Do you believe in the benefits of cottage cheese? With conflicting news reports on popular foods happening on a consistent basis, it can be hard to know what is or isn’t good for your body.
This is especially true if you’re trying to cut fat, build muscle, and get fit. Among the most polarizing foods that have divided a lot of fitness experts for years is cottage cheese.
We see it in stores, as a staple on salad bars, and we may even eat it regularly ourselves, but what exactly is cottage cheese doing for our body? After exploring what this versatile and ever-popular dairy product actually is, we delve into the various reasons why it’s a genuine superfood, and can be served in a variety of unique ways.
What is Cottage Cheese?
The description of cottage cheese won’t make it sound as appetizing as this unique dairy food actually is. The name comes from the fact that when cottages would make butter, the leftover milk was reserved, mixed with curds and whey, and made into what we know as cottage cheese.
Ultimately, it’s a soft cheese like ricotta or mascarpone, and can be used in many similar recipes or eaten alone. To buy cottage cheese is to get individually sized or larger tubs of it in the grocery dairy isle, and as we’ll soon find out, the nutritional benefits are enough to qualify cottage cheese as a superfood.
Seven Surprising Benefits to Cottage Cheese
Whether you believe these beneficial claims from Men’s Fitness Magazine or OrganicFacts.net, the majority of experts agree that cottage cheese has a slew of phenomenal benefits for the fitness enthusiast. From the remarkable amount of lean protein present in cottage cheese, to the fact that it’s often used for weight loss, you may be surprised at the impactful benefits of America’s favorite soft cheese.
#1 – It has Excellent Protein for Lean Muscle
Since every 100g, or 3.5 ounces of cottage cheese contains about 11g of high quality protein, it’s easy to see where it got its reputation as a power food. A staple of many bodybuilders, power lifters, and anyone who wants to build lean muscle, the high protein content of cottage cheese is undoubtedly its most prominent benefit.
This is especially true since along with rice and soy proteins, whey is considered among the healthiest and most potent sources of protein.
#2 – Provides Calcium for Bones and Muscles
Like all essential vitamins and minerals, calcium is one of those minerals that serves as a massive workhorse within the body. It’s best known for the vital task of strengthening bones, but calcium also plays a crucial role in proper heart function. Long story short, we need calcium in our bodies on a daily basis, and in addition to lots of protein, cottage cheese is rich in bone-building calcium.
#3 – Weight Loss via Fat Free Cottage Cheese
There are multiple reasons why cottage cheese is excellent for those who are trying to lose weight. First, the ratio of calories to protein is excellent in lean cottage cheese, giving you the protein you need with surprisingly low calories.
The aforementioned calcium plays a role in weight loss as well, as research indicates that it reduces the amount of fat stored as well as increased overall fat burn. An even more powerful finding was that the brain is proven to check for calcium, and if it detects a lack, then it increases your hunger to compensate, so clearly getting enough calcium is vital to healthy weight loss.
#4 – Reduces Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
In addition to heart benefits aided by calcium, cottage cheese also has a potent amount of magnesium, a nutrient crucial to heart health and the prevention of heart attacks. Additionally, cottage cheese is low in saturated fat, and is considered to be a heart friendly food for those who have to be aware of cardio issues.
#5 – Promoting Healthy Chemical Functions in the Body
While macro nutrients like protein and fat get a lot of the attention, vitamins and minerals perform functions in the body that are just as vital. Cottage cheese is rich in Vitamin A, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc, each of which plays a crucial role in bodily functions.
If even one of these vitamins is lacking, it could affect your entire system, energy level, and performance, and cottage cheese is an excellent way to ensure that you get the most important nutrients.
#6 – Reduces Risk of Breast Cancer
While not 100% accepted by the medical community, there are experts like Dr. Johanna Budwig that claim that both cottage cheese and flax seed oil can drastically reduce risks of breast cancer. There is a lot to understand about her claims, which are ultimately part of the Budwig Protocol.
As research into breast cancer and the health benefits of cottage cheese continue, many experts think we’ll find a link between the many nutrients in cottage cheese and the prevention of breast cancer.
#7 – Lowers Anxiety Levels, Cramps, and Risk of Stroke
Health Central names cottage cheese one of the 12 best foods for decreasing stress. Primary reasons for this are its high levels of protein and calcium, both of which have mood enhancing benefits. Calcium has a positive impact on the nervous system, and sufficient levels of it keep the brain from making you continuously hungry.
Protein from whey has two crucial stress-reducing ingredients, tryptophan and glutamine. Since cottage cheese is an excellent source of both of these nutrients that combat stress, it’s become known as one of the best anxiety fighting superfoods.
Which Type of Cottage Cheese is Best?
There are a surprising variety of cottage cheese products available, and the ones you pick will largely depend on taste preference. Those with weight loss goals will typically choose a low calorie version, and those who want as much protein as possible might add nuts, seeds or other protein-rich toppings. Whichever type of cottage cheese becomes your go-to, the following differences are the ones you’ll most likely encounter.
Small Curd vs Large Curd
A matter of taste or whichever works better for a particular recipe, most tubs of cottage cheese will specify the curd type. The ways you consume cottage cheese will make a difference in your choice here.
