Cottage cheese is a low-calorie cheese with a mild flavor.
Its popularity has grown in the last few decades, and it's often recommended as part of a healthy diet.
Cottage cheese doesn't only offer a lot of protein — it's also packed with essential nutrients.
For these reasons, it's widely used by athletes and in weight loss plans.
What Is Cottage Cheese?
Cottage cheese is soft, white and creamy. It's considered a fresh cheese, so it does not undergo an aging or ripening process to develop flavor.
As a result, it has a very mild flavor compared to aged cheeses.
It's also offered in different curd sizes, usually small, medium or large.
Moreover, it's available in creamed, whipped, lactose-free, reduced sodium or sodium-free varieties.
You can enjoy this versatile cheese by itself or as an ingredient in recipes.
Bottom Line: Cottage cheese is a soft, white cheese with mild flavor. It is a fresh cheese offered with different milk fat levels and curd sizes.
Cottage Cheese Is Packed With Nutrients
The nutrition profile of cottage cheese varies depending on the level of milk fat used and amount of sodium added.
One cup (226 grams) of low-fat (1% milk fat) cottage cheese provides ():
- Calories: 163.
- Protein: 28 grams.
- Carbs: 6.1 grams.
- Fat: 2.3 grams.
- Phosphorus: 30% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI).
- Sodium: 30% of the RDI.
- Selenium: 29% of the RDI.
- Vitamin B12: 24% of the RDI.
- Riboflavin: 22% of the RDI.
- Calcium: 14% of the RDI.
- Folate: 7% of the RDI.
It also has decent amounts of vitamins B1, B3 and B6, as well as vitamin A, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc and copper.
Take note of how much protein a one-cup serving contains. Protein accounts for over 70% of the calories in cottage cheese.
Bottom Line: Cottage cheese is an excellent source of protein with relatively few calories. It is also packed with many nutrients like B vitamins, calcium, phosphorus and selenium.
How Cottage Cheese Is Made
Making cottage cheese is a simple process. You can even do it at home.
The process starts with curdling milk. This is done by adding an acidic substance like lime juice or vinegar to warm milk.
When the acidity of the milk increases, curds of casein protein separate from the whey, the liquid part of the milk.
Once the curd has solidified, it's cut into pieces and cooked until more moisture is released. It is then washed to remove the acidity and drained to remove the moisture.
The result is a sweeter curd that can be easily crumbled. Finally, ingredients can be added to flavor the finished product, including cream, salt, herbs and spices.
Bottom Line: Cottage cheese is made by adding an acid to milk, which causes the milk to curdle. Then, the curd is drained and crumbled to make the final product.
Cottage Cheese Can Help You Lose Weight
Weight loss diets often include cottage cheese.
This is partly because of its high protein and low calorie content.
One study followed people who maintained a diet that included high-protein foods like cottage cheese for one year.
It showed that the diet helped decrease body weight by an average of 6.2 lbs (2.8 kg) in women and 3.1 lbs (1.4 kg) in men ().
Moreover, high intakes of protein, such as the casein in cottage cheese, have been shown to help increase feelings of fullness (, , ).
In fact, cottage cheese seems to stimulate feelings of fullness in a manner similar to that of eggs.
These feelings of fullness can lead to reduced calorie intake and weight loss (, ).
Also, cottage cheese offers high amounts of calcium.
Studies have linked calcium and other components of dairy to reduced weight and easier weight maintenance, especially when combined with exercise (, , , ).
Furthermore, dietary calcium has been associated with metabolic processes that reduce fat accumulation and accelerate fat loss ().
Bottom Line: Cottage cheese is high in protein and calcium, both of which have been associated with weight loss.
Cottage Cheese and Muscle Gain
Cottage cheese is popular among athletes and people who exercise.
Because of its high protein content, it's a great food to incorporate into your diet if you're looking to build muscle mass.
A diet including high-protein foods can help you increase muscle mass when combined with resistance training ().
