of carbs toward your daily carb limit.
Can you drink buttermilk everyday?
There’s no harm in enjoying a cup of buttermilk daily if it fits into your diet and you are not lactose intolerant or allergic to milk. Buttermilk provides a range of important nutrients. However, keep portion sizes in check since it’s relatively high in calories.
Does buttermilk have probiotics?
Traditionally made buttermilk is cultured with lactic acid bacteria, so it contains probiotics. Commercial buttermilk is inoculated with bacterial cultures as well, but may contain less probiotics than traditional buttermilk. Check the label for live and active cultures.
Is buttermilk a good source of protein?
Yes, buttermilk is high in complete protein and contains around 8 grams per cup (245 grams). The whey protein in buttermilk provides all nine essential amino acids. Buttermilk can help boost your daily protein intake.
Is buttermilk good for weight loss?
Buttermilk’s protein and probiotics may support weight loss by improving satiety, digestive health, and body composition. However, it’s relatively high in calories, so portions need to be controlled. Overall, buttermilk can fit well into a diet for weight loss.
Can you drink buttermilk on a vegan or dairy-free diet?
Some brands make non-dairy versions of buttermilk from rice, soy, coconut or almonds. These provide an option for those on a vegan or dairy-free diet. Check the label to ensure the product is vegan.
The Bottom Line
Buttermilk is a nutritious fermented dairy drink that provides protein, calcium, vitamin D, antioxidants, and probiotics. It offers many benefits for bone health, muscle growth, weight loss, and digestion.
Although not low in carbs, buttermilk can be incorporated into a healthy keto diet in moderation by sticking to 1 cup (245 grams) per day or less. Buttermilk provides a range of nutrients that can complement a well-formulated ketogenic diet when consumed in small amounts.
Enjoy buttermilk paired with low carb foods or dishes to get its many health benefits while maintaining ketosis. But be sure to dilute it or watch your portions if you want to drink buttermilk on keto.