For example, those who use cottage cheese primarily with fruit or salad will typically opt for a small curd style, whereas if you’re using cottage cheese in a recipe for stuffed shells, then large curd maybe more appropriate. By far, the more common type is small curd, and you may have to do some searching to find large curd cottage cheese in your area.
Much like milk, cottage cheese is categorized primarily by its fat content. This effects calories as well, but not by a lot, because the range between nonfat and regular is only a margin of 4%. Cottage cheese with 1% and 2% fat is available as well, offering varying degrees of fat versus taste ratio.
Some controversy exists on whether it’s better to get the skim dairy products for weight loss, or whether the fat actually has positive nutritional properties that lead to weight loss.
Common Additives to Avoid
Some processed foods are highly dependent on their sugar and additives to remain appetizing, but that’s not the case with cottage cheese. Completely natural and highly nutritious, it is fairly easy to find brands of cottage cheese that only contain the essential ingredients without undesirable additives.
It’s surprising that even some brands known for healthy or natural foods will still add thickening agents and taste enhancers like sugar, compromising some of the nutritional benefits. Natural cottage cheese can be easily combined with fruit, nuts, and healthy options, so bodybuilders and those who are fitness conscious can easily find brands without additives.
As with most foods, a lot of companies will add sugar to enhance the taste of a product. With what is widely known about sugar, many people prefer to avoid it when possible, especially those who strive for a fit lifestyle. Since cottage cheese is often eaten in combination with salad or toppings, the extra sugar can probably be skipped when purchasing cottage cheese, and saved for other foods or cheat days.
Thickening Agents and Fillers
One thing manufacturers try to avoid when packaging tubs of cottage cheese is the appearance of a bunch of solid curds sitting in liquid water. Ideally, cottage cheese is most appetizing when served as a single consistency. A drawback of that is that some brands add unwanted additives to their cottage cheese, things that don’t belong in anyone’s diet.
For example, some varieties of Friendship brand cottage cheese contain thickening agents like locust bean gum, guar gum, and artificial colors. A quick check of the ingredients list will reveal how many artificial components were used in a particular brand, and can help you weigh it against your personal standards for clean eating.
It should be mentioned that those thickening agents are added to enhance the overall appeal, and some customers are likely to find those versions more appetizing because of it.
Healthy Foods Commonly Served with Cottage Cheese
While everyone appreciates food in their own way, certain foods are known as excellent combination foods, often served in combination with other options. Cottage cheese is one such food that is almost always consumed with one of its popular counterparts. Luckily for those who care about health and fitness, each of the foods commonly served with cottage cheese is healthy in its own right.
- Fruit: From peaches, pears, and apples, to strawberries, grapes, and raspberries, any and all fruit types are widely considered to be compatible with cottage cheese. Since there is essentially no fruit type that is unhealthy or non-nutritional, then any of them you chose can pair with cottage cheese to make a healthy and high protein power snack.
- Salad: If salad is a normal part of your diet, then cottage cheese can be used either on the side, or on top as a substitute for dressing. Even a basic salad is loaded with veggies and vitamins, so the advantages cottage cheese brings to your salad are extra protein and calcium. Cottage cheese and salad go so well together that you’ll typically find it as a staple in most of America’s salad bars.
- Nuts and Seeds: One thing missing from cottage cheese is a crunch, and adding your favorite nuts or seeds can take care of that. Whether you have some almonds, pistachios, cashews, or pumpkin seeds around, try them as a topping on your cottage cheese to add a crunchy texture to the mix. A further advantage of using seeds and nuts as a topping is they provide additional protein, good fats, and Omega-3, all of which is vital to a fit lifestyle.
Healthy Recipes Involving Cottage Cheese
With a unique mild taste and creamy consistency, cottage cheese is used in a wide variety of recipes. If you’re one of the people who isn’t a fan of eating this dairy superfood on its own, then cooking it into another dish is an alternate way to reap its benefits. Here are a few examples of recipes which feature cottage cheese as a key ingredient.
- Parmesan Spinach Cakes: Resembling dark green cupcakes which are actually comprised of spinach, these Parmesan Spinach Cakes described by EatingWell.com are rich in vitamins and fiber. We have a good idea about why cottage cheese is healthy at this point, and since spinach is loaded with vitamin A, Iron, and folate, the result is an extremely light and nutritious snack.
- Lemon Cheese Cake: For a lighter than usual take on cheesecake, this recipe from Yummly uses light cottage cheese and cream cheese in combination with sugar free gelatin and graham crackers to make this restaurant-quality dessert. Aside from some Cool Whip to top it, the only other sugary ingredient will be the cup of cherry pie filling, but even that is light.
Ultimately, this version of Lemon Cheese Cake using all light ingredients is worth trying for anyone who’s fitness conscious, but is still a big fan of deserts.
Final Say on Cottage Cheese Benefits
When there’s a food that is rich in protein, loaded with calcium, and that may even prevent diseases, it makes sense to make it a regular part of our diet. Combining excellently with many other healthy foods, cottage cheese is as versatile as it is healthy.
Whether you get nonfat or regular, and top it with peaches or almonds, the benefits to eating cottage cheese are profound.
From reducing anxiety to aiding weight loss, cottage cheese is an undeniable superfood, and there are proven reasons for fit people to include it in their recipes, meals, and healthy snacks.
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- Updated on April 1, 2019 by Ada Lane