Cottage Cheese Is a Cheap, High-Protein Snack That’s Also Great for Cooking

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Cottage cheese is a versatile dairy staple with a number of health benefits. It provides essential nutrients that can help strengthen your bones, manage weight and much more.

Even if you stick to just a half-cup of cottage cheese, you'll get an impressive amount of protein and other nutrients.
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Sometimes associated with classic 70s diet, cottage cheese is a nutritious addition to your everyday eating plan. It's a high-protein staple that can easily be paired with both sweet and savory foods, making it easy to incorporate into meals any time of the day.

Reserve a spot for cottage cheese next to the yogurt and milk in your refrigerator, and you'll reap the delicious benefits.

Cottage Cheese Nutrition Facts

One cup of cottage cheese is equal to a single serving. Although cottage cheese nutrition varies by milk-fat level and added sodium, one cup of low-fat (1% milkfat) cottage cheese contains:

  • Calories: 163
  • Total fat: 2.3 g
  • Cholesterol: 9 mg
  • Sodium: 917.6 mg
  • Total carbs: 6.1 g
  • Dietary fiber: 0 g
  • Sugar: 6.1 g
  • Added sugar: 0 g
  • Protein: 28 g

Cottage Cheese Macros

  • Total fat: One cup of low-fat cottage cheese has 2.3 grams of total fat, which includes less than 0.1 milligrams of polyunsaturated fat, 0.6 milligrams of monounsaturated fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat and 0 grams of trans fat.
  • Carbohydrates: One cup of cottage cheese has 6.1 grams of carbs, which includes 0 grams of fiber and 6.1 grams of naturally occurring sugars.
  • Protein: One cup of cottage cheese has 28 grams of protein.

Are You Getting Enough Protein?

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Vitamins, Minerals and Other Micronutrients

  • Vitamin B12: 59% of your Daily Value (DV)
  • Selenium: 37% DV
  • Vitamin B2: 29% DV
  • Phosphorus: 24% DV
  • Calcium: 11% DV
  • Zinc: 8% DV
  • Folate: 7% DV
  • Potassium: 4% DV
  • Magnesium: 3% DV
  • Vitamin A: 3% DV
  • One cup of cottage cheese is not a significant source of iron (2% DV).

How Does Cottage Cheese Compare to Other Dairy Staples? 

Based on a 1-cup serving

Low-Fat Cottage Cheese

Low-Fat Yogurt

Low-Fat Milk

Low-Fat Ricotta Cheese

Calories

163

154

111

241

Total Fat

2.3 g

3.8 g

2.5 g

10 g

Carbohydrates

6.1 g

17.2 g

13 g

16 g

Dietary Fiber

0 g

0 g

0 g

0 g

Protein

28 g

12.9 g

8 g

24 g

Source: USDA

Health Benefits of Cottage Cheese

Cottage cheese provides a number of nutritional benefits. It's packed with important nutrients that can help boost your bone health, relieve premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms and much more.

1. Cottage Cheese Is a Healthy Source of Protein

A 1-cup serving of cottage cheese provides 28 grams of protein — slightly more than a 3-ounce serving of chicken breast. What's more, a low-fat (1-percent milkfat) variety of cottage cheese only contains 163 calories and 1.5 grams of saturated fat.

"Because cottage cheese is so rich in protein, it provides a feeling of fullness for a very reasonable number of calories," says Joan Salge Blake, EdD, RDN, a clinical professor at Boston University. "It's also a really affordable healthy food, so you can eat it regularly without breaking the bank."

Although protein needs vary based on your activity level, age and sex, the daily recommended intake of protein for healthy adults is about 10 to 35 percent of total calories. Protein is an essential macronutrient that helps your body repair cells and create new ones. As such, it's particularly important for development in children, teens and pregnant women, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

A June 2015 analysis published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reviewed data on the diet and lifestyle habits of more than 120,000 adults and found that eating protein sources including low-fat cheese was associated with weight loss. On the other hand, eating regular (not low-fat) cheese was linked to greater weight gain.

