Cheese is one of the most popular food items across the globe. The origins of cheese can be traced in each and every nation with some of them having their own unique recipes or mixtures for it. This has given rise to a wide variety of cheeses to consume and use in your daily meals. Among the fresh varieties you can get is cottage cheese. The question on peoples’ minds remains, though: “Is cottage cheese bad for cholesterol?” Well, it depends, as you’ll see below. Let’s begin by defining cottage cheese.
What is cottage cheese?
It’s that milky white substance that comes in the container at the container at the grocery store, but what exactly is it made of? It has small curds in it, typically, although there are medium- and large-curd varieties available too.
Cottage cheese is considered a fresh cheese. That is in contrast to Parmesan, cheddar, and other hard varieties that are aged.
Making cottage cheese involves acififying milk, which leads to the curds separating from the whey. The curds are then rinsed and a little salt is sprinkled on them sometimes.
Nutrients in cottage cheese
Interestingly, cottage cheese has about 40-70% less calcium than cheddar cheese because some calcium escapes when the whey is drained.
With that being said, it is high in protein and riboflavin. A great benefit for foods with a lot of protein is that they are slow to digest, so you feel full longer. Protein-rich foods also help stabalize blood sugar levels.
Here are the nutrients that one cup of 1% (low-fat) cottage cheese contains:
- 28 grams of protein
- 2.3 grams of fat
- 30% of your recommended daily intake of sodium
- 29% of the riboflaven recommended daily intake
- 59% of the Vitamin B12 recommended daily intake
- 6.2 grams of carbohydrates
- 11% calcium recommended daily intake
- 7% folate recommended daily intake
- 24% of your recommended daily intake of phosphorus
Ah yes, what about cottage cheese and cholesterol? Hang on, it’s important to know the basics of cholesterol first.
Cholesterol: The good and the not-so-good
When you hear the word cholesterol, you might immediately think of it as something bad or unhealthy. However, not all types of cholesterol are bad for you.
There are mainly two types of cholesterol:
- Low-density lipoprotein (LDL)
- High-density lipoprotein (HDL)
HDL is the “good” cholesterol. It is considered positive in that it is responsible for removing the dangerous cholesterol from your blood. Thus, it can be eliminated by your body this way.
LDL, meanwhile, is the bad type of cholesterol. When it accumulates in your body due to your diet, it causes plaque to build up on the walls of the arteries in your heart and brain. When this buildup is left untreated, it can cause heart diseases, heart attacks, and even strokes.
Cholesterol plays a lot of important functions in the human body, though, so it’s not all bad, contrary to having a negative reputation by many people. It helps to protect the outer coating of the cells, enables proper digestion, produces Vitamin D, and plays a role in regulating your hormones.
The liver produces a sufficient amount of cholesterol for your body. The remaining cholesterol comes from outside food consumed in your day. Cholesterol presents a health hazard when too much of it is in your blood. Furthermore, genetics can make a liver that produces an abundance of LDL cholesterol.
Ok so now that you know cottage cheese and cholesterol basics, let’s answer the question:
So, is cottage cheese bad for cholesterol?
Dairy products like cheese and milk have a reputation for increasing a person’s cholesterol levels. How much it increases will depend on the type of cheese the person is consuming, so there is not one set amount.
There are different types of cheese, as lovers of this food know well! There is cheddar, mozzarella, parmesan, cottage, and many more. Cottage cheese is the one most commonly available in stores.
The amount of cholesterol present in cottage cheese is around 20 grams for cottage cream and 15 grams for low fat cheese. In a study conducted by the National Cancer Institute, cheese was found to be the number one food source responsible for raising cholesterol levels in the body.
However, not all cheeses are the same! Low-fat cottage cheese has 14mg of cholesterol in 4oz (and 1.4g saturated fat), in comparison to a cup of cheddar with its 131mg of cholesterol (24.9g saturated fat). So, cottage cheese and cholesterol have a better relationship than cheddar does. Of course, only eat it in moderation, as with anything.
Furthermore, there are two studies to point out. In 2015, the USDA released a dietary guideline where it mentions that there was no relation between the blood cholesterol level of a person and the kind of cholesterol rich food they eat.
