With Tips to Improve the Taste If You’re Not a Fan
Medically reviewed by Melissa Nieves, LND, RD
Cottage cheese is a high-protein, low-calorie, low-fat food that can promote good health. It is rich in vitamins and minerals that support healthy bones and an increase in red blood cells. Eating it can help improve your gut health and support weight loss.
This article describes the health benefits of cottage cheese and why it is worth eating. It includes how to purchase it, ways to enjoy it, and foods that provide equal rewards without dairy.
Nutrition Facts: What Makes Cottage Cheese Healthy
Cottage cheese is considered healthy because it is a low-fat, high-protein food. With 11 grams (g) of protein in a 100-g serving of cottage cheese, it is considered a suitable source of protein and riboflavin (vitamin B2), which supports energy production and metabolism.
Compared to hard cheeses, cottage cheese typically has 1.5 times the protein, less saturated fat, and 5 times more potassium. Potassium is a mineral that supports many bodily functions, including nerve signal delivery, muscle contractions, and the regulation of heartbeats and blood pressure.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the nutrition information for a 100 g (about 3.5 ounces) serving of low-fat (2% milk fat) cottage cheese includes the following:
Fat: 2.3 g
Sodium: 321 milligrams (mg)
Carbohydrates: 4.3 g
Fiber: 0 g
Sugars: 4.1 g
Protein: 11 g
Calcium: 111 mg
Total fat: 2.5 g
Saturated fat: 1.3 g
With this nutrition profile, cottage cheese is good for you and provides the below benefits.
Some cottage cheese is fortified with live and active cultures called probiotics, which can help improve your gut health (check nutrition labels). Research indicates that you can treat and prevent some digestive illnesses and gastrointestinal illnesses with foods and supplements that contain probiotics.
Cottage cheese is commonly included in diets because of its low-calorie and high protein content. High protein intakes, such as the casein in cottage cheese, help increase satiety (feelings of fullness) comparable to eggs.
Evidence suggests that consuming more protein than the recommended dietary allowance reduces body weight. It also enhances body composition by decreasing fat mass while preserving fat-free mass in both standard-calorie and low-calorie diets.
A research study indicates that cottage cheese weight loss is consistent with the weight loss people experience when they follow low-calorie diets rich in calcium and other dairy foods. Note, however, that the size of this study was small, and additional research is warranted.
Protein and Muscle Building
The high protein content in cottage cheese helps build muscle mass and promotes weight loss in athletes and people who exercise with resistance training.
Since whey protein is removed in its processing, most cottage cheese protein consists of casein protein. This type of protein makes up about 80% of cottage cheese. It takes longer to digest, leading to benefits that include a superior effect on the production and maintenance of muscle protein after exercise.
The calcium, phosphorus, and protein in cottage cheese are nutrients that research consistently links to improved bone health in the following ways:
Calcium keeps your bones dense and strong, reducing your risk of fractures.
Phosphorus works with calcium to impact bone-forming and bone-resorbing cell activity in a positive way. Research indicates that dairy products containing calcium and phosphorus can positively affect new bone growth and maintenance.
Blood Sugar Control
Since plain cottage cheese has a small amount of carbohydrates per serving and no added sugar, it can be a sensible option if you have to monitor blood sugar since carbohydrates increase blood sugar levels.
Because its high protein levels slow digestion, this food may help promote blood sugar control and prevent spikes. However, flavored cottage cheese or plain cottage cheese that contains higher amounts of added sugar can interfere with blood sugar control.
What Is the Cottage Cheese Diet?
While the health benefits of cottage cheese have been known for decades, recent social media trends have helped to propel this healthy food into the spotlight. TikTok creators have highlighted the value of cottage cheese because of its low-calorie and high-protein nutritional profile.
Generally, the cottage cheese diet is a fad diet. This type of eating plan intends to promote quick weight loss in a short period. The cottage cheese diet is based on eating cottage cheese as the primary meal source. However, dieters can add non-processed foods like eggs, tomatoes, fruits, vegetables, cucumbers, and spices like mustard to enhance the cottage cheese.
While this diet may produce results, maintaining it is not always healthy. Though it is safe to eat cottage cheese daily, cottage cheese can also contain high levels of sodium and fat, depending on the variety you choose. This can offset the benefits of other nutrients.
Generally, the cottage cheese diet and other fad diets are not advised as a long-term or permanent fix for excess weight. Concentrating on one type of food increases the likelihood of eliminating one or more other essential food groups. In addition, using a fad diet for rapid weight reduction long-term may pose concerns if you have additional medical conditions.
Selecting Cottage Cheese at the Grocery Store
You will find plenty of options when choosing cottage cheese. The health benefits you gain from eating cottage cheese can vary based on the variety you buy. This information is available on a product's nutrition label so you can determine what is included.
The basic ingredients of cottage cheese are milk, cream, salt, and sometimes live and active cultures. However, the concentration of these ingredients can vary. Other substances may also be added based on the type of product you choose.
