The primary health benefits of buttermilk come from its high content of vitamins and minerals, particularly vitamin B12, riboflavin, and potassium. Buttermilk is also considered a digestive aid, and is often tolerated by many of those who are lactose intolerant. Benefits of buttermilk that would be important to those trying to lose weight, or who are suffering from obesity-related illnesses, would include its low content of calories and fat.
Buttermilk is a good source of vitamin B12, which is responsible for helping to synthesize fatty and amino acids. B12 is also believed to help fight anemia, stress, and may help promote nerve cell growth. One of the primary benefits of vitamin B12 is that it helps convert glucose in the body into energy. Those who suffer from a deficiency of B12 often feel weak and may suffer from constipation and insomnia.
Riboflavin and potassium are also found in buttermilk. Potassium is believed to help lower blood pressure and, like vitamin B12, riboflavin helps convert foods to energy. Buttermilk is also considered a good source of calcium and phosphorous, both of which may contribute to bone health.
Other benefits of buttermilk apply to dieting and weight loss. Buttermilk is lower in calories and fat than whole milk, and even some reduced-fat milks. Some research indicates that excessive consumption of foods high in calories and fat content can lead to weight gain, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Buttermilk typically has just over half the calories found in whole milk and fully three-quarters less fat per serving.
One of the most important health benefits of buttermilk is its ease of digestion. Many people who have problems digesting whole milk may find that they do not have the same digestion problems after drinking buttermilk. This could be because the difficulty in digesting milk often comes from lactose intolerance, and buttermilk is lactose-free. The lactose in buttermilk has already been changed into lactic acid, which is typically much gentler on the digestive tract.
Buttermilk may also help rid the stomach of acids that lead to heartburn and indigestion. It coats the lining of the stomach, which helps to keep acids from moving up through the esophagus. Some people who suffer from ulcers claim that drinking a glass of buttermilk with meals helps them keep ulcer flare-ups to a minimum.
For those who would like to add the health benefits of buttermilk to their daily diet, it can be a simple matter of substituting buttermilk in recipes that call for whole milk. In most cases, the two types of milk are interchangeable, and many cooks claim that buttermilk is actually better for baked goods than is whole milk. Buttermilk is also often preferred for cooking foods with crusts, such as fried chicken and fish.