Find out why we make the case for cottage cheese as a healthy diet staple.
Cottage cheese can be polarizing—you either love it or love to hate it. Long seen as a punishing diet food, these quirky curds have taken a back seat to other dairy products in popularity. However, cottage cheese can be so much more than just a diet food, rather a tasty, muscle-building staple. Fortunately, more people are starting to see cottage cheese as such, and this nutrition powerhouse is currently having its moment. Below, learn the nutrition of cottage cheese and exactly why you should incorporate it into your diet if you haven’t already.
Low-Fat Cottage Cheese vs. High-Fat Cottage Cheese
There are lots of options out there when it comes to cottage cheese—low-fat, reduced-fat, grass-fed, the list goes on. Our dietician recommends opting for the 4% fat varieties instead of lower-fat options for several reasons. First, the higher-fat cottage cheeses will keep you satiated, helping to keep extra snacking at bay. Also, reduced or low-fat varieties are usually filled with additives and stabilizers to help give it that creamy consistency already present in full-fat cottage cheese. They still tend to be too dry and gummy even with the artificial boost.. And most importantly, higher-fat cottage cheese tastes much better anyways!
Cottage Cheese Nutrition
Cottage cheese is packed with protein, vitamins, minerals, and some good-for-you carbohydrates, making it the well-rounded health food it truly is. Here’s the nutritional breakdown for a half-cup of 4% cottage cheese with small curds:
Calories: 110; Fat: 5g; Saturated Fat: 3g; Carbohydrates: 5g; Sodium: 410mg; Fiber: 0g; Sugar: 4g; Added Sugars: 0g; Protein: 12g; Calcium: 8%; Potassium: 8%
Cottage cheese is clearly a protein powerhouse, with a half-cup serving touting as much protein as two eggs. Cottage cheese is made with mostly casein protein, rather than whey protein, which is slower-digesting and more efficient than whey at preventing muscle breakdown.
The high protein content of cottage cheese also helps with satiety and appetite control, alongside the higher-fat content. Cottage cheese makes for an excellent post-workout food, as protein helps to repair, recover, and even build more muscle while keeping your body full until your next meal.
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Cottage cheese is low in carbohydrates, which is why it’s often considered a staple for keto and other low-carb diets. A majority of carbs in cottage cheese come from a naturally occurring milk sugar, lactose. While there are people out there who cannot tolerate this milk sugar, it is an important component of cottage cheese, serving as an energy source so the proteins can focus on repairing and strengthening your body instead.
Phosphorus is a lesser-known mineral, but that doesn’t make it any less essential. It is crucial for helping the body process carbohydrates and fats, and also for the production of protein. Like calcium, it is important for healthy bones and teeth, and also works with B vitamins for proper kidney, nerve, and muscle function. Phosphorus even works to help balance the acid in your body, functioning as a natural alkalizing agent.
The one caveat in the nutritional information about cottage cheese is its high sodium content. One half-cup serving packs in about 20% of your daily recommended limit, making it something those with high blood pressure or cardiovascular issues might want to avoid. (However, more research is showing sodium might not be the villain of blood pressure and heart conditions after all.) As long as you stay within a healthy serving size, cottage cheese can certainly be considered part of a balanced diet.
Cottage Cheese vs. Yogurt
The most popular way to eat cottage cheese is as if were yogurt, topped with fruit and some healthy granola. So why should you choose it over yogurt? Ounce for ounce, cottage cheese packs more protein than yogurt—even Greek yogurt—and would make a great option for vegetarians looking to pad their protein intake. Also, unless you are purchasing plain yogurt, most are high in added sugar, while cottage cheese has none. More options for quality cottage cheeses are also coming out, such as Good Culture, which packs an extra probiotic boost.
Ways to Incorporate Cottage Cheese Into Your Diet
The unique flavor and texture of cottage cheese makes it a perfect protein-boosting ingredient in lots of recipes. Besides just scooping some cottage cheese and fresh fruit into a bowl for breakfast, try a little in your scrambled eggs, smoothie, or even your favorite pancake recipe for light and fluffy flapjacks. Cottage cheese also makes a wonderful substitute for ricotta cheese, sour cream, and even mayonnaise.