Another research study in 2015 found out that people over the age of 55 who consumed high-fat dairy had a lesser chance of getting a stroke. Since there is no concrete answer yet on this issue, the best approach would be to ensure you are having a complete diet overall.
While cheese generally has calcium and protein, there are certain features of cheese, namely cholesterol and saturated fatty acids, that can negatively influence the human body. Now you see why there has been debate on whether cheese is actually beneficial for you or does more harm than good instead.
Changes in your diet can mitigate the effects of cheese
For people with high cholesterol levels already, low-fat or low-cholesterol cheese would be a good option to choose when you want some cheese. By doing so, you will also cut down on calories, which is good for anyone wanting to lose a few pounds.
With that in mind, many people today reach for skim/non-fat or 1% cottage cheese rather than the 4% (regular) or 2% milkfat varieties. However, keep in mind that lower-fat items probably contain thickeners; read the label of the container to see if it has additives.
In addition, think about how much you are putting in your bowl or on your plate. Less is more with foods that can have high-fat content.
It is important to consider your diet as whole and ensure you are consuming fresh fruits and vegetables also to balance out a healthy eating plan. Individuals might also want to cut back on processed food items and red meat.
Cholesterol is also not the only factor here. Sodium, which is also present in cheese, is responsible for thickening of the arterial walls.
Hence, people who consume cheese on a daily basis should make other adjustments to their diet. Refined and processed sugar present in soft drinks and juices, as well as pastries and candies, are harmful and ones to avoid to maintain healthy levels of sodium and cholesterol.
You can also look for fat-free options for cheese, as well as reaching for plain rather than flavored cottage cheese. The flavoring can add sugar and calories to the product.
On a related note, some people also wonder whether milk is bad for cholesterol or not? The same answer applies here too, and one can always opt for low-fat milk.
Limiting your cheese intake at meal time and when snacking is important. Try to have smaller portions to reduce some of the effects of the extra cholesterol going inside the body. In addition, you might want to try to consume more low-cholesterol foods.
Ways to enjoy cottage cheese
You can use cheese several ways, including garnish, topping, or even adding it to the actual ingredients while cooking meals. When we think of pizza, you likely think of cheese almost immediately. Cheese is synonymous with various food items and goes best with some too. Apart from being flavorful, it can be a terrific source of both calcium and protein.
Check out this related read for 6 high-protein breakfast options.
If you’re wanting to get creative with eating cottage cheese, rather than just consuming it with a spoon out of the container, here are a few options.
- Slice up bananas and mix in with it
- Add a range of berries, such as strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries,
- Mix cottage cheese and applesauce
- In place of ricotta cheese in lasagna or other pasta dishes
- Incorporate it into pancake batter
- As a baked potato topping
This is just a small number of the ways to get creative with eating cottage cheese so you don’t get bored of the food. Feel free to comment below with how you enjoy eating it the best, whether you consume it alone or as an ingredient in family recipes.
By the way, just because it is low-fat, a food is not necessarily low in flavor. Instead, it can be yummy and still be good for you!
If you are lactose intolerant, though, then it is best to avoid eating this particular food. The same holds true for those who have a dairy allergy.
If you have an upset tummy or rash when eating cottage cheese, stop eating it immeidately and reach out to your doctor. A lactose-free product would likely be better for you, or another source of calcium.
Final thoughts on is cottage cheese bad for cholesterol?
You don’t have to give away your favorite cottage cheese altogether for a low cholesterol diet. However, you need to make your decisions wisely and limit the quantity of cheese you are consuming regularly.
You can always opt to have fat-free or low-fat cottage cheese in case you are trying to watch your cholesterol levels. Also, try to make it a habit of checking the labels on the cheeses before you buy them to know exactly what you’re getting with it.
Doing so will give you an idea of the fats you are consuming, for example. Those who have high cholesterol or heart disease, for example, would be wise to discuss their lifestyle and diet with a physician before making any changes to either one.
There can be a wide range of factors that impact the cholesterol levels in your blood. A person who eats an overall healthy diet may notice few or no side effects from eating cheese, in comparison to someone who eats food items rich in trans or saturated fats. Cheese offers several health benefits due to the presence of calcium and protein in it, but it is generally best to consume it moderately.