The Cottage Cheese Trend, but Make It Brain-Healthy

There’s no question that cottage cheese is having a moment in the spotlight. Or, perhaps for those of us who remember (or who study food history), it is having ANOTHER moment. It’s high in protein and can add a creamy-tart flavor to dishes. But it also tends to be high in sodium, which makes it harder to recommend in diets for high blood pressure, a risk factor for dementia. So, how can we partake AND be mindful of brain health?

I provided my thoughts in this Eating Well article, and BONUS content is below.

Is cottage cheese healthy for someone with high blood pressure?

All cheeses, including cottage cheese, tends to be high in sodium since salt is added to help preserve it. A heart-healthy alternative with a similarly creamy and tart flavor is plain low- or non-fat yogurt.

That said, if someone with high blood pressure enjoys cottage cheese, there are ways to include it within the context of an overall therapeutic diet for hypertension, AKA high blood pressure. Choosing low- or non-fat varieties may be best. For example, the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet is specifically designed to address high blood pressure, and it includes low- and non-fat dairy foods, though a recent umbrella review suggests we don’t have conclusive evidence that dairy foods specifically help. 

Keep in mind the upside, too. Cottage cheese also provides positive nutrients like calcium, protein, and B vitamins. The bottom line is that it’s all a balancing act, and whether or not cottage cheese fits into a healthy diet for high blood pressure depends on what else is on the plate throughout the day.

I did some sleuthing and found Nancy’s probiotic lowfat cottage cheese is a good option for a cottage cheese that is lower in saturated fat and sodium than many others on the market. 

How do high sodium foods affect someone with high blood pressure?

High sodium foods make it more challenging for someone with high blood pressure to manage their condition. The relationship between sodium and blood pressure is well-documented, and as one goes up, so does the other. Here’s how it works: High sodium intake leads to water retention as fluids flood the blood vessels to try to re-establish a manageable concentration of sodium to fluid. As a result of the excess water, blood pressure builds up like in a knotted hose. High sodium intake also stiffens the blood vessels, making them less elastic, and less able to cope with the influx of water.

Research shows us again and again that reducing sodium intake lowers blood pressure and improves heart health. This is true for people with high blood pressure and even people whose blood pressure numbers are in the normal range. 

Can you eat cottage cheese if you have high blood pressure?

The BIG QUESTION! The answer is YES, you can eat cottage cheese if you have high blood pressure, but it should be within the context of an overall eating pattern that limits sodium to a daily maximum of 1500 mg per day, as recommended by the American Heart Association.

Someone with high blood pressure may want to stick to a quarter-cup or a third-cup serving instead of the standard half-cup serving per day, which should keep the sodium levels under 300 mg. Generally, if you’re eating three meals and a snack per day, they should average out to about 375 mg sodium each in order to stay under 1500 mg per day.

Tips to Include Cottage Cheese in a Blood Pressure Friendly Diet 
  • Snack on cottage cheese paired with high potassium foods like prunes, bananas, or cantaloupe, to help balance sodium levels. 
  • Use it like a condiment in smaller portions, for example, by adding a dollop to a grains and greens bowl. Whole grains and leafy greens are top MIND diet foods!
  • Add a quarter-cup of cottage cheese to a smoothie full of high potassium and high water foods like strawberries and bananas that will help moderate the sodium load. Berries are a key MIND diet food!

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