Cottage Cheese: the High-Protein Snack with Benefits (2024)

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By Dr. Josh Axe, DC, DNM, CN

January 3, 2024

Cottage Cheese: the High-Protein Snack with Benefits (1)

Based on sales on the over past decade, cottage cheese seems to be making a comeback. Perhaps this is because it’s high in protein and low in carbs, therefore considered by some to be the perfect cheese for both low-carb and low-fat diets.

Turns out, this unique-looking dairy product has some impressive benefits.Why is it healthy to eat cottage cheese? It can help control your appetite, provides some important nutrients, such as phosphorus, and can even provide probiotics just like yogurt.

What Is Cottage Cheese?

Cottage cheese is a mild, soft, creamy white cheese. It’s typically considered a fresh cheese since it does not go through an aging process.

How is cottage cheese made, and what does cottage cheese taste like?It comes from curds of pasteurized cow’s milk. It’s found with varying amounts of milk fat — from non-fat to reduced-fat and regular.

You can also find it in different curd sizes, ranging from small to large. And for those who need to skip the lactose, you can purchase the lactose-free version as well as whipped and low-sodium.

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Nutrition Facts

What’s a healthy serving of cottage cheese? According to most labels, one serving is between a half cup and one cup.

Not only is it a high-protein food, but it contains phosphorous, selenium, riboflavin and vitamin B12, just to name a few nutrients.

One half-cup or 4 ounces (113 grams) of 2 percent milk-fat cottage cheese contains about:

  • Calories: 91.5
  • Total Carbohydrates: 5.4 g
    • Fiber: 0 g
    • Sugar: 4.5 g
  • Total Fat: 2.6 g
    • Saturated Fat: 1.4 g
    • Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.1 g
    • Monounsaturated Fat: 0.6 g
    • Trans Fat: 0.06 g
  • Protein: 11.8 g
  • Cholesterol: 13.6 mg
  • Sodium: 348 mg (15% DV*)
  • Selenium: 13.4 mcg (24% DV)
  • Vitamin B12: 0.53 mcg (22% DV)
  • Riboflavin: 0.28 mg (21% DV)
  • Phosphorus: 170 mg (14% DV)
  • Calcium: 125 mg (10% DV)
  • Zinc: 0.58 mg (5% DV)
  • Vitamin B6: 0.06 mg (3% DV)
  • Potassium: 141 mg (3% DV)

*Daily Value: Percentages are based on a diet of 2,000 calories a day.

If you add ingredients, such as fruit or granola, having a half-cup may be perfect as a healthy snack or high-protein breakfast.

Health Benefits

1. Rich in Selenium

A selenium-rich food, cottage cheese can help fight the aging process and supports a strong immune system.

Selenium has a synergistic effect with other antioxidants like vitamin E,enabling the body todefend against oxidative stress. Stress, of course, contributes to many conditions, including heart disease, neurological conditions and some cancers.

For example, a 2016 review found that having a higher level of selenium exposure couldoffer protectionagainst breast, lung, colon, gastric, esophageal and prostate cancers.

As an essentialcomponent of glutathione peroxidase, selenium also helps carry out important enzyme processes that protect lipids (fats) in cell membranes. It’s needed tofight oxidative degradationof cells and protect against mutation and DNA damage that can cause disease.

Low selenium levels areassociated with an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease, potentially along with suffering from a stroke or heart attack. Eating more selenium-rich foods like cottage cheese may be able to help prevent coronary heart disease by protecting arteries against plaque buildup and damage.

2. High in B12

Even though it’s easier to get vitamin B12 in meat products, some dairy products contain a good amount of B12. Cottage cheese is one example of a vitamin B12 food, coming in at about a quarter of the recommended daily intake of the nutrient.

We need B12 — something that vegans struggle with in their diets — because itprovides proper function and development of the brain, nerves, blood cells and much more.

Vitamin B12 benefits including helping lower high hom*ocysteine levelsin the blood, especially when combined with folic acid and sometimes vitamin B6. This is important since too much hom*ocysteine can become toxic in the body and cause heart problems and neurological issues.

