Monday, June 24, 2024

Is Cottage Cheese Good For You? Nutrition, Benefits

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If you’re anything like me, your social media feed is dominated by cottage cheese. Whether it’s for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or even dessert, cottage cheese is having a main-character moment. And while this trendy dairy product can morph into countless recipes (cottage cheese ice cream, pancakes, toast, and omelets!), you can’t help but wonder: is cottage cheese actually good for you?

“Cottage cheese is having a moment, and I am here for it,” says Amanda Sauceda, RD, founder of The Mindful Gut. “I don’t think it’s gotten the love it deserves because of how many nutrients it has and how versatile it is.”

Aside from its ability to be cooked, baked, or frozen, it’s also loaded with benefits like helping with blood-sugar control, digestive health, and satiety, adds Jenn Baswick, RD, founder of The Intuitive Nutritionist. It’s packed with protein, calcium, vitamin B12, and riboflavin, which are gold-standard nutrients for your overall health, she adds.

Still unsure about the health benefits of cottage cheese and a little confused about what cottage cheese is in the first place? Keep reading as registered dietitians share everything you need to know about this beloved soft cheese and whether or not it’s worth the hype.

Experts Featured in This Article:

Amanda Sauceda, RD, is the founder of The Mindful Gut and specializes in integrative and functional nutrition.

Jenn Baswick, RD, is an intuitive eating dietician and the founder of The Intuitive Nutritionist.

What Is Cottage Cheese?

The name may sound a little odd, but cottage cheese is a fresh, soft cheese consisting of milk curds that is made through fermentation. “It’s made by adding an acid to milk, which separates the milk solids from the whey (the liquid that remains after the curdling process),” Baswick explains. “This creates the curds that are then rinsed, and salt is added to make the final product.” The liquid part of cottage cheese is then a blend of milk and cream to provide the creamy texture and slightly savory taste, Sauceda adds.

And while cottage cheese is a cousin to similar dairy products like ricotta and yogurt, the processing is completely different for each. “Ricotta cheese has a finer, not-as-lumpy texture compared to cottage cheese, yogurt is a completely smooth texture and created the same as these soft cheeses,” Baswick explains. “Cottage cheese may be slightly higher in protein than ricotta and yogurt, but this also depends on what type of product you’re purchasing.”

Rest assured that there’s a place for all three of these dairy products in your diet. “You might want to switch it up from time to time, but there’s no need to stress over the small differences in terms of nutrition,” Baswick says. “I would always recommend choosing foods that you enjoy!”

Cottage Cheese Nutrition Facts

Cottage cheese is an all star when it comes to its nutrition. The most notable perk is that a half-cup serving of cottage cheese (or about 100 grams) provides 12 to 15 grams of protein, Baswick says. “Cottage cheese can be a great way to contribute to an individual’s protein intake since protein, in general, can be great for satiety, building and repairing tissues in the body, and balancing blood-sugar levels when eaten with a balanced meal or snack.”

Additionally, there are only four grams of carbs per half-cup serving, Sauceda adds. The amount of fat can range depending on the brand, but one-percent-fat cottage cheese typically contains about one gram of fat per serving, she explains.

As Sauceda notes, the exact nutrition facts of cottage cheese will vary depending on which brand and type you buy (i.e. large or small curd, regular or reduced fat).

Here’s an example of the basic cottage cheese nutrition facts for 100 grams of a full-fat variety from the USDA.

  • Calories: 105
  • Protein: 11.6 g
  • Fat: 4.2 g
  • Carbohydrates: 4.6 g

Cottage Cheese Benefits

Balance blood sugars. Cottage cheese can be helpful for balancing blood-sugar levels, Baswick says. “Since it includes a good amount of protein, when paired with a balanced meal or snack, it helps to slow the metabolism of the food eaten to prevent spikes in blood sugar.”