"Cottage cheese is also a good source of the amino acid leucine, which kickstarts muscle protein synthesis," Blake says. This is a process in which the body creates protein to repair muscles throughout the day.

Is Cottage Cheese a Complete Protein?

Cottage cheese is an excellent source of complete protein, meaning it provides all of the amino acids needed to make new protein in the body. Animal-based foods tend to be good sources of complete protein, while plant-based foods generally lack one or more of the nine essential amino acids the body can't make on its own, per the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

That said, people who do not eat animal-based foods can eat a variety of plant foods with protein daily to fit in all of the necessary amino acids.

2. Cottage Cheese Is a Good Source of Calcium

Eating cottage cheese can help you reach your daily requirement of calcium.

Your body only uses one percent of its total calcium for essential processes involving the blood vessels, nerves, muscle function and hormones, per the National Institutes of Health. The other 99 percent of calcium is found in the bones and teeth, where it supports their structure. Inadequate dietary intake of calcium over time can result in osteoporosis and bone fractures.

"You have until about age 30 to contribute to the calcium content of your bones, which helps build strong bones," Blake says. "If you don't get enough calcium in your diet, your body will withdraw it from your bones. In your adult years, you want to maintain your bone mass by minimizing the premature calcium withdrawals as much as possible through consuming an adequate amount of calcium-rich foods such as cottage cheese."

Although many foods contain calcium, dairy products such as cottage cheese are the best source for maintaining bone mass because they contain a form of calcium that your body can easily absorb, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Calcium may also play a role in relieving PMS symptoms. A February 2019 review published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology Science found that low blood levels of calcium and vitamin D can cause or exacerbate PMS symptoms. A diet rich in calcium and vitamin D may help reduce symptoms.

3. The Nutrients in Cottage Cheese May Help Prevent Anemia

A one-cup serving of cottage cheese provides a whopping 59 percent of the DV of vitamin B12. This vitamin is required to keep the body's nerve and blood cells healthy, and also helps to create DNA, according to the National Institutes of Health.

"Vitamin B12 is only found naturally in animal foods such as meat, fish, poultry and dairy foods," Blake says. "Using cottage cheese as your protein source at a meal will provide this important vitamin."

It's estimated that vitamin B12 deficiency is present in 1.5 to 15 percent of the American population, per the National Institutes of Health. Getting an adequate amount of vitamin B12 through foods like cottage cheese helps to prevent megaloblastic anemia, a type of anemia with symptoms like fatigue and weakness.

Vitamin B12 deficiency is also associated with low cognitive functioning and dementia, according to the Mayo Clinic. (However, it's still unclear if B12 supplements can help prevent or treat dementia.)

Is It OK to Eat Cottage Cheese Every Day?

Yes, as long as you're opting for a low-fat and low-sodium variety.

One cup of low-fat (1-percent milkfat) cottage cheese has 917.6 milligrams of sodium, or 38 percent of the DV — something to consider as you plan your snacks and meals throughout the day. If you’re eating cottage cheese daily or following a low-sodium diet, opt for a lower-sodium brand with under 200 milligrams per cup.

“It’s also worth considering if a serving of cottage cheese is higher in sodium than another protein source you would use to replace it,” Blake says. For instance, if you’re replacing salami or seasoned chicken with cottage cheese in a salad, cottage cheese may actually be the lower-sodium protein source.

4. Some Types of Cottage Cheese Include Probiotics

Although not all types of cottage cheese contain probiotics, some brands do. It's worth checking your products' ingredients list for live and active cultures.

Probiotics are often referred to "good bacteria" in the gut and support digestion and immune function. More research is needed, but evidence shows that probiotics may help reduce inflammation and allergies, prevent or treat diarrhea caused by infections and antibiotics, improve irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms and strengthen your immune system, per the Mayo Clinic.