3. Rich in Riboflavin

Cottage cheese is a food high in riboflavin. Riboflavin, or vitamin B2, is considereda vital component of mitochondrial energy. Vitamin B2 is used by the body to metabolize food for energy and maintain proper brain, nerve, digestive and hormone function. This is why riboflavin is very important forgrowth and bodily repair.

Without high enough levels of riboflavin, riboflavin deficiency occurs, and the molecules found in carbohydrate, fat and protein foods are not able to be properly digested and used for “fuel” that keeps the body running.

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Vitamin B2 is needed in order to break down proteins into amino acids, fats and carbohydrates in the form of glucose. This helps convert nutrients from food intousable bodilyenergythat helps maintain a healthy metabolism.

Riboflavin is alsoneeded to regulate proper thyroid activity and adrenal function. A riboflavin deficiency can increase the odds of thyroid disease. It also is useful in calming the nervous system, battlingchronic stress, and regulating hormones that control appetite, energy, mood, temperature and more.

4. Builds Bones and Helps Treat Osteoporosis

Cottage cheese is afood high in phosphorus, and when combined with calcium, it can help build strong bones and potentially protect against fractures or osteoporosis. In fact, studies show that the two must work together to be effective.

One cup of cottage cheese contains about 138 milligrams of calcium, making it a great choice for bone building — possibly better than supplements.

5. Helps the Body Detox While Providing Energy

Phosphorous does more than help develop strong, healthy bones. It also helps create a healthy acid level in the body. Phosphorous is the second most abundant mineral in the body, and it’s pretty important since it helps rid the body of waste.

Phosphorous also affects how the body handles energy and minimizes muscle pain after workouts by helping repair tissues and cells. It helps by absorbing B vitamins, which are key to healthy energy production.Without phosphorus, our bodies may feel weak and sore.

6. May Assist in Weight Loss

Cottage cheese contains a lot of protein, and according to research, protein can help you lose weight as long as you don’t overdo it. Why? It may help you feel fuller and therefore help you eat less, and it promotes muscle building, which can help with burning calories.

It’s thought that protein foods help people achieve satiety, which, in turn, reduces the appetite by increasing the hormone levels of GLP-1, peptide YY and cholecystokinin. At the same time, it helps reduce levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin.

Healthiest Types to Buy

Cottage cheese is a soft, fresh curd cheese that’s uncured. By curdling milk and draining the whey, you end up with either small-curd or large-curd cottage cheese.

What distinguishes them is that small-curd is made without rennet and the large-curd is made with rennet. What is rennet?Rennetis an enzyme produced in the stomach of ruminant mammals that’s added to speed up the curdling.

It also helps coagulate the curds so they don’t break apart.

You can purchase cottage cheese in most grocery stores. There are a few things you want to look for on the label to ensure you purchase from a quality brand.

A 2020 Cornucopia report was published to help consumers choose the most nutritious cottage cheese options and avoid overly processed types. Here are some of the report’s major findings and tips for choosing the best product:

  • Organic cottage cheese products seem to be far superior to their conventional counterparts, due to less use of additives, gums and thickeners. Organic cottage cheese is also always made from non-GMO ingredients and more likely to be made from grass-fed cows’ milk.
  • Cottage cheese from grass-fed cows is more likely to have increased nutritional benefits (including higher omega-3s and conjugated linoleic acid) when compared to cheese made from milk derived from dairy cows raised in conventional confinements. Organic standards require that organic dairy cows be on pasture during the grazing season and have adequate time outdoors, allowing them to eat their natural diet.
  • Some manufacturers heavily sweeten cottage cheese to improve its flavor, much like with the yogurt industry. Always read the labels, and go for the versions that don’t have added sugars or artificial sweeteners.
  • Thickeners in cottage cheese can lead to gastrointestinal inflammatory reactions in some people. Check the ingredient label for additives and gums, such as carrageenan. These are used to make the products “creamier” but do not provide other nutritional benefits.
  • The use of “natural flavors” and cornstarch/modified food starch is also more common in conventional cottage cheeses. Synthetic, petroleum-based solvents, such as propane and neurotoxic hexane, may also be added to preserve the cheese. Ideally all of these ingredients should be avoided since they are commonly made with herbicides and GMOs.
  • Conventional cottage cheese that contains fruit and other mix-in additives is also likely to contain residues of synthetic chemicals. Flavored types are more likely to contain added colors and flavors too, so choose plain products whenever possible and add your own toppings.

