The Highly Underrated Protein Source You’re Probably Not Eating

When you think about dairy and protein, your mind most likely jumps to Greek yogurt. But there’s another powerful dairy protein that’s probably not on your radar: cottage cheese.

I know, I know…cottage cheese is lumpy and tasteless. But before you close out of this tab, hear me out! This dairy superstar deserves a second chance.

Cottage cheese is created by separating the “curd” from the “whey” in milk by heating it and treating it with vinegar. The liquid that remains is your whey—and can be used to make hard cheeses like Swiss or cheddar—while the solid curd is your cottage cheese.

You’ll find this soft cheese in the dairy aisle, alongside the ever-coveted Greek yogurt. Like with yogurt, you can usually choose from non-fat, two percent fat, and four percent fat options. But no matter what the fat content, you win with protein: An eight-ounce serving of cottage cheese provides more than 20 grams!

Here’s what else you get in your average serving:

cottage cheese.png

With less than a 100-calorie difference between fat-free and four percent fat cheese, picking the variety you want largely comes down to personal preference. Like other dairy proteins, cottage cheese is a ‘complete protein,’ meaning it contains all of the essential amino acids the body needs to build muscle (but can’t produce on its own). A major selling point in my book.

Not to mention, cottage cheese is also packed with other important nutrients. First (you guessed it) is calcium, a mineral we need for proper bone development and strength. Cottage cheese provides just shy of 10 percent of your daily needs. Then there’s selenium, a mineral and antioxidant that helps our bodies fight free radicals. A serving of cottage cheese provides nearly 30 percent of your daily selenium needs. And then there’s vitamin B12, which is crucial for energy production. You’ll get about 24 percent of your daily B12 needs in eight ounces of this lumpy goodness.

Related: 15 Things All Protein Lovers Should Know

Just make sure to check the nutrition label and ingredient list before buying your next tub. Cottage cheeses that come with jelly or other mix-ins might be laden with added sugar. Additionally, some varieties of cottage cheese are high in sodium, so be sure to choose the option that best suits your particular needs.

cottage cheese toast

Since cottage cheese is pretty bland in taste, it makes the perfect canvas for a sweet or savory snack or meal. One of my favorite ways to eat cottage cheese: atop a toasted whole-grain waffle with a sprinkle of cinnamon and banana slices. But you can also sub in cottage cheese pretty much any time you’d use Greek yogurt. Try adding some to your next smoothie or bowl of oatmeal. For a savory snack, top a baked sweet potato with cottage cheese and your favorite spices.

So, are you ready to give it a chance?

Related: Find a protein supplement for when you need a boost on-the-go.

*Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D.N., C.D.N., is an award-winning author, spokesperson, speaker, consultant, and owner of BTD Nutrition Consultants, LLC. She has been featured on TV, radio, and print, as well as in digital media, including Everyday Health, Better Homes & Gardens, Women’s Health, and U.S. News & World Report. She is a recipient of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Media Excellence Award.