New science is pointing to one, low-fuss, affordable snack as the secret to metabolic success.

By Karla Walsh
Updated January 11, 2019

12/10/18 — Mom may have been on to something giving you a glass of warm milk before bed when you were a kid. 

Consuming 30 grams of protein 30 minutes before bed, the amount in a little more than a cup of cottage cheese, was linked to stronger muscles, a quicker metabolism and better overall health in a recent study published in the British Journal of Nutrition.

Related: Our Top 19 High-Protein Snack Ideas

Most previous research has looked into the impact of powdered or supplemental forms of protein before bed, but this is one of the first to show the benefits of whole food sources.

So what makes cottage cheese a particularly smart choice?

"Cottage cheese is high in lean protein, calcium, and fat. Protein is an essential building block of muscles, so it's important for both athletes and those trying to lose weight. Calcium is an important nutrient, especially for females, as it is required to maintain bone mass after roughly the age of 30," says Ashley Reaver, RD, a registered dietitian at Ashley Reaver Nutrition LLC in Oakland, California.

Full-fat dairy, like whole cottage cheese, also increases "good" HDL cholesterol that can help reduce the amount of damage to blood vessels caused by "bad" cholesterol.

Use the rest of the carton in this splurge-worthy recipe: Honey Lemon Cottage Cheese Pancakes

"The primary protein source in cottage cheese is casein, which the body absorbs easily and digests slowly Casein has been shown to improve muscle mass, while reducing muscle loss," Reaver says.

Here's where metabolic magic happens: The amount of muscle our body has is one of the primary drivers in determining how many calories we burn each day.

"Other research supports that cottage cheese before bed actually does increase metabolism the next morning," Reaver says.

While it's best to steer clear of sugary additions like honey or chocolate (oh hi, sugar rush!), you don't need to stick to plain ol' cheese alone. 

"I love eating cottage cheese in a similar way to yogurt with fresh berries, walnuts, and granola. If you're a fan of savory, try adding salt, pepper, and cherry tomatoes," Reaver recommends.

If the texture or flavor isn't your favorite, plain Greek yogurt should have similar metabolism-stoking results. We know cottage cheese is higher in sodium than other available snack options, so if watching sodium is a top health concern, take this science with "a grain of salt," and make the best choice for you. You can also look for lower sodium cottage cheeses, usually made with sea salt. However, these versions are often low-fat if you were hoping to reap the full-fat benefits. We can't win 'em all, it seems. 


Comments (7)

January 10, 2019
I agree with others the sodium is high. You could try to balance it though throughout the day. I did buy low sodium cottage cheese at one time but I can no longer find it locally.
January 10, 2019
Not for a low sodium diet?
January 10, 2019
I agree the sodium content is over the top, try Greek yogurt with fresh blueberries for your last snack of the day. Plus probiotic benefits!
December 31, 2018
Cottage cheese has way too much sodium to be healthy!
January 10, 2019
Sodium content is 16% of RDA in a 1/2 cup. Not too much if you watch your sodium intake for your other meals throughout the day.
December 31, 2018
My granddaughter is currently on a vegan diet. Do they make non-dairy cottage cheese? If they do, anywhere I can purchase it. She is on the go all the time with college (she is studying to vet nurse. She also works at a animal surgical hospital. She needs the extra protein to maintain her muscle mass and energy.
January 11, 2019
Mass up tofu