Ricotta Cheese Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

ricotta cheese served on toast with leafy greens


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Ricotta cheese is a fresh cheese made from whey and some curd left behind when the two are separated during cheesemaking. Ricotta cheese is most often made from cow's milk but can also be produced from sheep, goat, or water buffalo milk.

Traditionally, leftover whey is heated, with some milk and an acid like citrus or vinegar, causing coagulation. The curds grow in size before being strained from the leftover liquid whey. In commercial processing, ricotta cheese is often made from milk in place of whey and is heated, coagulated, and strained. 

Ricotta cheese is high in calcium and vitamin B12 and is a good source of protein and vitamin A. The whole milk variety is relatively high in saturated fats and cholesterol, but you can buy lower-fat versions of ricotta cheese if you would like to limit your intake.

Ricotta Cheese Nutrition Facts

This nutrition information, for a one-half cup of whole milk ricotta cheese (129g), is provided by the USDA.

  • Calories: 204
  • Fat: 14.2g
  • Sodium: 135mg
  • Carbohydrates: 8.85g
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Sugars: 0.3g
  • Protein: 10.1g
  • Calcium: 289mg
  • Vitamin B12: 1.1mcg
  • Vitamin A: 148.8mcg

Carbs

A half-cup serving of ricotta cheese contains 8.85 grams of carbohydrates, only 0.3 grams of which comes from sugars. The carb content includes 0 grams of fiber.

The glycemic index of ricotta cheese is 27, which means it is considered a low glycemic index food. Choosing foods with a glycemic index under 55 may help manage blood sugar spikes and maintain energy.

Fats

A half-cup serving of whole milk ricotta cheese contains 14.2 grams of fat, 8 grams of which is saturated. Saturated fats are known to contribute to the risk of heart disease.

However, saturated fats are not necessarily as unhealthy as previously thought, and choosing a mixture of low-fat and full-fat dairy products is a wise choice.

Sixty-one percent of the calories in ricotta cheese come from fat. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that 20% to 35% of your total daily calories come from fat, the majority being unsaturated.

For a 2,000 calorie diet, it is recommended to keep saturated fat intake to 20 grams or less. A half-cup of whole milk ricotta would account for 40% of your recommended intake on a 2,000 calorie diet.

Protein

Ricotta cheese is a good source of protein. A half-cup serving contains 10 grams with a complete amino acid profile.

This makes ricotta cheese a good choice for those hoping to gain muscle or lose fat and may also help with exercise recovery. The amino acids in dairy may also improve glucose balance for those with type 2 diabetes.

Vitamins and Minerals

Ricotta cheese is a rich source of calcium which contributes to healthy bone formation and maintenance. Adults up to age 50 require 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day, while women over 50 and men older than 70 should aim for 1,200 milligrams. Ricotta is also a good source of vitamin A, potassium, magnesium, and zinc.

And vitamin B12 is present in high amounts in ricotta cheese, providing 44% of daily requirements based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Vitamin B12 is involved in metabolism regulation, the formation of red blood cells, and maintaining central nervous system health. Vitamin B12 is also required for brain development and functioning.

Calories

A half-cup serving of whole milk ricotta cheese provides 204 calories, according to the USDA. Approximately 20% of the ricotta calories are from protein, 19% are from carbohydrates, and 61% from fat.

Health Benefits

Ricotta cheese, which is light and creamy with a delicate flavor, is a nutritious cheese source. Plus, its nutritional content provides several health benefits.

Contributes to Bone Health

The calcium and protein in ricotta cheese and other dairy products contribute to bone health. This intake is key for preventing fractures and osteoporosis and reducing bone mass loss due to aging.  

Research shows that women 19 to 50 years old who avoid dairy products only get 44% of recommended calcium and 57% of magnesium and potassium they need. These nutrients are key in bone formation.

May Help with Weight Balance

Some research shows that dairy intake helps preserve lean body mass while lowering calories, thereby helping you reduce body fat while keeping muscle. Dairy has also been shown to help with weight loss during a calorie-restricted diet.

This fact may be due to the high protein content of dairy, which is known to increase feelings of fullness and satiety while also helping build and maintain muscle.

Lower Risk of Colorectal Cancer

Research indicates that dairy helps to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. This effect is likely due to the calcium content. Further meta-analyses show that dairy intake has consistently been correlated with a lower risk of colorectal cancer and colon cancer.

Improved B12 Intake

Vitamin B12 is a vital nutrient that helps support metabolism and brain health. The best sources of B12 come from animals, including meat and dairy. For those who consume little meat or avoid it altogether, dairy products like ricotta cheese provide an excellent source of vitamin B12. 

Dairy products are an excellent bioavailable source of B12 that has been shown to boost levels better than supplements.

May Reduce Inflammation

Inflammation contributes to metabolic disorders such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Consuming ricotta cheese and other dairy products also may reduce certain types of inflammation. Dairy products are associated with a possibly beneficial effect on the biomarkers of inflammation.

Allergies

Ricotta cheese is a milk product, and milk is one of the most common food allergens. Signs of a milk allergy include:

  • Hives
  • Wheezing
  • Tingling of the lips or mouth
  • Swelling of the lips, tongue, or throat
  • Vomiting
  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath

If you experience some gastrointestinal side effects after consuming ricotta cheese, this could be an intolerance instead of an allergy. Lactose intolerance is a common condition that can appear later in life. 

Signs of lactose intolerance include digestive upset after consuming milk products such as bloating, gas, nausea, or diarrhea. If you think you could have an allergy or intolerance, speak to a healthcare provider.

Varieties

Ricotta cheese can be made from various kinds of animal milk such as sheep, goat, or water buffalo. It can also be sold with lower fat content.

Part-skim ricotta cheese contains 171 calories per half-cup (124 gram) serving with 14 grams of protein, 6.3 grams of carbohydrates, and 9.8 grams of fat.

Storage and Food Safety

Store ricotta cheese in the refrigerator, with the temperature below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The product's shelf life is around 2 weeks when sealed or 5 to 7 days after opening.

Keeping it past these times can result in the development of unwanted mold, yeast, and bacteria. Don't let ricotta cheese sit out of the fridge for longer than 2 hours at room temperature or half that if it is above 90 degrees.

How to Prepare

You can eat ricotta cheese on its own or combine it with fresh fruit, leafy greens, or other add-ins. Try the following additions:

  • A drizzle of honey
  • Peaches or nectarines
  • On top of toast with sliced veggies or fruit
  • A dollop of jam
  • Folded into scrambled eggs

Recipes

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