All About Cottage Cheese
Cottage Cheese’s Curd Appeal
Those white lumps give this fresh cheese its distinct appearance. You can buy it in large-curd or small-curd varieties. The smaller nuggets are about a quarter inch in diameter. The big ones measure up to 3/8 of an inch. It’s the size of the knives used in cottage cheese production that determines the size of the curd. The nutrition profile is the same either way. It’s just a matter of personal preference or what your recipe requires.
A Protein Powerhouse
Here’s a surprise: Ounce for ounce, cottage cheese has about as much protein as protein-superstar Greek yogurt. A full cup has 23 grams compared with Greek yogurt’s 24. But, read labels because protein can vary slightly from brand to brand and variety to variety. For instance, large curd often has a gram or two more than small curd, and low-fat has slightly less than full-fat. Still, a serving will meet about half your daily protein needs.
Cottage Cheese Satisfies
Compared with an omelet (a dish with the same amount of protein), lowly cottage cheese is just as satisfying, according to a study in the journal Appetite. It does as good a job of squashing hunger pangs, too. Part of the reason could be the type of protein it has — casein. Your body digests it more slowly than whey protein, which can leave you feeling full for longer.
Facts on Fat and Calories
Like milk, cottage cheese comes in full-fat, low-fat, and fat-free. But, consider the trade-offs: Less fat means more artificial ingredients. That might not be worth the 50 or so calories you save. A cup of full-fat has about 220 calories. One percent has around 164. Research suggests that dairy fat doesn’t pose the heart threat that saturated fat in meat does. It could even help prevent type 2 diabetes. Plus, the richer version usually tastes better.
Beware of Added Ingredients
Real cottage cheese has just four ingredients — milk, culture or acid, cream, and salt. Both flavored and lower-fat versions have a wealth of other additives, like sweeteners, stabilizers, thickeners, and preservatives. If you’re trying to avoid genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which could be in the dairy cows’ feed, choose organic. But that doesn’t guarantee you’ll avoid additives. What’s the only way you can be sure what you’re going to get? Always read the label.
Good for Gut Health
There’s one new variety of cottage cheese that you might want to seek out: Those that have live and active cultures, similar to the ones in yogurt. Unlike yogurt, you don’t need cultures to make cottage cheese. But these probiotic bacteria can boost gut health, and they add to this snack’s good-for-you profile.
The Calcium Connection
Unlike some other dairy foods, cottage cheese is not at the very top of the list for calcium content. That’s because a lot of milk’s natural calcium ends up in the whey, not the curds. At about 125 mg per cup, it has a little less than half the calcium of 8 ounces of milk, but check the label to be sure. The amount of calcium varies with fat content.
Nutrient Hits and One Miss
One cup of full-fat cottage cheese delivers 40% of your daily vitamin B12 needs. That’s important for nerve and blood cell health. It’s got about half a day’s phosphorus, which helps make energy and protect bones, and 40% of your daily selenium, for reproductive and thyroid health. You’ll also get other B vitamins, vitamin A, and even some K. But, it does have a lot of salt. Depending on the variety, one cup could eat up a third of your daily sodium max.
Bedtime Snack with Benefits
A study involving active women in their 20s, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, found that eating a cup of cottage cheese about 30 to 60 minutes before sleep boosted metabolism, promoted muscle recovery and repair from exercise, and had positive effects on overall health.
Go Sweet or Go Savory
Cottage cheese has a neutral taste profile, so you can sweeten or spice it up. Top a serving with fruit slices or drizzle on a fruit puree for a dessert-like treat. Add a scoop to a bowl of greens and sprinkle with your favorite herbs to turn a side dish into a light main course. Use it as a high-protein filling for omelets, crepes, or stuffed peppers.