If you're looking for a lean, healthy snack that's nutritious and satisfying, nonfat cottage cheese is a smart choice. This diet-friendly food is rich in calcium and protein, and it's versatile enough to be eaten plain or in recipes such as lasagna. For added flavor, try your cottage cheese topped with berries, a teaspoon of honey or a sprinkle of granola.
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The Low-Calorie Advantage
At just more than 100 calories per cup, nonfat cottage cheese is considered a low-energy-density food. This means that it provides relatively few calories in a high volume, filling you up without guilt. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that you should eat these types of foods for weight management; other examples of low calorie, high nutrient foods include fresh fruits and fresh or steamed vegetables.
Packed With Protein
Cottage cheese is a good source of protein, as each cup contains 15 grams of this important nutrient. Every cell in your body uses protein, and you rely on it to build strong muscles and maintain healthy skin. For context, the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that you get 10 to 35 percent of your daily calories from protein. In a 2,000-calorie diet, that works out to 200 to 700 calories -- or 50 to 175 grams -- of protein per day.
Each cup of nonfat cottage cheese contains 125 milligrams of calcium, which is the most prevalent mineral in your body. You need calcium for healthy bones and teeth, as well as for proper nerve function. Regularly eating calcium-rich foods may help prevent osteoporosis, a condition in which bones become brittle and more prone to fracture. Most adults should get 1,000 milligrams of calcium each day. Women over 50 and men over 70 need a bit more, so aim for 1,200 milligrams of calcium per day if you fit into these groups.
No Bad Fats
By buying nonfat cottage cheese instead of the regular variety, you help minimize your intake of saturated fat. Saturated fat is found in meat, full-fat dairy, lard and other animal products, and it's linked to high cholesterol levels. High cholesterol increases your risk of heart disease and stroke, so cutting back on saturated fat can be important for your health. That's why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises that you should choose nonfat or low-fat dairy and skipping the full-fat versions. In a 2,000-calorie diet, the American Heart Association recommends consuming no more than 16 grams of saturated fat per day.
The Sodium Issue
Despite the health perks, nonfat cottage cheese may contain about 540 milligrams of sodium per cup -- nearly one-fourth of the 2,300-milligram daily maximum recommended for healthy adults. While low-sodium nonfat cottage cheese is rare, low-fat versions sometimes come with no sodium added. A cup of cottage cheese with 1-percent milk fat and no added sodium may contain about 2 grams of fat -- of which 1.5 grams is saturated -- and just 30 milligrams of sodium.