Cultured Milk and Dairy During Pregnancy: Is It Safe?  

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Written by Amy Kaczor RDN

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Since it is advised that pregnant women steer clear of certain types of dairy, such as unpasteurized milk, you might wonder if you can have cultured milk and dairy products during pregnancy.

Overall, you can safely drink cultured milk, including buttermilk, and consume other cultured dairy products as long as they are pasteurized. 

From milk to cheese and yogurt, let’s discuss the safety implications and nutritional information of cultured dairy products. 

Is Cultured Milk Safe When Pregnant?

In general, cultured milk, which is commonly referred to as buttermilk, is safe for pregnant women as long as it is pasteurized. 

Buttermilk is a low-fat or fat-free cow’s milk product that has lactic acid bacteria added in. This is why it is called cultured milk (source: California Dairy Press Room).

The result is a thicker and tangier milk product that many people love. Buttermilk can be consumed as a drink, just like regular milk. It is also often used in baking, cooking, and more. 

buttermilk on a pitcher

All dairy products that you consume while you are pregnant, including milk, cheese, and yogurt, should be pasteurized (source: United States Food & Drug Administration [FDA]).

Pasteurization is the process of heating the milk to high temperatures to kill any bacteria that may be present. Pasteurization is essential for pregnant women, who are at an increased risk of developing foodborne illnesses. 

More specifically, pasteurization kills any potential listeria bacteria that can cause listeriosis. Listeriosis can cause premature delivery, stillbirth, and more (source: FDA). Salmonella and E. Coli are also a concern in raw milk. 

Otherwise, pasteurized buttermilk is an excellent source of calcium, protein, and other vitamins and minerals. 

During pregnancy, you need more calcium in your diet than when you are not pregnant. Calcium supports the muscles, bones, nerves, and circulatory systems of you and your growing baby (source: American Pregnancy Association).

In fact, you need 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day when you are pregnant or lactating. For reference, one cup (or eight fluid ounces) of low-fat buttermilk contains 283 milligrams of calcium (source: United States Department of Agriculture [USDA]).

In other words, a serving of buttermilk has over a quarter of your calcium requirements for the entire day during pregnancy. 

Additionally, a cup of low-fat buttermilk contains just over eight grams of protein (source: USDA). During pregnancy, about 71 grams of protein are needed each day to help the baby grow and develop (source: Mayo Clinic). All dairy products, including yogurt, are a good source of protein.

woman holding a bottle of cultured milk in a grocery store

Is Cultured Milk Pasteurized? 

Both pasteurized and unpasteurized cultured milk is available. The packaging should clearly state whether or not the milk is pasteurized. If it is not pasteurized, you will see a warning label. Store-bought buttermilk is likely pasteurized, but always check to make sure. 

Avoid any dairy, including buttermilk or cultured dairy, that says it is raw or does not specify that it has been pasteurized, such as that from a farmer’s market, roadside stands, or health food store (source: FDA). 

If you make cultured milk or buttermilk at home, ensure the cow’s milk base you are using specifies that it has been pasteurized. 

Is Cultured Cheese Safe During Pregnancy 

Cultured cheese is a variety of cheese produced with bacteria. Cultured cheese can be made from a wide variety of different bacteria in a cheese culture. 

Unless cultured cheese is pasteurized, it is not safe for pregnant women because of the increased risk of listeria and other dangerous bacteria. 

cultured cheese and basil on a wooden board

Are Cultured Cheeses Pasteurized?

Unfortunately, cultured cheese is more commonly unpasteurized than pasteurized. Therefore, to be on the safe side, it is best to avoid eating cultured cheese during pregnancy unless you are sure it was made from pasteurized milk. 

Any type of cheese (even soft cheeses) can be safe for you during your pregnancy as long as you are sure it is pasteurized.

Is Cultured Yogurt Safe for Pregnant Women? 

While most yogurts can be defined as “cultured” because of the bacteria added in, it is essential to note that they must be pasteurized in order to be considered safe for pregnancy. 

Reading the packaging is imperative to make sure yogurt is safe. Yogurts that are homemade or from a farmer’s market or roadside stand are most likely to be unpasteurized. 

woman eating cultured yogurt using a spoon

Is Cultured Yogurt Pasteurized?

Most yogurt you find at your regular grocery store will be pasteurized. This includes regular yogurt, Greek yogurt, and most other varieties. 

Overall, when you are pregnant, stick with commercially made and store-bought cheeses, yogurts, and milk to ensure they are pasteurized. 

I hope this article helped provide information regarding cultured dairy products, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt, and how to choose which products to eat or drink during your pregnancy.