Is Buttermilk Good for Pregnancy? Safety and Benefits

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Written by Amy Kaczor RDN

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Buttermilk can be enjoyed on its own or used in smaller amounts in recipes. However, there are a few things to consider when it comes to consuming buttermilk during pregnancy.

Buttermilk is safe to consume during pregnancy as long as it is pasteurized. Avoid consuming “raw” buttermilk from sources such as farmer’s markets.

There are some health benefits and risks to be aware of when it comes to consuming buttermilk during pregnancy. Let’s dive into it!

Is Buttermilk Safe During Pregnancy? 

Buttermilk is often used to add fluffiness to pancakes and biscuits or creaminess to your buttermilk Ranch dressing. But what is buttermilk, exactly?

Buttermilk is a fermented variation of cow’s milk that is thick and slightly sour, with a familiar acidic tang. More specifically, buttermilk is a low-fat milk product with added lactic acid bacteria, making it “cultured” (source: California Dairy Pressroom).

To safely consume buttermilk, ensure it has been stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator. In addition, ensure the milk has not gone past the expiration date on the packaging. Finally, shake well before using (source: California Dairy Pressroom). 

buttermilk on a pitcher

Buttermilk is often used to make pancakes, biscuits, or even breaded chicken. Keep in mind the milk can curdle very easily at high temperatures, so add it in as late as possible in the cooking process, then gradually increase the heat and slowly stir.

Additionally, Ranch dressing made with buttermilk is considered safe for pregnant women as long as it has been pasteurized. Check out this article to read more about eating Ranch salad dressing during pregnancy

You may have heard that drinking buttermilk later in the day or at night can contribute to increased acid reflux or cough symptoms in pregnant women. However, studies have shown that low-fat dairy can actually relieve heartburn and acid reflux symptoms (source: Johns Hopkins Medicine).

Is Buttermilk Pasteurized?

Commercially produced buttermilk that you find on the grocery store shelves (often called “cultured” buttermilk) is pasteurized. Pasteurization is the process of heating milk to high temperatures to kill any harmful bacteria (source: California Dairy Pressroom).

Pasteurized dairy is safe for women to consume during pregnancy (source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration). 

Popular brands of cultured buttermilk, including Kemps and Prairie Farms, are labeled as pasteurized and are safe to drink during pregnancy. When choosing your favorite commercially produced buttermilk, look for “Pasteurized” on the product package.

It is best to avoid buttermilk that has been made at home or sold at farmer’s markets since these products might not be pasteurized.

The Benefits of Buttermilk When Pregnant

Like regular milk, buttermilk is rich in protein, calcium, and vitamin D. Calcium and vitamin D work together to support strong bones, promote healthy nerve communication, and more (source: Johns Hopkins Medicine).

Overall, buttermilk is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals that help support healthy functioning and development during your pregnancy. 

Vitamin D is also essential for healthy bone development in your baby (source: American Pregnancy Association). Inadequate maternal amounts of vitamin D during pregnancy have been related to the occurrence of preeclampsia (source: PubMed). 

Additionally, unlike regular cow’s milk, which has skim, 1%, 2%, and whole varieties, buttermilk is typically made with low-fat or non-fat milk. Although there are whole varieties of buttermilk, it is best to opt for the lower-fat versions to avoid consuming excessive amounts of saturated fat. 

pregnant woman drinking buttermilk

As mentioned above, buttermilk and other low-fat dairy products may also help improve feelings of heartburn, a common pregnancy symptom (source: Johns Hopkins Medicine). 

Furthermore, since buttermilk is made by adding lactic acid bacteria to cow’s milk, buttermilk is a rich source of probiotics. Probiotics are food products that provide healthy bacteria and microorganisms that can be found in the gastrointestinal tract.

The community of healthy and unhealthy bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract is called the gut microbiome, or microbiota. Studies have shown a relationship between an unbalanced gut microbiome and adverse health outcomes during pregnancy, such as obesity and diabetes (source: Current Diabetes Reports).

Therefore, the probiotics present in buttermilk may protect against conditions such as gestational diabetes mellitus, allergies, and preeclampsia. 

Probiotics also support a healthy digestive system (source: Harvard Medical School).

While the effects vary based on the specific strain of bacteria used, probiotics can aid in treating or preventing uncomfortable gastrointestinal symptoms, such as diarrhea, urinary tract infections, and irritable bowel syndrome. 

Overall, buttermilk is a tasty and nutritious beverage and ingredient to use while pregnant, as long as it is pasteurized. I hope you found this article helpful in finding information surrounding buttermilk and pregnancy!