Ever wonder what this creamy and tangy, but slightly sour drink is? When I first heard about this, the name automatically turned me off, foolishly thinking that it was some kind of milky butter. Now, I consider it to be the perfect example of a superfood that is neither expensive nor complicated to get.
If you ever wake up one day with an instant desire to churn your own butter, you will see this produces two things: cream and whey. Separate them and use the cream for butter, and the leftover liquid, the whey, to make buttermilk.
Like many dairy products, buttermilk is a good source of protein, calcium and B-vitamins. Above that, it's said to help lower cholesterol, work against bad bacteria in the stomach, and may even help to fight off cancer and inflammation. However, what makes it special is a specific molecule: MFGM (for short) that is not as abundant in other milks.
Those that undergo high-temperature processing, like skim or 2%, tend to have less because the heat disrupts the proteins. As a result, it is the various components of MFGM that provide for the health benefits associated with buttermilk.
Cultured vs. Traditional
The buttermilk we see in stores today is not considered to be 'true buttermilk'. The traditional way involved churning the milk after it went 'bad' so the present bacteria could ferment the milk sugars and give off the sour taste. Up until the 1900s in America, people believed sour milk could increase longevity, but they weren't so keen to drink spoiled milk.Companies had to find alternatives, and when pasteurization became a practice, much of the naturally-occuring bacteria was killed off. Now, commercial buttermilk is sold in the form of skim or low-fat milk that's been cultured with lactic acid bacteria.
While we may not be drinking the authentic, 18th-century buttermilk that our ancestors made, the one purchased in stores can still be used for all kinds of delicious recipes. I feel better off knowing my products are fortified with good bacteria, rather than unwanted additives. Even more so, if I can still get in my vitamins whether I'm drinking them in a glass or eating them in these pancakes I made, it's definitely a win in my books.