Protein, Probiotics, and 4 More Healthy Benefits of Cottage Cheese

All the nutritious reasons cottage cheese deserves a spot on your grocery list.


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Cottage cheese has long been a favorite food choice for athletes and health-conscious individuals. In fact, cottage cheese popularity peaked in the 1970s as a go-to healthy “diet food” (before the yogurt craze took over in the ’80s). But eating cottage cheese isn’t one of those unfounded, old-school weight-loss fads with no place in the 2020s—it really is a delicious, nutrient-rich addition to any balanced diet (that includes dairy and animal protein, that is). Its accessibility combined with its awesome health benefits, creamy texture, and neutral flavor—perfect for both sweet and savory applications—all make cottage cheese a perfect go-to snack, secret ingredient (in lasagna, egg dishes, pancakes, dips, and more!), or part of a larger meal. 

What Is Cottage Cheese? 

This soft cheese is actually a type of cheese curd that’s been separated from its dairy counterpart, whey, through an enzymatic reaction. So, nope, it’s not curdled or spoiled cheese! Because cottage cheese doesn’t go through an aging or ripening process like many other cheeses, it maintains the classic, mild flavor it's known for. Cottage cheese comes in non-fat, low-fat, and full-fat varieties depending on the type of milk used to make it, and can also come in different curd sizes.

But what makes this nostalgic food so enticing for anyone looking for nutrient-packed food choices and optimal health? Here’s why cottage cheese is so good for you and worth trying if you've never had the pleasure.

Cottage Cheese Health Benefits

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One of the biggest selling points of cottage cheese is that it’s packed with protein. One cup of cottage cheese will provide a staggering 28 grams of this important macronutrient.Protein not only helps with satiety, but also balances blood sugar levels,” explains Therese Molzahn, M.S., RDN, a clinical dietitian specializing in women’s care. Plus, protein helps to build healthy tissues throughout the body including bones, muscles, skin, hair, and nails. These benefits combine to make cottage cheese the perfect choice when you’re looking for a convenient snack that will give you lasting energy.

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Cottage cheese is also a great choice for those looking to enrich their diet with more calcium? You may already know that calcium is vital for healthy bone and teeth formation but some lesser known benefits of calcium include its vital role in healthy heart, muscle, and nerve functioning.

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This fermented cheese can also be rich in probiotics, just check the packaging labels for active or live cultures. Eating probiotic foods is all the rage these days, due in part to the increasing popularity of gut health. Essentially, probiotics are healthy bacteria that can help boost your gut microbiome, the group of trillions of microorganisms living in the large intestine that can positively influence our health in so many ways, from immune health to brain health.

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B Vitamins

Cottage cheese is full of B vitamins (of which there are eight), but is especially high in riboflavin and vitamin B12. “Vitamin B12 is essential for the development and function of our nervous system, DNA synthesis, and for red blood cell formation,” Molzahn says. Riboflavin is especially beneficial to our nerve cells, helping to reduce inflammation and oxidative (or tissue-damaging) stress.

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Dairy products tend to be great sources of phosphorus, and cottage cheese is no exception. Phosphorus is a mineral that plays so many important roles in the body. It aids in the growth, overall health, and repair of tissues while also assisting in the healthy metabolism of carbohydrates and fats. Plus, if you can remember back to high school biology: The P in the molecule ATP (adenosine triphosphate), that stores energy in our cells, is phosphorus. So it’s vital that we’re including phosphorus-rich foods in our daily routine.

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While you may not be as familiar with selenium, this mineral has super-important health benefits and can be found in cottage cheese. An essential element of many enzymes and proteins in the body, selenium helps to create DNA while also protecting our cells from damage.

How to Include Cottage Cheese in Your Daily Routine

The delicious ways to include cottage cheese into your daily routine are truly endless. But before stepping into the kitchen, there are a few more things to be aware of when it comes to this tasty cheese:

One is that it can be high in sodium. While some sodium in the diet is important for healthy functioning, too much over a long period of time can predispose us to high blood pressure or hypertension. Thankfully, many cottage cheese brands offer low-sodium varieties.

It is a dairy product, so it's not always the right option for lactose-intolerant folks. “For those with lactose intolerance, cottage cheese may lead to some gas, bloating, or diarrhea depending on the portion size eaten,” Molzahn adds. The fermentation process involved in creating cottage cheese will help to increase its digestibility, but if dairy doesn’t agree with you for one reason or another, it may be best to steer clear of it.

Full-fat cottage cheese will also contain saturated fat and be more caloric. For decades, it was generally accepted by the scientific community that saturated fat negatively impacted cholesterol levels, increasing risk for heart disease. However, research is emerging to show that this correlation is not so black and white. For example, one review published in The BMJ in 2015 looked at evidence from studies of over 90,000 participants and did not find a direct correlation between saturated fat intake and cardiovascular disease risk. These findings are even more pronounced with fermented dairy products. This may be due to the chemical processes that dairy fat undergoes with fermentation. For example, when fermenting milk into kefir, researchers found the fat composition to change: Some of the saturated fat actually converted into unsaturated fat, which is beneficial to our heart and overall health. These findings can be extrapolated to all dairy fermentation. However, if you are watching your fat or calorie intake, low-fat versions of cottage cheese are available.

When looking to include more cottage cheese into your healthy eating routine, Molzahn shares some smart and easy ideas. “It can be eaten in its plain form as a snack, used for dips and sauces, as a condiment, used as a substitute for milk, topping foods, and more.”

Some tasty options include subbing it for yogurt in a parfait with fruit and granola, topping it with everything bagel seasoning as a dip for your favorite cut veggies, subbing it for some of the unfermented cheese in your go-to mac and cheese or lasagna recipe, and even using it as a no-fuss salad dressing in a pinch!

When enjoyed in moderation, cottage cheese can be an incredible, nutrient-dense addition to your healthy lifestyle, packing a punch with calcium, probiotics, and super-satiating protein.

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  4. Astrup A, Geiker NRW, Magkos F. Effects of full-fat and fermented dairy products on cardiometabolic disease: food Is more than the sum of Its parts. Adv Nutr. 2019;10(5):924S-930S. doi:10.1093/advances/nmz069

  5. Vieira CP, Álvares TS, Gomes LS, Torres AG, Paschoalin VM, Conte-Junior CA. Kefir grains change fatty acid profile of milk during fermentation and storage. PLoS One. 2015;10(10):e0139910. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0139910

  6. Gómez-Gallego C, Gueimonde M, Salminen S. The role of yogurt in food-based dietary guidelines. Nutr Rev. 2018;76(S1):29-39. doi:10.1093/nutrit/nuy059

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