Stay fuller for longer. Due to the high amount of protein in cottage cheese, it helps to make a meal or snack more satiating, Baswick notes. Pair cottage cheese with crackers, fruit, or veggie sticks, and stay fuller for longer throughout the day.

Support bone health. Cottage cheese is packed with calcium, which is crucial for building strong bones, but it also contains protein and phosphorus, which is necessary for supporting bone structure, Sauceda says.

Promote gut health. A healthy gut is key for overall wellness, so Sauceda suggests choosing cottage cheese that says it has “live and active cultures” on the label. This means it contains probiotics (aka good bacteria), which help support digestion, regularity, and bloating.

Boost nervous system and thyroid health. Cottage cheese contains B vitamins such as riboflavin and vitamin B12, which can be beneficial for your nervous-system health, DNA synthesis, and metabolism to create energy for the body, Baswick says. It’s also high in iodine, which is critical for supporting your thyroid, Sauceda adds.

Lower the risk of type 2 diabetes. Research finds that low-fat dairy can reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes, so Sauceda says you may want to choose the one-percent or two-percent-fat option when choosing your cottage cheese.

How Should You Eat Cottage Cheese?

When it comes to cottage cheese recipes, the possibilities are endless. Whether you love cottage cheese on its own or whipped into a baked good, find what is most convenient and delicious for you.

If you don’t like the taste of cottage cheese, Baswick suggests adding it to smoothies, dips, oats, fruit bowls, pasta sauces, or baked goods. Another easy hack? Baswick’s current go-to is adding cottage cheese to scrambled eggs for a boost of protein and extra fluffy texture!

Looking for a more savory option? Sauceda loves adding sliced tomatoes and cucumbers over cottage cheese and sprinkling a little “everything but the bagel” seasoning. You can also smear this mix on top of toasted bread to make cottage cheese toast.

Now you may be wondering: can I eat cottage cheese every day? Good news: absolutely! “Cottage cheese can be a very nutritious option to add to your meals or snacks, but just like everything related to nutrition, it’s important to keep in mind that you want to aim to have a variety of foods,” Baswick says. “There’s nothing wrong with having cottage cheese daily, but if you find yourself having it more than once every day, you might want to consider adding in different sources of protein and a wider variety of foods into your diet.” That way, you can make sure you’re getting a wide variety of nutrients versus only those found in cottage cheese.

When it comes to how much cottage cheese you should eat, Baswick says the standard serving size is half a cup, which is roughly 100 grams. That said, find what works best for you and your desired recipe. “Starting with the serving size could be a good place to start, and then experiment with having a little less or a little more from there.”

So Is Cottage Cheese Good For You?

A resounding yes! Cottage cheese is a nutritional superstar that you can get creative with to create balanced meals and high-protein snacks that leave you feeling full, Sauceda says. Plus, the health benefits like blood-sugar control, digestive health, and bone support are hard to pass up.

Just be mindful that if you’re on a low-sodium diet for a medical concern such as heart or kidney disease, you want to be aware of the sodium content since cottage cheese can contain around 20 percent of the recommended daily value of sodium, Baswick notes. Additionally, if you have a dairy allergy, then cottage cheese should be completely avoided, Sauceda adds.

If you’re lactose intolerant, cottage cheese may be OK since it’s naturally lower in lactose due to the fermentation process, with only three grams of lactose per half serving, Sauceda explains. However, soft cheeses like cottage cheese are often higher in lactose than hard, aged cheese like cheddar, Baswick adds.

“Those with lactose intolerance may be able to tolerate cottage cheese, however, this is highly individualized and may also depend on the amount and frequency,” Baswick explains. “Always speak with your doctor or a registered dietitian if you have medical concerns with special dietary needs.”

Otherwise? Go ahead and enjoy cottage cheese knowing that it’s pretty darn good for you.

Andi Breitowich is a Chicago-based freelance writer and graduate from Emory University and Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. Her work has appeared in PS, Women’s Health, Cosmopolitan, and elsewhere.

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