Whether you love it or hate it, cottage cheese is trending. This high-protein dairy food is all over social media as a main ingredient in “healthier” ice cream, creamy toast toppings and whipped dips.
But this soft cheese is divisive, mainly due to the fact that it’s made from curdled milk (but not in a bad way)! To make cottage cheese, milk is combined with live active cultures, which convert the milk sugar into lactic acid. The acid separates the milk into solids, fats and protein (the curd) and whey (the liquid). After some of the liquid is drained, the curd is cut and mixed with the remaining whey and additional cream and salt. The final product is a creamy and thick, soft cheese that is spreadable, salty and full of nutrients.
Cottage cheese comes in multiple versions, including full-fat made from 4% milk, low-fat made from 2% milk and nonfat made from skim milk. The curd may also vary, based on the size of the cut (large or small). Let’s take a closer look at cottage cheese and some of the reasons to include it in your diet.
Cottage cheese nutrition facts
A half-cup serving of low-fat (2%) cottage cheese has:
- 90 calories
- 12 grams protein
- 2.5 grams fat
- 5 grams carbohydrates
- 125 milligrams calcium (10% daily value (DV))
- 0.5 ug vitamin B12 (21% DV)
Low-fat and non-fat cottage cheese have more protein and less fat than whole milk cottage cheese, but the other nutrition facts are very similar.
The health benefits of eating cottage cheese
Cottage cheese has a rich nutrition profile that influences hunger and appetite, bone health and even gut health. Dairy foods are naturally rich in protein, and research shows that eating them may result in increased satiety and less overeating at subsequent meals. These factors play a role in maintaining a healthy weight.
Like most other dairy foods, cottage cheese is an excellent source of bone-promoting calcium. A recent review found that children and adults who avoid dairy products are at higher risk of fractures. In addition, the review cites several trials that show the beneficial effects of dairy products on bone accumulation and turnover. And fermented dairy products, like yogurt and cottage cheese, have been linked to lower risk of hip fracture.
Lastly, the active cultures used to make cottage cheese promote the growth of beneficial probiotics. One study in mice found that those fed cottage cheese produced a flourishing microbiome of healthy gut bacteria. Other data suggest a correlation between eating fermented dairy products and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and mortality.
More nutritional information on everyday foods
Are there drawbacks to eating cottage cheese?
Although cottage cheese is a healthy part of the diet, it does contain both saturated fat and sodium, two nutrients that are linked to health issues. Excessive saturated fat in the diet can raise LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and contribute to chronic illness, according to the National Institute of Health. The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fat to 5% of calories (or about 13 grams) per day. That said, a ½ cup serving of low-fat cottage cheese only has 1.5 grams of saturated fat, so it’s perfectly fine to eat in moderation.
Cottage cheese does contain varying levels of sodium, depending on the brand. The USDA cites 348 milligrams of sodium in a ½ cup serving, which is about 15% of the recommended 2300 milligram daily limit. Those who have high blood pressure or kidney issues need to watch their sodium intake and should limit their portion size of cottage cheese or opt for low-salt varieties.
Fun facts about cottage cheese
Here are a few more reasons to add cottage cheese to your weekly meal plan.
It’s a good post-workout snack
With its protein content, it’s probably no surprise that cottage cheese has been linked to muscle building. A randomized controlled trial gave 20 healthy adults 30 grams of protein from cheese or milk after exercise. The researchers found that both forms of dairy resulted in an increased rate of post-workout muscle protein synthesis. But keep in mind that you would need to eat about 1.5 cups of cottage cheese to get 30 grams of protein.
You can use it to rehab recipes
You’ve probably seen the viral cottage cheese “ice cream” all over social media and wondered whether or not it’s actually any good. The idea behind the trend is using cottage cheese in place of heavy cream to cut calories and fat and increase protein for a healthier dessert. The concept isn’t new, as many people have used cottage cheese in place of mayo or sour cream in dishes like potato or egg salad or creamy dips. And it does work! Cottage cheese has a creamy consistency and decadent mouthfeel, even though it’s lower in calories and saturated fat than other dairy. It’s a great replacement for savory dairy, and social media enthusiasts have even proven that it can stand in for sweet desserts. To use it in place of cream, mayo or sour cream, place cottage cheese in a food processor or blender to smooth it out and use it as a 1:1 replacement.
It has less lactose than milk
Those who are lactose intolerant may not need to avoid all forms of dairy. Some people who cannot tolerate milk may actually be able to digest cottage cheese without issue. A recent lab test found that cottage cheese actually has lower levels of lactose than yogurt and milk. Lactose intolerance is extremely variable and individualized, so it’s difficult to say what will affect one person and not the next. But if you’re missing dairy, you may want to give cottage cheese a try.
Healthy cottage cheese recipes
Got a tub of cottage cheese and not sure what to do with it? Try these satisfying and creamy healthy recipes.
Courtesy Ed Anderson
Nathan Congleton / TODAY
Lucy Schaeffer / Junk Food to Joy Food
Chef Dan Churchill, Under Armour Chef for Lindsey Vonn