I recently had a great discussion with a client who grew up in Sweden about filmjolk (a fermented yogurt/milk drink), and I realized that other than knowing that its located next to the kefir in the grocery store, I didn’t really know very much about this traditional Scandinavian probiotic beverage. Given the current excitement about healthy gut bacteria and the benefits of fermented foods, I decided to do a little scholarly and experiential research.
The scholarly research:
What is Filmjolk?
Filmjolk is fermented milk, meaning that the milk is combined with bacteria that then “eat” (or in technical terms metabolize) the sugar in the milk (lactose). This creates a beverage that is somewhat sour (because of the acid that is created when the sugars are broken down), thicker than milk (because the proteins in the milk coagulate, or in other words, change structure), and a little buttery tasting (because of the byproducts of the bacteria).
What are the health benefits of Filmjolk?
I was surprised and disappointed to find very few scholarly articles looking at the health benefits of filmjolk (at least in English!). That being said, I was still able to put together a list of health benefits based on what I know about nutrition, other fermented beverages, and probiotics.
Filmjolk provides lots of great nutrients:
Calcium - like other dairy foods, filmjolk is loaded with calcium. One eight-ounce serving of Siggi’s brand filmjolk has 350mg of calcium, which is more than a third of what an adult woman needs per day, and more than what is in an eight-ounce glass of cow’s milk!
Protein - one serving of Filmjolk has 8 grams of protein which comparable to one large egg.
Foods made from milk are also great sources of potassium and magnesium.
Filmjolk is available without added sugars and made from both whole milk and fat free milk, depending on your preference.
Filmjolk is a probiotic.
Filmjolk has a number of different strains of “good bacteria” added (thats what causes the fermentation), which act as probiotics. Probiotics in general have been found to have many health benefits, potentially impacting mental health, digestion, weight regulation, heart health, and cancer.
If you have lactose intolerance, you may be able to drink it without symptoms!
This is great news because people with lactose intolerance have to avoid many other types of dairy. Filmjolk may be a great way for those individuals to enjoy dairy foods and also benefit from the high amount of calcium per serving.
I am pregnant, is it safe to drink Filmjolk?
Yes! Many women ask me whether they should be taking a probiotic supplement during pregnancy. Given that I always prefer food sources over supplements when possible, filmjolk is a great food choice while pregnant. Just make sure to choose filmjolk from a reputable brand made from pasteurized milk, and follow safe food handling guidelines.
Now for the the experiential research:
What does it taste like? How can I eat it?
I have to admit, its pretty sour. I am not a huge fan of sour foods, so I was not able to drink it plain, like my patient who grew up drinking it does, but found the fruit flavors much easier on the palate. Mixing the plain with fruit, nuts, and/or granola would definitely be my recommendation (you could use it as a substitute for yogurt, if you like the taste). I think it could also be a great addition to smoothies, especially those with an already sour flavor profile (think citrus, tropical fruits). If you come up with other great ways to use filmjolk, please leave a comment or let me know.
Given everything I learned, I feel that filmjolk is an interesting food loaded with heath promoting nutrients and bacteria, and I am definitely going to continue to experiment with it!