Tangy cottage cheese is a staple of many low-calorie diets. So it’s not surprising that it has become a fad diet on its own.
The cottage cheese diet is a calorie-restricted, low-carbohydrate diet. It’s meant to help you quickly lose weight. Here’s a look at the pros and cons of this crash diet.
What is the cottage cheese diet?
Cottage cheese is made from curdled milk. There’s no official version of the cottage cheese diet. It’s simply an eating plan where you eat only cottage cheese at each meal for at least three days. Some people also eat fresh fruits and vegetables in moderation.
Alcohol, fruit juice, sodas, and other sweetened beverages are usually avoided.
The pros of the cottage cheese diet
The main benefit of the cottage cheese diet is fast weight loss. Any diet that greatly restricts calories usually results in weight loss. But you may lose mostly water weight and not fat.
Cottage cheese is inexpensive and easy to find. A large tub is usually only a few dollars at the grocery store. This makes the cottage cheese diet appealing if you’re on a tight budget.
The cottage cheese diet is convenient. There are no complicated recipes or shopping lists. You don’t have to count calories or points, or weigh your food. Cottage cheese is portable and easy to pack, so you can take it with you to work or school.
If you like the taste of cottage cheese, you’ll probably enjoy this diet, at least for the short term. You can change it up by topping your cottage cheese meals with seasonings, including:
- Indian spice blends
Cottage cheese is high in protein. One cup of low-fat cottage cheese has a whopping 28 grams. High-protein foods digest slowly. This helps keep you feeling full longer and makes you less likely to overeat. Protein also helps keep blood sugar levels stable, and helps build muscle.
The cons of the cottage cheese diet
Diet restrictions may trigger food cravings. The results of a 2005 study found that people with restricted diets experienced more food cravings and ate larger amounts of the foods they craved. If you only eat cottage cheese all day, you may start to crave unhealthy foods. This could lead to binge eating and ultimately sabotage your weight loss goals.
Cottage cheese contains no fiber. The recommended daily intake (RDI) of fiber is 25 grams for women ages 19 to 50, and 38 grams for men ages 19 to 50. People over 50 require a little less. A low-fiber diet is linked to constipation, hemorrhoids, and diverticular disease. Fiber helps control blood sugar levels and lower cholesterol. Unless there’s a medical reason you need to restrict fiber, it’s important to eat as much as you can each day.
The dangers of a calorie-restrictive diet
You may have heard that your body goes into “starvation mode” when you restrict the number of calories you eat. This may be true for long-term diets, but it’s unlikely to happen if you only limit calories for a few days.
But if you eat limited calories on a regular basis and don’t exercise, your metabolism may slow and cause your weight loss to plateau. A 2009 study found that overweight people who followed a low-calorie diet without exercise lost weight, but they experienced a drop in their metabolism and reduced their physical activity over time.
Study participants who exercised and ate a low-calorie diet also lost weight, but their metabolism did not lower.
Is the cottage cheese diet healthy?
One cup of low-fat cottage cheese contains aver 900 grams of sodium. This is close to 40 percent of the RDI. If you eat several servings throughout the day, you’ll quickly go over the sodium RDI. Too much sodium may lead to:
- water retention
- weight gain
This defeats the fast weight loss goal of a crash diet.
The side effects may be temporary, but if you frequently go on the cottage cheese diet and consistently consume too much sodium, serious problems may occur, such as:
- high blood pressure
- increased risk of heart attack and stroke
- heart failure
- kidney damage
Cottage cheese is a good source of some vitamins and minerals but it only contains small amounts of others, or none at all. If you only eat cottage cheese throughout the day, you won’t get the RDI of all the nutrients your body needs to function well. You may lose energy throughout the day, especially if you exercise.
Healthy ways to enjoy cottage cheese
You can cut calories and fat from your diet and promote healthy weight loss if you substitute cottage cheese for unhealthy foods. Here are some suggestions:
- add cottage cheese to your morning smoothie
- top cottage cheese with fresh berries, mango, or pineapple for a healthy snack
- substitute cottage cheese for mayo in chicken salad and egg salad
- substitute cottage cheese for ricotta cheese in lasagna
- substitute cottage cheese for sandwich spreads like mayo or for butter on toast
If you’re trying to fit into your favorite little black dress by the weekend, the cottage cheese diet may help you lose a few fast pounds. But it’s not healthy for the long term.
If you want to try the diet, do it for the shortest amount of time possible and eat low-sodium varieties of cottage cheese. For maximum nutrients, top your cottage cheese with fresh fruit or chopped nuts or seeds, and eat a couple healthy high-fiber snacks per day. It’s also important to drink plenty of water throughout the day.
Instead of using cottage cheese as a crash diet, incorporate it into a healthy eating plan that promotes long-term weight loss and maintenance. Add cottage cheese to your morning smoothie, or eat it topped with berries for a healthy snack. To add fiber, sprinkle cottage cheese with wheat germ, flaxseeds, chia seeds, or hempseeds.
If you’re healthy, eating cottage cheese exclusively for a few days probably won’t harm you. But if you do it regularly, all bets are off. You may become nutrient-deficient and start a cycle of yo-yo dieting that makes it difficult to maintain a healthy weight over the long term.