Is Cottage Cheese Good for You? - Consumer Reports (2024)

It’s a dip, a pasta sauce, a bread spread—even a base for ice cream. It’s…cottage cheese? Yep, the diet food staple of the 1970s is making a comeback, thanks to social media. "Everything comes around full circle, and it’s time for cottage cheese to get its day," says Debbie Petitpain, MS, RDN, chief operating officer at Synergy HealthCare Technologies and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Why the renewed interest? Cottage cheese checks many (if not all) of the boxes for nutrition, affordability, and other good things.

What’s more, it’s incredibly versatile. Not only can you find sweet and savory recipes that call for it, butthere’s a lot going on in the dairy case—single-serving cups, new flavors, and labels promoting live active cultures, high protein content, and a smooth texture. So if you haven’t spooned up some cottage cheese in a while, it might be worth a second look.

In this article

  • Cottage Cheese: Nutrition Full-Fat vs. Low-Fat How it Compares to Yogurt What to Do With It

Cottage Cheese Nutrition

Cottage cheese is a fresh cheese; it’s not aged or ripened the way hard cheeses like cheddar or Parmesan are. To make it, an acid or acid-producing culture is added to milk (usually nonfat), which begins the process of separating the liquid whey protein from the milk solids, or curds. The curds are washed, then cream and salt are added.

The curds are what give cottage cheese its lumpy appearance. (Although ricotta cheese looks similar, it’s made from the whey that’s left during cheese making.) Some cottage cheese comes with large curds, some with small; the product’s label will let you know which one it contains. Nutrition-wise, there generally isn’t a difference, so choose the one you like best. If the texture of cottage cheese is what stops you from eating it,you can get rid of the lumps by blending cottage cheese in a blender or food processor. Or look for brands that are smooth or whipped.

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The resulting cheese is a high-volume, low-calorie food that’s also high in protein. A half-cup serving of full-fat (called 4% milk fat) plain cottage cheese has about 116 calories, 14 grams of protein, and 3 grams of saturated fat. Flavored cottage cheese can contain added sugars and is higher in calories than plain varieties. Check the label: Added sugars can be as little as 5 grams (about a teaspoon) to as much as 14 grams (3.5 teaspoons) per serving.

The protein in cottage cheese makes it filling, so it may help in weight loss. For example, a small study published in 2015 in the journal Appetite found that cottage cheese suppressed hunger as much as eggs, which some nutritionists recommend as a more filling alternative to carb-heavy breakfasts like cereal and bagels.

A half-cup of full-fat cottage cheese also packs 14 percent of the daily value for phosphorous, which your body uses to process energy, nearly a third of your body’s need for vitamin B12, a nutrient that helps keep nerves and blood cells healthy, and about 8 percent of your daily calcium requirement.

Sodium is cottage cheese’s one nutritional negative. Salt is added as a preservative because cottage cheese is high in moisture, says Tonya Schoenfuss, PhD, an adjunct associate professor of dairy products technology at the University of Minnesota. You can end up with as much as 450 mg of sodium per half-cup. (The daily sodium recommendation is less than 2,300 mg.) So look for brands labeled low-sodium or less sodium, such as Breakstone’s 2% small curd 45% less sodium cottage cheese, which has 200 mg of sodium (9 percent of the daily limit) in a half cup. There are no-salt-added options as well, with as little as 45 mg in half a cup. These can taste bland, but you can perk them up with fruit, diced veggies, or spices and herbs such as cinnamon or dill.

Some companies boast that their cottage cheese contains "live and active cultures." That can be a benefit because probiotic bacteria are good for your digestive tract. But check the labels: While these bacteria are necessary to turn milk into yogurt, they aren’t needed to make cottage cheese, so not all brands have them. By choosing cottage cheese with live cultures, you get the same gut health benefits as yogurt.

Full-Fat vs. Low-Fat Cottage Cheese

Compared with full-fat cottage cheese,lower-fat varieties save you a few calories, which may be beneficial if you’re looking to lose weight, says Petitpain. The difference between nonfat and full-fat cottage cheese is about 30 calories per half-cup; the low-fat (called 2 percent) options have about 20 fewer calories than full-fat.

The savings in saturated fat are similarly small, with 2 percent cottage cheese supplying 1.4 grams of saturated fat per half-cup. And although keeping overall saturated fat intake low is beneficial for health, some research suggests that full-fat dairy products might not raise the risk of heart disease, possibly because of the nutrients or the type of saturated fat they contain.

The downside to lower-fat products? They’re more likely to have added thickeners like carrageenan and guar gum, Schoenfuss says. Some full-fat cottage cheese contains these additives as well, however, so check ingredients lists to be sure of what you’re getting. Ideally, cottage cheese should contain just milk, cream, salt, and sometimes live and active cultures.

How Cottage Cheese Compares to Yogurt

Cottage cheese and yogurt are much the same nutritionally. The biggest difference is in the sodium count, but if you choose lower sodium versions, you’ll get similar amounts of all the nutrients.

2% Cottage Cheese, 1/2 CupLow-Fat Greek Yogurt, 1/2 Cup
Saturated Fat1.4 g1.5 g
Protein12 g12 g
Calcium116 g141 mg
Sodium363 mg42 mg

What to Do With Cottage Cheese

Of course, cottage cheese is delicious combined with fruit, but there are many more ways to work it into your diet:

• Add it to smoothies in place of yogurt.

• Whisk it into scrambled eggs as you cook them for a boost of protein and a fluffy texture.

• Combine it with chopped veggies (such as chopped tomato, cucumber, and bell pepper) and seasonings, or chopped walnuts, olives, and black pepper.

• Use it plain or seasoned as a toast topper.

• Mix tomato sauce into a scoop of cottage cheese for a snack that tastes like lasagna filling.

• Use it to make a healthier Alfredo pasta sauce (you’ll find a variety of recipes online).

Is Cottage Cheese Good for You? - Consumer Reports (1)

Rachel Meltzer Warren

Rachel Meltzer Warren, MS, RD, is a freelance writer based in the New York area who contributes to Consumer Reports on food and nutrition topics.

Is Cottage Cheese Good for You? - Consumer Reports (2024)
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