Also, the specific proteins in cottage cheese are particularly effective at helping you build muscle.
Casein accounts for 80% of its protein content and is considered to be a slowly absorbed protein. It's just as effective as whey protein at building muscle and better at inhibiting muscle breakdown due to its slower absorption (, ).
Casein also promotes prolonged absorption of the amino acid leucine, which has been linked to increased muscle building capacity (, , ).
Many bodybuilders like to eat cottage cheese before bed. This leads to a sustained release of amino acids into the blood and muscles during the night, which may reduce muscle breakdown.
Bottom Line: Cottage cheese is packed with casein protein. Casein is a slowly absorbed protein that promotes muscle gain and helps prevent muscle breakdown.
Other Benefits of Cottage Cheese
Cottage cheese has also been associated with other health benefits.
It May Help Prevent Insulin Resistance
Insulin resistance can lead to the development of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. The calcium in dairy products is believed to reduce insulin resistance (, ).
One study suggests that eating dairy products may lower the risk of developing insulin resistance by 21% ().
Cottage Cheese Can Help With Bone Strength
In addition to calcium, cottage cheese is a good source of phosphorus and protein. These nutrients have consistently been linked to improved bone health (, , )."
It Is High in Selenium
A one-cup (226 grams) serving of cottage cheese can offer you almost 30% of the RDI of selenium. This mineral has been shown to increase antioxidant protection in the blood (, , ).
Bottom Line: Cottage cheese can help reduce the risk of developing insulin resistance and heart disease. It can also help improve bone health and provide antioxidant protection.
How to Incorporate Cottage Cheese Into Your Diet
Cottage cheese's mild flavor and soft texture make it easy to include in your meals and recipes.
Here are some creative ways to eat cottage cheese:
- Pancakes or waffles: Mix it into the batter as a substitute for milk.
- Salads: Add it to your favorite salads for extra protein.
- Fruit: Mix it with fruits like berries, sliced bananas, peach slices, mandarin wedges and melon chunks.
- Granola: Top it with granola and drizzle with honey.
- Sour cream substitute: It works well as a substitute in recipes.
- Dipping sauces: Mix it into dipping sauces as a substitute for milk.
- Smoothies: Blend it with some milk and fruits for a fruit smoothie.
- Toast: It makes a creamy, protein-rich spread.
- Baked goods: Bake it into muffins, cakes, bread or dinner rolls.
- Mayo substitute: Spread it on sandwiches or use it in recipes.
- Scrambled eggs: It'll give your eggs an extra creamy texture.
- Lasagna: Use it as a substitute for ricotta cheese.
Bottom Line: Cottage cheese is a versatile ingredient that you can incorporate into many different meals and recipes.
It Can Cause Problems for People Who Are Intolerant to Dairy
Cottage cheese is a dairy product, which can cause problems for some people.
The lactose content of cheese decreases as the cheese ages.
Because cottage cheese is a fresh, unripened cheese, it contains more lactose than aged cheeses like Parmesan, cheddar or Swiss.
Moreover, cottage cheese may contain even more lactose if additional milk is added to the curd.
For these reasons, cottage cheese is not a good choice if you're lactose intolerant.
When people with lactose intolerance eat cottage cheese, they may experience digestive problems such as bloating, gas, diarrhea and stomach pain.
In addition to lactose, cottage cheese contains casein and whey, which some people are allergic to.
If you have experienced an allergic reaction with any dairy product, then you may not be able to tolerate cottage cheese.
Bottom Line: Cottage cheese can cause digestive problems if you are lactose intolerant. It can also cause allergic reactions in those allergic to dairy or milk proteins.
Take Home Message
Cottage cheese is a curd cheese with a mild flavor and smooth texture.
It's high in many nutrients, including protein, B vitamins and minerals like calcium, selenium and phosphorus.
If you're looking to lose weight or build muscle, then cottage cheese is among the most beneficial foods you can eat.
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