If you’re anything like me, your social media feed is dominated by cottage cheese. Whether it’s for breakfast, lunch, dinner or even dessert, ricotta is having a starring moment. And while this trendy dairy can make its way into countless recipes (ricotta ice cream, pancakes, toast, and omelettes!), you can’t help but wonder: Is cottage cheese really good for you?
“Cottage is having a moment and I’m here for it,” says Amanda Sauceda, RD, registered dietitian and founder of The Mindful Gut. “I don’t think it’s gotten the love it deserves because of how many nutrients it has and how versatile it is.”
In addition to its ability to be cooked, baked or frozen, it’s also packed with benefits like helping with blood sugar control, digestive health and satiety, adds Jenn Baswick, RD, registered dietitian and founder of The Intuitive Nutritionist. It’s high in protein, calcium, vitamin B12 and riboflavin, which are standard nutrients for your overall health, she adds.
Still not sure about the health benefits of cottage cheese and a little confused about what cottage cheese is? Read on as registered dietitians share everything you need to know about this beloved soft cheese and whether or not it’s worth the hype.
What is cottage cheese?
The name may seem a little strange, but ricotta is a fresh, soft cheese made from milk curds produced through fermentation. “It’s made by adding an acid to the milk, which separates the milk solids from the whey (the liquid that’s left over after the curdling process),” explains Baswick. “This creates the curds which are then rinsed and salt is added to make the final product.” The liquid part of the ricotta is then a blend of milk and cream to provide the creamy texture and slightly savory taste, adds Sauceda.
And while cottage cheese is a cousin of similar dairy products like cottage cheese and yogurt, the processing is completely different for each. “Cottage has a finer, non-lumpy texture than cottage cheese. Yogurt has a completely smooth texture and made the same of these soft cheeses,” explains Baswick. “Cottage may be slightly higher in protein than cottage cheese and yogurt, but that also depends on the type of product you’re buying.”
Rest assured that there is a place for all three of these dairy products in your diet. “You may want to switch it up from time to time, but there’s no need to point out small differences in nutrition,” says Baswick. “I would always recommend choosing foods that you enjoy!”
Ricotta nutritional values
Cottage cheese is a star when it comes to its nutrition. The most notable benefit is that a half-cup serving of cottage cheese (or about 100 grams) provides 12 to 15 grams of protein, Baswick says. “Cottage cheese can be a great way to contribute to an individual’s protein intake since protein, in general, can be great for satiety, building and repairing tissue in the body, and balancing blood sugar levels if consume with a balanced meal or snack.”
Plus, there are just four grams of carbs per half-cup serving, adds Sauceda. The amount of fat can vary by brand, but 1 percent fat cottage cheese typically contains about a gram of fat per serving, she explains.
As Sauceda notes, ricotta’s exact nutritional facts vary depending on the brand and type you buy (e.g., large or small curds, regular or reduced fat). Here is a sample of the basic nutritional values of cottage cheese per 100 grams of a USDA high-fat variety.
|Ricotta nutritional values||every 100 gr|
Benefits of cottage cheese
Balance blood sugars. Cottage cheese may be helpful in balancing blood sugar levels, says Baswick. “Because it includes a good amount of protein, when paired with a balanced meal or snack, it helps slow the metabolism of the food eaten to prevent blood sugar spikes.”
Stay fuller for longer. Because of the high amount of protein in cottage cheese, it helps make for a more filling meal or snack, notes Baswick. Pair cottage cheese with crackers, fruit, or veggie sticks and stay fuller longer throughout the day.
Supports bone health. Cottage cheese is high in calcium, which is essential for building strong bones, but it also contains protein and phosphorus, which are needed to support bone structure, Sauceda says.
Promote gut health. A healthy gut is key to overall wellness, so Sauceda suggests choosing cottage cheese that says it has “live, active cultures” on the label. That means it contains probiotics (aka good bacteria), which help support digestion, regularity, and bloating.
Improves nervous system and thyroid health. Cottage cheese contains B vitamins like riboflavin and vitamin B12, which may be beneficial to nervous system health, DNA synthesis, and metabolism to create energy for the body, says Baswick. It’s also high in iodine, which is crucial for supporting the thyroid, adds Sauceda.
Reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. Research finds that low-fat dairy products may reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes, so Sauceda says you may want to go with the one or two percent fat option when choosing your cottage cheese.
How should you eat cottage cheese?
When it comes to ricotta recipes, the possibilities are endless. Whether you love ricotta on its own or whipped into a baked product, find what’s most convenient and delicious for you.
If you don’t like the taste of cottage cheese, Baswick suggests adding it to smoothies, dips, oats, fruit bowls, pasta sauces, or baked goods. Another easy trick? Baswick’s current go-to is adding cottage cheese to scrambled eggs for a protein boost and extra fluffy texture!
Looking for a saltier option? Sauceda loves to top sliced tomatoes and cucumbers on top of ricotta cheese and sprinkle a little “everything but bagel” dressing on top. You can also spread this mixture on top of toasted bread to make ricotta toast.
Now you may be wondering: can I eat ricotta cheese every day? Good news: Absolutely! “Cottage can be a very nutritious option to add to your meals or snacks, but just like anything related to nutrition, it’s important to keep in mind that you want to aim to have a variety of foods,” says Baswick. “There’s nothing wrong with having cottage cheese every day, but if you find yourself having it more than once a day, you might want to consider adding different sources of protein and a wider variety.” of foods in your diet.” That way, you can make sure you’re getting a wider variety of nutrients than those found only in cottage cheese.
When it comes to How much cottage cheese you should be eating, Baswick says the standard serving is half a cup, which is about 100 grams. That said, find what works best for you and your desired recipe. “Starting with serving size might be a good place to start, then experiment with a little less or a little more from there.”
So is ricotta good for you?
A resounding yes! Cottage cheese is a nutritional superstar that you can get creative with to create balanced meals and high-protein snacks that leave you feeling full, says Sauceda. Plus, health benefits like blood sugar control, digestive health, and bone support are hard to ignore.
Just keep in mind that if you’re following a low-sodium diet for a medical issue like heart or kidney disease, you need to be aware of the sodium content since cottage cheese can be about 20 percent of the recommended daily value for sodium, Baswick notes. Also, if you have a dairy allergy, cottage cheese should be avoided entirely, adds Sauceda.
If you’re lactose intolerant, cottage cheese may be fine since it’s naturally low in lactose due to the fermentation process, with just three grams of lactose per half serving, Sauceda explains. However, soft cheeses like cottage cheese are often higher in lactose than hard, aged cheeses like cheddar, adds Baswick.
“Those with lactose intolerance may be able to tolerate cottage cheese, however, this is highly individualized and can also depend on quantity and frequency,” explains Baswick. “Always talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian if you have any health concerns with special dietary needs.”
Otherwise? Go ahead and enjoy ricotta knowing it’s damn good for you.