Soft cheeses may have advantages over yogurt in terms of delivering probiotics to the gastrointestinal tract, due to their pH levels (an important factor for a probiotic's survival and growth), according to a January 2013 review published in the journal International Scholarly Research Notices.

In an October 2018 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, researchers followed nearly 2,000 men and found that eating plenty of fermented, low-fat dairy products like yogurt and cheese is linked to a lower risk of coronary heart disease.

Previous research has shown that fermented dairy products can benefit cholesterol levels and heart disease risk more than other dairy products, according to Harvard Health Publishing.

Cottage Cheese Brands We Love

  • Good Culture Organic Low-Fat Cottage Cheese With Probiotics ($5.99, Amazon)
  • Nancy's Organic Low-Fat Probiotic Cottage Cheese ($5.99, Amazon)
  • Hood Low-Sodium Cottage Cheese ($3.49, Instacart)

Cottage Cheese Health Risks

Lactose Intolerance

Some people are unable to digest lactose, the sugar found in milk and foods with milk — such as cottage cheese. Those with a lactose intolerance may feel nausea, gas, diarrhea or swelling in the stomach after eating foods containing lactose, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

One cup of low-fat cottage cheese contains 6 grams of lactose, according to the University of Virginia. Most people with lactose intolerance can tolerate around 12 to 15 grams of lactose (about the amount in a cup of milk), according to a June 2010 review in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

If you have lactose intolerance and want to eat cottage cheese, start by introducing a half-cup of cottage cheese at a time and evaluate your symptoms, or opt for a lactose-free variety.

If you suspect you have lactose intolerance, talk to your doctor, who may conduct a blood, breath or stool test. Lactose intolerance is not serious, but you may need to avoid foods with lactose such as cottage cheese, take a calcium supplement or use pills or drops to aid in lactose digestion.

Sodium Intake

If you're limiting your sodium intake, opt for low-sodium cottage cheese. The general guidance for sodium is no more than 2,300 milligrams per day for healthy adults, and no more than 1,500 milligrams per day for people with elevated blood pressure, per the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Drug Interactions

High-calcium foods like cottage cheese may interfere with the body's absorption of tetracycline, an antibiotic used to treat infections, per Consumer Reports. Tetracycline generally works best when taken 1 hour before or 2 hours after eating.

If you have questions or concerns about when to take your medication or potential interactions, talk to your doctor.

Whether you add cottage cheese into your omelet or top it with toast and hard-boiled eggs, the versatile dairy will lend your meal richness and nutrients.
Image Credit: Elena_Danileiko/iStock/GettyImages

Cottage Cheese Recipes

Cottage Cheese Preparation and Useful Tips

Cottage cheese is available year-round, and is a healthy addition to your diet at any meal. Follow these tips for storing and preparing delicious dishes with cottage cheese.

Enjoy cottage cheese shortly after purchasing. Soft cheeses such as cottage cheese, Brie or ricotta can be stored in the refrigerator for one week, according to the USDA. These cheeses do not freeze well.

Pair cottage cheese with fruits and vegetables. Cottage cheese is a unique high-protein staple in that it pairs well with a number of healthy foods.

"I always judge a food by the company it keeps, and cottage cheese is fabulous because it pairs well with both fruits and vegetables, two food groups most Americans are falling short of in their diets," Blake says. Pair cottage cheese with produce like pineapple, celery sticks, carrots or leafy greens, or mix with cooked broccoli and use to top a baked potato.

Alternatives to Cottage Cheese

Low-fat cottage cheese is a rich source of lean protein, which promotes feelings of fullness and may even prevent weight gain.

This dairy staple is also a good source of calcium, important for strong bones. Cottage cheese provides more than half the DV of vitamin B12, which can help prevent a certain type of anemia. Some types of cottage cheese also contain gut-healthy probiotics that can support digestion and a strong immune system.

For similar health benefits, you can swap cottage cheese for other dairy staples such as:

  • Low-fat yogurt or skyr
  • Low-fat ricotta cheese
  • Low-fat sour cream
  • Low-fat milk
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