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Fermented Dairy and Heart Disease

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Fermentation may contribute to lower health risks 

The people of Finland just love dairy.  It’s a major part of their food culture as evidenced by the variety of items found on their grocery shelves.  In addition to milk, yogurt and cheese you’ll find fermented regional specialties like Piima, a Finnish drinkable yogurt that’s similar to our buttermilk. Fermented items include kefir, yogurt and quark.  That said, it’s no surprise that researchers at the University of Eastern Finland investigated the relationship between dairy foods and coronary heart disease.  Specifically, they looked at consumption of fermented vs non-fermented dairy products and their potential heart protective benefits, a new territory of research. 

Investigators worked with 2,000 men without history of coronary heart disease (CHD) that were between 42-60 years old.  Food records were collected and men were divided into groups based on how much dairy they ate.  They found that men that had the highest intake of low-fat fermented dairy products had a 27% lower risk of CHD when compared to men with the lowest intake.  They also looked at consumption of high fat fermented dairy and noted that there was no association with CHD.  Findings suggest that compounds formed during the fermentation process may contribute to this health benefit, but more research is needed. 

Current USDA Dietary Guidelines do not address fermented dairy specifically, instead they advise fat free and low fat dairy as part of a healthful eating pattern.  When incorporated into a balanced diet, low fat dairy is a source of major nutrients of concern including calcium, vitamin D and potassium. 

If you’re new to fermented foods, start slowly.  Try our buttermilk dressing recipe to acclimate your taste buds to their hallmark tangy flavor. 

Buttermilk Dressing: Whisk together 1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk, 1/4 cup light mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, 1 teaspoon chopped fresh chives, 1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon ground mustard, 1/8 teaspoon paprika and ground black pepper, to taste, until blended. Makes about 3/4 cup.

Published February 1, 2019

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