Registered dietitian and diabetes nurse educator, Tammy Jardine, unpacks the benefits of adding cottage cheese to your meal plan.
What is cottage cheese?
Cottage cheese starts out with pasteurised skimmed milk. Cultures are added to start the fermentation process at an increased temperature. This acidification makes some of the proteins in milk clump together and the mixture to solidify, resulting in curd and whey. The curd is then cut into small and medium sized pieces, cooked and the whey liquid is drained off. Water is added to rinse and cool the curd, where after it’s blended with salt and a cream dressing.
It is available in smooth or chunky and in varying fat levels: fat free, low-fat, medium fat and full cream. Creamed (or full cream) cottage cheese contains approximately 13-14% milk fat, medium fat cottage cheese contains approximately 12%, low-fat cottage cheese between 2,0-2,5% milk fat, and fat free cottage cheese no more than 0,5%.
It’s important to understand that even full cream cottage cheese is only 13-14% fat whereas most other cheese contains approximately 30% fat which is why cottage cheese is considered to be a healthier option.
100g of Lancewood smooth or chunky low fat cottage cheese provides 10,2g of protein and only 2g of carbs.
How does it affect blood glucose?
Interestingly, eating cottage cheese may help manage your blood glucose. Over the last four decades, there have been many studies investigating the effects of dietary modifications on blood glucose control. The type, amount, and combination of macronutrients in the diet can influence how much insulin our body secretes and how the body manages glucose.
Since 1984, the effects of milk, yoghurt and cheese have been investigated in Type 2 diabetes. In a ground-breaking study, done in 2004, men who ate 25g of cottage cheese with 50g of glucose had 38% lower blood glucose post eating it, compared to those who consumed glucose alone. The blood glucose-lowering effects of cottage cheese are often attributed to the milk proteins (casein and whey) and amino acids making up its high protein content.
Cottage cheese is a low carbohydrate, low fat, and high protein food. When carbohydrate in a meal is replaced with protein and/or fat, there is an improvement in the post meal (postprandial) blood glucose which is exactly the aim in diabetes management. Lowering carbohydrate from the standard 55% of total energy to 40% with a corresponding increase in protein can reduce HbA1c to a similar decrease seen when using metformin.
Also important in diabetes management is weight loss or a healthy weight maintenance. Protein is satiating and studies have shown that it will keep you fuller for longer and prevent overeating.
What does this mean for your diet?
The data provides evidence that cottage cheese can be a potent insulin stimulator and regulator of glucose control when consumed with or without fat or carbohydrates. These potentially beneficial effects are seen when you replace some or all of the carbohydrate in a meal.
For a lower carb meal and looking at similar calories, instead of having a sandwich with a slice of cheese and a fruit, have 1 slice of bread with sliced cucumber and Lancewood creamed smooth cottage cheese, celery and cashew nuts:
|2 slices low-GI bread with 1 tablespoon of margarine, 1 slice processed cheese, and an apple||52g||12g||18g||1806kJ|
|1 slice low-GI bread, ½ cup of cucumber slices, 2 celery stalks and 125g (½ cup) Lancewood creamed smooth cottage cheese and 15g cashews||22g||19g||26g||1774kJ|
- Lancewood website
- Nuttall FQ, Gannon MC (2004). Metabolic response of people with type 2 diabetes to a high protein diet. Nutrition & Metabolism, 1:6. doi:10.1186/1743-7075-1-6
- Bjørnshave A, Hermansen K (2014). Effects of Dairy Protein and Fat on the Metabolic Syndrome and Type 2 Diabetes. Rev Diabet Stud, 11:153-166. doi:10.1900/RDS.2014.11.153
- Thorning, TK, Raben A, Tholstrup T, Soedamah-Muthu SS (2016). Milk and dairy products: good or bad for human health? An assessment of the totality of scientific evidence. Food & Nutrition Research, 60:32527. doi:10.3402/fnr.v60.32527
- Pasin G, Comerford KB. (2015). Dairy Foods and Dairy Proteins in the Management of Type 2 Diabetes: A Systematic Review of the Clinical Evidence. Adv. Nutr, 6:245–259. doi:10.3945/an.114.007690
MEET THE EXPERT
Tammy Jardine is a qualified diabetes educator and a registered dietitian. Living with diabetes for over 15 years means that she knows first-hand how difficult it can be to achieve and maintain optimal blood glucose control with good lifestyle habits. She believes that diabetes affects every person differently and takes the time to understand how it’s affecting the individual and to help them manage it effectively. With more than 20 years of experience working as a dietitian in the UK and SA, she has a passion for helping people live a better and happier life with good food. Tammy currently works from Wilgeheuwel hospital.