The health benefits of cottage cheese
Filled with nutrients, vitamins and helpful minerals, cottage cheese has a place of honor in any healthy diet. Yet many of us are not really aware of all the health benefits of cottage cheese.
What is Cottage Cheese?
Cottage cheese is in many ways closer to the origins of cheese than most other types. In essence cottage cheese is cow’s milk that has been allowed to curdle. It is then drained and packed loosely.
Curdling takes place when acids such as lemon or vinegar are added to the milk. Some producers use a chemical enzyme (e.g. rennet) in the place of the lemon or vinegar.
What makes cottage cheese somewhat different from other cheeses is that it is a fresh curd without a lot of flavor. Cottage cheese is made from pasteurized milk. The type of milk – whole, low fat or no fat- determines what kind of cottage cheese is made.
The curd from the milk is drained and washed but some whey remains. The curd is mainly loose, no matter its size. The flavor of this cheese is very mild and very bland – this is why it is usually combined with fruit or used as an ingredient in many casseroles, dips and salads.
The texture of cottage cheese is usually moist and not dry. Ricotta cheese looks very much like cottage cheese but it is much drier. If you let the curds dry beyond the cottage cheese stage, you get pot cheese and farmer’s cheese.
The term ‘cottage cheese’ comes from the early to mid-1800’s when the cheese was made with any leftover milk in the family ‘cottage’. Some historians believe that the “curds and whey” of the rhyme Little Miss Moffat actually refers to cottage cheese, while others believe they are two separate things.
Nutritional Components of Cottage Cheese
Cottage Cheese has many positive nutritional values and this makes it one of the most popular foods when people think about eating healthy or losing weight. This is particularly true when you choose to eat fat free or low fat cottage cheese. It is a great source of vitamins, nutrients, fat and calories.
One half cup of low-fat cottage cheese contains:
- 13% RDA calcium
- 6 g sugar
- 9 mg cholesterol
- 164 calories
- 28 g protein
- 2 g fat
- 6 g carbohydrates
- 918 mg sodium
Below are the most important nutrients found in cottage cheese:
Calcium: This is needed in order to produce and to maintain strong bones and teeth. Just a cup of low-fat cottage cheese provides you with one tenth of the RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) that adults need. Older adults need a little more.
Most of the calcium stays in your bones but a small percentage remains in your blood. If blood calcium is lost, the body will then rob the bones of theirs. The body needs calcium in order to allow the muscles to contract and nerves to function properly as well as allowing the blood to clot correctly.
Current research is also beginning to hint at calcium helping to increase the loss of fat when dieting.
Protein: Cottage Cheese is a complete protein. This means that all the amino acids which cannot be produced by our bodies are found in it. So complete in fact, that cottage cheese can form the basis of any meal.
Protein is essential to any healthy diet due to its many benefits for a healthy body. The amino acids are used by the body to make new proteins. Protein is essential to lean muscle mass – building it and maintaining it, even repairing it when there are injuries to the muscles. .
If you just sit around not doing much in the way of exercise you will need 0.8 milligrams of protein for every kilogram of your weight. If you are an athlete – even a weekend athlete – you need about .16 milligrams for every kilogram of body weight.
The RDA of protein for women is 46 grams and 56 for men (however active individuals often need more). Cottage cheese is an inexpensive way to get that protein because it offers 24 – 26 grams in just one cup!
It is high in Casein – a protein that makes you feel full and not want to eat anymore, thus helping with weight management. Casein is also slowly absorbed into the body – this is why many body builders consume it as a night time snack; it helps their muscles absorb amino acids over a longer period of time. Because the protein in cottage cheese is digested slowly, the body can avoid catabolism – or the breakdown of muscle – especially overnight.
B Vitamins: One cup of cottage cheese has a large amount of B vitamins. These are required for lots of different bodily processes, including converting food into energy.
Phosphorus: Phosphorus is needed in combination with calcium to build bones. However on its own it also creates energy and activates needed hormones and enzymes. It is a vital part of one’s DNA structure. One cup of cottage cheese by itself contains a large amount of phosphorus.
Vitamin D: This vitamin helps maintain healthy bones.
Riboflavin: Is needed to convert food into the energy your body needs.
Iron, Magnesium, Potassium and Healthy Fatty Acids: Are all vital minerals and fatty acids contained in cottage cheese.
Benefits of Cottage Cheese
Weight Management: Low fat and no fat cottage cheese have the reputation as a diet food or a weight management food. Low or no fat cottage cheese packs a lot of punch without a lot of fat, carbohydrates and sugar. As previously mentioned, cottage cheese contains a large amount of casein. Casein makes you feel full and unlikely to snack on other less healthy foods.
Cottage cheese is popular with dieters because it fills you up, is low in calories and high in protein.
Muscle Development and Maintenance: Cottage cheese is popular with athletes and fitness buffs as well, due to the amount of protein and calcium gained without fat. The protein and calcium in cottage cheese play a major role in the development, repair and maintenance of the muscles.
Bone Development and Maintenance: The combination of calcium and phosphorus results in greater bone density and cottage cheese is the perfect source of these two minerals.
Teeth and Gum Health: Calcium is vital for the health of the teeth and gums. Cottage cheese is full of calcium to assist in bone development and prevent osteoporosis.
Nerve Functions and Blood Clotting: The healthy functioning of the nervous system, circulatory system and neurological functions depend on a healthy presence of calcium, which cottage cheese has in abundance.
Nothing is perfect of course and cottage cheese is no exception. There are a couple of things in cottage cheese to look out for. These are sodium and cholesterol.
Sodium: Most commercially made cottage cheese is high in sodium and this can be harmful to your kidneys and to your heart. Keeping the sodium levels down keeps your blood pressure in check and lowers your risk for heart attacks, strokes or kidney failure.
Cholesterol: If you are on a low cholesterol diet, you should speak to your doctor before eating large amounts of cottage cheese on a regular basis.
Buy low or no fat cottage cheese and make sure you don’t overdo it with this food.
We have seen how cottage cheese is packed with protein and various essential vitamins and minerals. We have seen that cottage cheese is the complete protein and a major boost for both athletes and dieters. It is also a versatile and when mixed with other ingredient, can be a flavorful addition to everyone’s menu.
Mix it with fruit for a great snack. Use it as replacement for the dip with your favorite chips or as a replacement for mayonnaise in many salads.
With an acknowledgement to the risks of high sodium and cholesterol, don’t be afraid to pack in the cottage cheese!