This Surprising Food Will Boost Your Metabolism, Science Says

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

Mom may have been on to something giving you a glass of warm milk before bed when you were a kid. It turns out 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 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition. 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? Read on to find out about the benefits of eating cottage cheese at night.

Honey Lemon Cottage Cheese Pancakes
Jason Donnelly

Should I eat cottage cheese before bed?

"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, 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.

"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.

Cottage Cheese bowl with fresh fruit and chia seeds
Carson Downing

While it's best to steer clear of sugary additions like honey or chocolate (oh hi, sugar rush!) when eating this metabolism-boosting food before bed, 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.

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  1. Engel, Sara et al. “Effect of whole milk compared with skimmed milk on fasting blood lipids in healthy adults: a 3-week randomized crossover study.” European journal of clinical nutrition vol. 72,2 (2018): 249-254. doi:10.1038/s41430-017-0042-5

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