Why You Shouldn't Try the Budwig Diet, and How to Eat Cottage Cheese and Flaxseed

Adding flaxseed oil to cottage cheese can increase the health benefits of your meal.
Image Credit: Maren Winter/iStock/GettyImages

Flaxseed oil and cottage cheese are highly nutritious foods on their own. At one point, they were believed to be even more powerful paired together: In fact, the duo was the theme of a proposed cancer treatment called the Budwig diet.

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German biochemist Johanna Budwig created the formula in the 1950s and suggested that a strict diet, rich in cottage cheese and flaxseed oil, could stall or completely stop cancer growth, as outlined by the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC). The Budwig diet is sometimes referred to as the Budwig protocol, the flaxseed oil diet, the linseed oil diet, the flax oil and cottage cheese diet (FOCC), the oil-protein diet, the Cellect-Budwig protocol and the Bill Henderson Protocol.

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Why You Shouldn't Try the Budwig Diet

The anticancer diet consists of eating multiple servings of flaxseed oil and cottage cheese every day, per MSKCC. While processed foods, meat, most dairy products and sugar are prohibited on the diet, vegetables, fruit and juices are allowed.

Combining cottage cheese and flaxseed oil may seem pretty random; Budwig believed that the foods, which provide a hearty dose of polyunsaturated fatty acids, could improve cellular functioning. There has been no scientific evidence to substantiate these claims.

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In fact, subsisting on the Budwig diet for cancer treatment, or for any reason, really, may lead to nutrient deficiencies, gastrointestinal discomfort and a greater risk for sunburn and skin cancer, according to MSKCC.

While there are no proven benefits to a cottage cheese and flaxseed oil diet, both of these foods can promote health in their own way.

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The Health Benefits of Cottage Cheese

One cup of cottage cheese is equal to a single serving. Cottage cheese nutrition varies by milk-fat level and added sodium; one cup of low-fat (1 percent milkfat) cottage cheese contains, according to the USDA:

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  • 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
  • Protein: 28 g

Cottage cheese is a 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.

A 1-cup serving of cottage cheese provides 28 grams of protein — slightly more than a 3-ounce serving of chicken breast. Low-fat (1-percent milk fat) cottage cheese only contains 163 calories and 1.5 grams of saturated fat.

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One cup of cottage cheese provides 24 percent of the recommended daily value for phosphorus and 11 percent of calcium's daily value; these minerals work together to build strong bones and teeth, per the Mayo Clinic.

The Health Benefits of Flaxseed Oil

Flaxseed, also called linseed and scientifically known as ​Linum usitassimum​, comes from an herb that produces seeds with a nutty flavor, per an April 2015 report in the ​Journal of Food Science and Technology​. You can find flaxseed ground into a meal, toasted and whole, or processed into flaxseed oil pills and capsules.

Because flaxseed is primarily composed of healthy fats, flaxseed oil has been linked to supporting heart health, an improved immune system and a lower chance of inulin resistance, per the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

When flaxseed is processed into an oil, it loses the majority of its nutrients and is 100 percent fat. Fortunately, the fats in flaxseed are primarily healthy, unsaturated fats.

Flaxseed oil's benefits mostly come from two specific types of unsaturated fats: linolenic acid and linoleic acid. Linolenic acid, also known as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), is a type of omega-3 fatty acid. The National Institutes of Health recommends the daily consumption of 1.1 to 1.6 grams of ALA as part of a healthy diet.

You might be familiar with omega-3 fatty acids like docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). DHA and EPA are commonly found in fish and shellfish. However, omega-3 fatty acids can be found in fruits, vegetables and other plant-based products as ALA too. When you consume ALA, small amounts of it are converted into EPA and DHA, which makes it a precursor of these other omega-3 fatty acids, as outlined in August 2014 research in Food and Chemical Toxicology.

On its own, the ALA in flaxseed oil has a variety of beneficial properties and has been linked yo anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects, according to a September 2015 study in the ​BioMed Research International Journal​.

The Health Benefits of Flaxseed

Like other seeds, flaxseeds contain carbohydrates, protein and fat. But this seed is also rich in an array of nutrients, including minerals like calcium, iron, potassium and phosphorus, as well as vitamins like vitamin A, B-complex vitamins and vitamin E, per February 2014 research in the Journal of Food Science & Technology​.

Unlike flaxseed oil, standard flaxseeds are a great source of fiber. The fiber in flaxseed is found primarily in the coat of the seed. One tablespoon of whole flaxseed contains 2.8 grams of dietary fiber, which is 11 percent of your recommended daily value, per the USDA.

Flaxseed is a good source of soluble and insoluble fiber and has traditionally been valued for its constipation prevention properties, per the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

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How to Eat More Flaxseed

Whether in seed or oil form, flaxseeds boast plenty of health benefits. Still, eating the stuff isn't as intuitive as eating cottage cheese is, an instance where you simply need a spoon to dig in.

You don't need to add more than a tablespoon of flaxseeds to reap its benefits, per the Mayo Clinic. Like with other sources of fiber, you should drink plenty of water when eating flaxseed to aid in digestion.

Here are some common (and delicious) ways to include more flaxseed into your diet.

Flaxseed in Smoothies

You can add flaxseeds to smoothies to give your drink some healthy fat. If you tend to include fruits and/or vegetables without much else, adding flaxseeds is a great way to make the nutrition of your smoothie more balanced.

Ground Flaxseed in Smoothies

Some people may prefer using ground flaxseed in their smoothies because they are less detectable than the whole version. You can purchase flaxseeds ground (just like you would ground coffee beans), or you can grind the flaxseeds at home.

The health benefits of ground flaxseeds may outweigh that of whole flaxseeds: Nutrition experts often recommend ground flaxseeds over whole flaxseeds because they are easier to digest, per the Mayo Clinic. Whole flaxseed may pass through your intestine undigested, which means you could miss out on all of the benefits.

Whole Flaxseed in Smoothies

Still, if you enjoy a little texture in your smoothies or don't have the time to grind, whole flaxseeds can be a beneficial addition to your drink. It's possible your blender may do some of the grinding for you, which will make the seeds easier to digest.

Whole flaxseeds can also add a nice crunch to muffins, breads and other baked goods.

Flaxseed in Yogurt

There are benefits to adding flaxseed to your Greek yogurt: Doing so will amp up the fiber of your already protein-packed meal, aiding in digestion and satiety.

Although yogurt is already full of numerous essential nutrients that your body needs daily, adding flaxseed to yogurt provides nutrients you won't get from eating yogurt alone. It's important to note, however, adding flaxseed to yogurt also increases its calorie content.

Flaxseed in Cottage Cheese

You don't have to ascribe to the Budwig diet, but you may benefit from taking a tip. Just like yogurt, cottage cheese is rich in protein but void of fiber. Adding flaxseed, whether whole or ground, can help you get more fiber, which, in turn, will keep you fuller for longer. Just don't forget to hydrate!

Healthy Flaxseed Recipes to Try

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