bowl of cottage cheese with strawberries and blueberries

Is cottage cheese worth the hype?

Cottage cheese is a food that many people have strong feelings about. Whether you love it or hate it, cottage cheese is healthy and versatile.

Carly Zimmer, a clinical dietitian at OSF HealthCare, explained why this dairy product is good for you.

What is cottage cheese?

“Cottage cheese is created when an acid, like vinegar or lemon juice, is added to skim milk,” Carly said.

The acidification separates the curd and the whey. Proteins in milk clump together to make the curd, and the liquid is the whey.

A cream and salt mixture is added to the curds for flavor and gives it a softer, creamier texture. It has added gums and emulsifiers, as well. They keep it all mixed together.

“The gums and the emulsifiers are not a big concern as far as nutrition or health. They’re just there to keep everything from separating,” Carly said.

Types of cottage cheese

There are three main types:

  1. Full fat: This has a minimum of 4 percent milkfat. This is the creamiest, and often most satisfying option.
  2. Reduced or Low fat: This generally contains 1-2% milk fat.
  3. Non-fat: This contains less than 0.5% milk fat. It’s the lowest in calories of the three options.

There are also two subtypes:

  1. Large curd is made using an enzyme called rennet. Rennet helps with coagulation. It doesn’t change much in terms of flavor. But it may change the desired texture.
  2. Small curd is made without rennet. It doesn’t coagulate as much, so the curds come out smaller.

Is cottage cheese good for you?

Cottage cheese is one of the many dairy products that is good for you. Along with yogurt – especially Greek yogurt – it’s a great way to get your daily intake of calcium.

Cottage cheese is high in protein and is an excellent source of calcium. Choosing a low-fat cottage cheese can reduce saturated fat intake when substituting it for other higher fat foods, such as cream cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise or ricotta cheese.

It’s also full of vitamins and minerals that support a healthy diet. It contains vitamins like phosphorus, potassium and vitamin B12.

It has many health benefits. For example:

  • Calcium supports bone health.
  • Protein helps build muscle and supports immune health.
  • Vitamin B12 boosts energy.

Cottage cheese nutrition facts

A serving of cottage cheese can vary between half a cup and one cup.

One half cup serving of low-fat (2%) cottage cheese contains:

  • 90 calories
  • 12 grams of protein, which is 24% of your daily value (DV)
  • 100 milligrams of calcium (8% DV)
  • 5 grams of fat (1.5 grams being saturated fat – about 8% DV)
  • 490 mg of sodium (21% DV)

Though cottage cheese protein content is high, Carly said the average person in our society often gets plenty of protein. However, some people fighting cancer, athletes and people receiving wound healing treatment need more protein.

Should you eat more cottage cheese?

Cottage cheese is especially good for people living with diabetes. Cottage cheese is low in carbohydrates. In addition, the protein in cottage cheese slows digestion, which promotes satiety and can prevent blood sugar spikes. It can be a filling snack alongside fruit.

Although it is good for you, cottage cheese is high in sodium. It isn’t great for people with high blood pressure, heart disease or congestive heart failure. For somebody with a heart condition or hypertension, they should limit sodium intake to 1,500 to 2,000 mg each day.

“Just make sure you watch your sodium intake. If you eat a lot of cottage cheese, cut back how much sodium you get in other foods,” Carly said.

For the average healthy person, Carly recommends no more than 2,300 mg of sodium each day.

Choosing the best cottage cheese

When you’re looking for the best cottage cheese, look for low sodium and low-fat options.

Choosing a brand with added probiotics supports healthy digestion.

“Look for live and active probiotic cultures in the list of ingredients. It usually has parentheses that say what kind of cultures were added, like lactobacillus. Not all brands have those live and active cultures,” Carly said.

But, when it comes down to it, Carly says it’s up to personal preference.

“Whether it’s low fat or full fat, cottage cheese can be part of a healthy diet – in moderation,” Carly said.

When deciding whether to use it as a substitute in a recipe, look at what you are replacing (ask yourself if the cottage cheese is adding nutritional value) and your taste preferences.

Cottage cheese recipes

Cottage cheese can be a good alternative when making ranch dressing. Simply blend it until it has a completely smooth, creamy texture. Add in a packet of ranch seasoning mix. Use as a dressing on a healthy salad or as a veggie dip.

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Cottage cheese can also be used as an ingredient in baked goods and yummy desserts, like:

  • Muffins
  • Pancakes
  • Cookie dough
  • Ice cream
  • Parfaits

It’s often used in pasta dishes like lasagna or alfredo.

“You can add cottage cheese to your scrambled eggs to make them creamier. Or you can add it on top of toast with tomato or avocado,” Carly said.

Last Updated: November 1, 2023

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About Author: Katie Faley

Katie Faley is a Writing Coordinator for OSF HealthCare. She graduated from Illinois State University with a degree in English Studies. Before joining OSF HealthCare in 2021, she worked in magazine editing, digital marketing and freelance writing.
Katie is often found listening to ‘60s folk music, deciding on a new skill to learn, losing track of time in a library or spending time with her family and friends.

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Categories: Diet & Exercise