How to Make

Did you know that you can make cottage cheese right at home? You can.

Try the following cottage cheese recipe:

Ingredients

  • 1 gallon pasteurized organic skim milk
  • 3/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½ cup organic heavy cream

Directions

  1. Pour the milk into a large saucepan and place over medium heat on the stove. Heat to 120 degrees F. You can check this using a food safe thermometer.
  2. Remove from heat and slowly pour in the vinegar. Gently stir for about 2 minutes. The curd will begin to separate from the whey. Cover with a lid, and let it sit at room temperature for approximately a half hour.
  3. Now, pour the milk mixture into a colander lined with a cheesecloth. Let it drain for 5–6 minutes. Rinse under cold water by gathering the edges of the cloth first. Do this for 3–5 minutes until the curd is completely cooled. Make sure you gently squeeze and move the mixture while within the cloth during this cooling process.
  4. Now that it has cooled, squeeze the cloth as dry as possible and transfer the mixture to a medium mixing bowl. Add the salt and stir. Break up the curd into smaller pieces as you stir.
  5. When you’re ready to serve, stir in the heavy cream, but not until then. Otherwise, store in a container with a lid, and place in the refrigerator.

As far as taste, it’s very mild, which makesit a great choice to blend with other foods.

What should you eat cottage cheese with? You can add it to lasagne or nut butters, such as almond butter or sunflower seed butter, to make a delicious spread.

Here are some more ways to incorporate cottage cheese into your diet:

  • Pancakes or waffles: Mix it into the batter as a substitute for milk.
  • Lasagna: Use cottage cheese instead of ricotta cheese or half and half.
  • Salads: Top your favorite salads for added protein.
  • Fruit: Mix it with berries, bananas or grilled peaches.
  • Granola: Top it with granola and drizzle with honey.
  • Sour cream: Cottage cheese makes a great sour cream substitute.
  • Smoothies: Blend it with some milk and fruits for a fruit smoothie.
  • Baked goods: Use it in your muffins, cakes and bread recipes.
  • Scrambled eggs: Add to your eggs for extra creaminess.
  • Nut butter: Mix it with almond butter, then spread onto celery with raisins.
  • Salsa: Add it to salsa as a dip or baked potato topping.
  • Toast: Serve it on toast. The nut butter blend goes well here too.
  • Pumpkin: Mix it with organic smashed or roasted pumpkin, and top it off with a few nuts.

Risks and Side Effects

Can you eat cottage cheese every day? As long as you’re not lactose intolerant and your diet is varied, this shouldn’t be a problem.

However, there are a few things you should know:

  • Consuming very high amounts of protein may contribute to kidney problems, so consider sticking to a daily intake that doesn’t provide more than you need.
  • It maycause problems if you arelactose intolerant.Issues includediarrhea, bloating, cramps, gas and an upset stomach. Lactose intolerance ultimately makes digesting dairy products a pretty big challenge for some. While your doctor can help, you may need to avoid dairy altogether. You can find lactose-free versions in the grocery store.
  • It maycause allergic reactions. If you experience hives, itching, swelling and/or breathing trouble, make sure to stop eating it immediately and contact your doctor.
  • It may raise your blood pressure due to its high sodium content. If blood pressure is a problem for you, make your own to keep your sodium intake in check.

Conclusion

  • Cottage cheese works well with a keto diet, provides a vegetarian protein option, and is a good source of selenium, vitamin B12 and phosphorous.
  • As always, pay attention to what you buy since there are plenty of options that have a lot of additives and sugar.
  • Make your own, and make sure to read labels when purchasing from the grocery store.
Cottage Cheese: the High-Protein Snack with Benefits (2024)
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