Generation Zer’s health-conscious millennials are making cottage cheese cool again

As you delve into the foodie world on TikTok, the hub called #foodtok, cottage cheese is sure to be on many of the plates you’ll see.

According to NPR, cottage cheese became a staple of food culture in the 1950s, but it didn’t really achieve its glory until the 1970s.

According to the US Department of Agriculture, the average American ate nearly five pounds of cottage cheese every year in the 1970s. That number has since fallen to 1.9 pounds of cottage cheese per person in a year in 2021, USDA data shows.

But cream cheese has found its way back into American hearts, thanks in part to its popularity on social media. Cottage cheese has 470 million views on TikTok with users trying out unique recipes.

Many people believe that the cheese has notable health benefits such as: B. improving gut health and strengthening bones. Cottage cheese is high in protein and low in sugar, calories and carbohydrates, which explains why health-conscious millennials and Gen Z are flocking to soft cheeses.

And in response, a number of brands such as Muuna and Good Culture are marketing their new, enthusiastic audience with creative packaging and a range of sweet and savory flavors.

But is cottage cheese — or any other cheese — actually good for you?

Are There Health Benefits of Eating Cottage Cheese?

It turns out that cottage cheese can have major health benefits, according to Dr. Cate Shanahan, a renowned physician and author of Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food.

Cottage cheese contains “live, beneficial microbes” that are highly nutritious, Shanahan tells CNBC Make It. Probiotic microbes in cottage cheese may improve gut health.

And like other cheeses, cottage cheese contains calcium, vitamins A and K2, and protein, she notes. It also contains potassium and small amounts of zinc, according to the USDA.

The combination of these nutrients can help keep your bones and teeth strong, says Shanahan. “Vitamin K2 helps calcium get into all sorts of cells in the body. It not only helps our bone health, but also our muscles. It helps our nervous system. It helps with everything,” she adds.

Is Cottage Cheese Healthier Than Other Cheeses?

Compared to other cheeses, including American cheese, cottage cheese is a much healthier option because it’s less processed, Shanahan says.

“Cottage cheese is healthier than American cheese because it’s fermented and contains some live bacteria [like] yogurt,” she says.

“But [other] That’s no longer the case with cheeses like cheddar, because they’re fermented for so long that the bacteria kind of dry out and die.

But Qi Sun, associate professor in the departments of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, disagrees.

“I don’t think cottage cheese would be that different from other types of cheese,” Sun tells CNBC Make It.

Most cheeses, including cottage cheese, can be high in sodium and fat, which worries Sun as it could be a concern for people with high cholesterol. However, Sun recognizes the potential health benefits of cottage cheese components such as calcium and probiotics.

Is cheese healthy?

How healthy cheese is depends on several factors: whether it’s low-fat or full-fat, how high its sodium content is, and even what it’s compared to, Sun says.

“For example, if you’re switching from eating lots of red meat and refined carbohydrates to cheese products, that wouldn’t be a bad choice. Because cheese is better than red meat and any foods that are high in refined carbohydrates, very high in saturated fats, or other processed meats,” he says.

“If you compare cheese to fruit and vegetables [and] Whole grains, probably cheese, isn’t such a fantastic food. So relativity prevails here.”

What’s undeniable, however, is that vitamins and nutrients like calcium and protein are found in most cheeses and are important to a person’s overall diet, Sun says.

As long as cheese is eaten in moderation and doesn’t negatively impact cholesterol levels, he doesn’t see occasional cheese consumption as a problem.

Is there a healthy way to eat cheese?

“Cheese is such an interesting food because I think it really depends on how you eat it,” says Sun.

He recommends including cheese in your diet as a snack in combination with whole-grain crackers, not processed meats like pepperoni on pizza.

As long as people stay away from “fake cheese,” which is any food that says “cheese food” on the label, people can eat cheese as often as they want, Shanahan believes.

In addition to cottage cheese, Sun encourages people to reach for the following cheeses:

  • Swiss
  • Cheddar
  • Gruyere
  • Appenzeller

“With a healthy diet, that’s not necessary,” says Shanahan. “I’m not saying you absolutely have to eat cheese. I’m just saying it’s packed with great nutrients and it’s a food you can enjoy.”

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