Before you make a purchase, check the product label of your cottage cheese for the following ingredients:
Fat percentage: Fat-free cottage cheese (1% and 2% fat cottage cheese) has less saturated fat, fewer calories, and slightly more protein than 4% cottage cheese.
Large curd vs. small curd: Cottage cheese is made in large or small curds. Larger curd cottage cheese is often perceived as tasting creamier and sweeter than small curd cottage cheese because it is higher in moisture, though the difference in taste is not always noticeable. Small curds tend to taste slightly more acidic and tangier than large curds.
Sodium: Cottage cheese brands have at least 300 to 400 mg of sodium per half cup (4 ounces), with some having more. However, you may find less sodium in cottage cheese that is labeled "low sodium" or "no salt added." The U.S. daily recommended value of sodium is less than 2,300 mg.
Probiotics: To obtain the benefits of probiotics, look for cottage cheese labeled as having "live and active cultures." Cottage cheese with live cultures can provide the same gut health benefits as yogurt.
Added sugars: Fruit-flavored cottage cheeses are often flavored with added sugars. Added sugars can range from 5 g (about 1 teaspoon) up to 14 g per serving.
Additives: Lower-fat cottage cheese is more likely to have added thickeners like carrageenan and guar gum, though these additives may also be contained in some full-fat cottage cheese.
How to Eat Cottage Cheese
Cottage cheese is a versatile food that can be included in your meals and recipes in many ways. Here are a few suggestions for ways to use cottage cheese so you can get the health benefits of this food:
Use savory spices like black pepper, cumin, nuts, or tahini to enhance the mild flavor of plain cottage cheese.
Spread cottage cheese on whole-grain toast and top with fruit like berries or slices of kiwi or avocado for breakfast or lunch.
Scoop cottage cheese onto a bowl of pasta, cooked rice, or oatmeal.
Swirl cottage cheese into eggs before scrambling or use it on top of pancakes with fruit.
Use cottage cheese instead of mayonnaise to make tuna salad or egg salad on a bed of greens.
Once mixed in a blender and free of curds, you can use cottage cheese in the same way you would use cream cheese or yogurt. After blending your cottage cheese, use it in vanilla ice cream, chocolate pudding, and blueberry smoothies.
Use cottage cheese as an ingredient for a dip with customizable flavors to serve with whole-grain flatbread or whole-grain crackers. Blend it with ripe fruit and honey for a sweet dip or mix it with herbs or green onions.
Use cottage cheese as a substitute for ricotta cheese in lasagna or stuffed shells. You can also use cottage cheese as a protein-rich ingredient in some muffins and breads.
While cottage cheese has many health benefits, it may not be the best choice for everyone. This may be the case if you have a milk allergy or lactose intolerance (a condition in which you don't make enough lactase, a digestive enzyme involved in the breakdown of lactose, a sugar found in dairy products.)
You may also want a nondairy alternative to cottage cheese if you exclude dairy from your diet for other reasons. These may include following a vegan or ovo-vegetarian diet (excludes all animal products but eggs) or having concerns about the additives used in dairy products.
While you can find alternatives to cottage cheese, it's important to check the nutritional profile of these products since they may provide different nutrients than you would get in traditional cottage cheese. Read the labels carefully.
It's also important to recognize that there is a difference between cottage cheese and other products labeled "lactose-free" and "dairy-free" cottage cheese, which are:
Lactose-free products may include milk or other dairy ingredients. These products typically have the enzyme lactase added to the product to make them easier to digest. Lactose-free cottage cheese must indicate that it contains milk in the nutritional profile.
Dairy-free products are typically made from plants, including nuts (almond, cashew), legumes (soy or pea), fruit (coconut), seeds (flax or hemp), rice, soy, and oats
You can also use the following nondairy substitutes for cottage cheese:
Homemade vegan cottage cheese using nondairy substitutions
Tofu (a compressed bean curd made from soy) that can imitate the texture of cottage cheese when mashed
Scrambled or hard-boiled egg whites as a substitute in recipes that call for cottage cheese
Hummus (a spreadable paste made from chickpea puree)
Chickpea puree (similar to hummus but without the oil and other ingredients)
White or red bean puree
Cottage cheese is a soft, fresh cheese that is packed with protein and other healthy ingredients. It provides many health rewards that range from weight loss to bone health.
Cottage cheese is high in protein and low in calories. It is best used as one piece of a complete healthy diet that includes all the food groups.
Recent posts on social media promote the cottage cheese diet. This fad diet provides quick weight loss by using cottage cheese as the basis for your meals.
While it is safe for most people to eat cottage cheese every day, it should not be consumed to the extent that you exclude other food groups. Also, some types of cottage cheese contain high amounts of sodium and/or sugar. This can offset the health benefits of eating cottage cheese, so reading labels is key to getting its rewards.
Read the original article on Verywell Health.