Almost one billion pounds of cottage cheese is consumed in the United States each year. It is a popular food due to its relatively low cost and perceived health benefits. Unlike other cheeses, cottage cheese is produced without being aged; this greatly reduces the cost of manufacturing and makes it a very affordable source of protein.
Cottage cheese is believed to be the first cheese produced, probably by the Egyptians or Greeks. Originally, it was made by allowing milk to sit at room temperature until it coagulated. The term cottage cheese was first used in 1848; it refers to the fact that the cheese was often made at home. Making your own cottage cheese remains a popular practice due to the ease with which it is made compared to other cheeses, and because very fresh cottage cheese is highly prized.
Cottage cheese is not aged, so it has a much milder flavor than other cheeses. This mild flavor makes it popular among children and pregnant women who wish to add protein to their diet. Although cottage cheese is drained, it is not pressed like most cheeses; some whey remains and gradually drains from the curds after it is manufactured. The whey may be drained, rinsed off, or eaten with the cheese. Rinsing cottage cheese removes a portion of the residual sodium; this is an option for those who are limiting their sodium intake but would like to continue to eat cheese.
Cottage cheese is generally considered a very healthy food; it is high in protein and low in fat compared to most other cheeses. It is also very low in carbohydrates, making it an excellent choice for people who are on low carbohydrate diet. Cottage cheese has long been touted as beneficial for weight loss because of its high protein content. It is also widely available in low fat versions which are usually no more expensive than full fat cottage cheese.
Unlike other cheeses, natural versions of cottage cheese are available at most grocers. These include varieties of cottage cheese made from the milk of cows that have not been injected with bovine growth hormone (BGH), and organic cottage cheese. This makes cottage cheese an excellent choice for those who wish to limit their consumption of additives.
Although cottage cheese is relatively healthy compared to most cheeses, full fat cottage cheese is similar nutritionally to concentrated whole milk. It also contains a considerable amount of sodium unless rinsed, which may be a concern for those who wish to limit their intake of salt.
Cottage cheese also contains saturated fat and cholesterol, albeit in smaller amounts than other types of cheese. Although low fat cottage cheese is superior nutritionally, some find the texture less enjoyable than the full fat version.
A one-cup serving of full-fat cottage cheese contains 230 calories, 10 gm fat, 6 gm saturated fat, 34 mg cholesterol, 911 mg sodium and 28 gm protein.
The same amount of low-fat cottage cheese contains 163 calories, 2 gm fat, 1.5 gm saturated fat, 9 mg cholesterol, 918 mg sodium and 28 gm protein. There is some variation between different brands of cottage cheese, but these numbers are typical.
Although cottage cheese is most commonly eaten straight or mixed with fruit, it can be used in a variety of recipes. Low-fat cottage cheese, in particular, can be used as a substitute for other ingredients to improve the nutritional profile of a dish. For example, cheesecake made with low-fat cottage cheese rather than cream cheese has significantly less fat and fewer calories.
Recipes for cottage cheese are widely available on the Internet and in many cookbooks, such as The Cottage Cheese Cookbook by G&R Publishing and Creative Cooking with Cottage Cheese by the American Dairy Association.
- Photo Credit Creative Commons image by Stuart Spivack
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