Ricotta Cheese – Nutrition, Benefits, and Recipes

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Cheese is a dairy product prepared by acidifying or adding bacteria to the milk of various farm animals, then ageing or processing the solid portions. The manufacturing method and the milk used affect cheese’s nutritional value and flavour. Although cheese is high in fat, salt, and calories, it is also high in protein, calcium, and other minerals. The Italian peninsula has prepared ricotta cheese since the Bronze Age.

Ceramic milk boilers prepared ricotta in the second millennium BC. These milk boilers prevent milk from boiling at high degrees and produce fresh acid-coagulated cheeses from whole milk. This increased production of rennet-coagulated cheese led to making a considerable amount of delicious whey. The traditional ricotta as we know it today uses a combination of whey and milk. The shepherds who made cheese mainly ate ricotta, but paintings and literature reveal that Roman nobles also ate it. In addition, ricotta cheese is highly versatile and tastes delicious in recipes. It’s used as dips and spreads for salads, scrambled eggs, pasta, lasagna, and desserts.

Ricotta Cheese: An Introduction

Ricotta is a fresh, non-aged Italian cheese and one of the most famous varieties of cheese, and it is trendy in the United States. You can make ricotta from cow, goat, sheep, or Italian water buffalo’s milk whey leftover from making other cheeses. The best ricotta comes from sheep’s milk. The production of ricotta is very different from traditional cheese. The curd is heated twice; hence the name ricotta means “recooked” because producers make it by “recooking” leftover liquids from cheesemaking with some milk and acid that causes coagulation.

Ricotta is known for its creamy, soft texture and much lighter version of cottage cheese. Ricotta is a white cheese that contains all nine essential amino acids and is high in protein, and has a slightly sweet taste. It is pretty high in calories; however, it has much nutritional value and contains calcium, magnesium, selenium, and several other essential vitamins and minerals. The low fat ricotta cheese nutrition profile could help support weight loss, decrease blood pressure and help keep the bones healthy and strong. 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.

Nutritional Profile of Ricotta Cheese

The USDA provides the following nutrition value for one hundred grams of ricotta cheese.

  • Calories: 150 kcal
  • Carbohydrate: 7.27 g
  • Total Fat: 10.2 g
  • Saturated Fat: 6.42 g
  • Mono-unsaturated Fat: 2.66 g
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.445 g
  • Protein: 7.54 g
  • Calcium: 206 mg
  • Cholesterol: 49 mg
  • Sodium: 110 mg
  • Potassium: 219 mg
  • Selenium: 5.9 µg
  • Vitamin B-12: 0.85 µg
  • Vitamin K: 1.1 µg

Nutritional Facts About Ricotta Cheese

Like all forms of cheese, ricotta cheese is high in numerous nutrients. The majority of kinds are calcium-rich, which helps in bone growth and repair. It also contains vitamin A, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B12, vitamin K, iodine, phosphorus, selenium, and zinc. However, the nutritional values of non-fat and low-fat ricotta cheese may vary a bit.

Ricotta cheese has 7.54g of protein per 100g. It is easily digested and provides all essential amino acids to our bodies. All dairy proteins are high quality, and ricotta cheese is a good source of protein. Ricotta cheese is a good choice for people who want to gain muscle or lose fat, and it might also help with muscle recovery.

A cup of ricotta cheese contains 50 grams of carbohydrates, and there are no fibre grams in the carbohydrate content. Ricotta cheese has a fair amount of vitamin B12, which is essential for metabolism, red blood cell synthesis, and supporting the health of the nervous system. Vitamin B12 is also necessary for proper brain growth and function. Ricotta cheese also comprises small amounts of most other vitamins, such as vitamin A, B6, B2, pantothenic acid, and magnesium.

Ricotta, like most cheeses, has a high-fat content. A full-cup serving of whole milk ricotta cheese contains 25.1 grams of fat, and the saturated fat is 15.8 grams. According to a study, saturated fats increase the risk of heart disease by raising blood cholesterol levels.

Ricotta cheese contains 121 mg of cholesterol in 1 cup, and the body creates all of the cholesterol it requires. Therefore, it is unnecessary to take cholesterol through food. However, if you have a history of high cholesterol, you should consult your doctor about whether you should limit your intake of ricotta. 

The HealthifyMe Note

According to the USDA, a 1-cup serving of whole milk ricotta cheese contains 369 calories and 25.1 grams of fat. Unfortunately, most of that fat is saturated, increasing heart disease risk. So, be watchful about its consumption and consult your nutritionist before adding it to your diet.

Process of Making Ricotta Cheese

Ricotta resembles cottage cheese in appearance. The production of ricotta cheese requires a considerable amount of whey to make, even for a tiny amount of cheese. Add vinegar or lemon juice to acidify whey from the production of other cheeses. Then, separate the curd to get a white creamy cheese mass with fine, grainy textured milk particles.

Equipment required: Clean and wide-mouthed bowl, cheesecloth, filter, thermometer, vinegar, or lemon juice to acidify.

Many ricotta cheese brands utilise rennet, a thickening agent produced from enzymes found in the stomachs of ruminant mammals like cows.

Traditional Ricotta

Traditional ricotta cheese is a leftover whey from the cheesemaking process. Pour the whey into a clean and wide-mouthed bowl. Now, turn on the flame and start heating to a near-boiling temperature of 175 degrees F. Turn the stove off once you’ve seen enough curdling. Allow 25-30 minutes for curds to separate from the whey. Using a cheesecloth, drain the curd until it is dry. As a result, you get a soft, moist, and fat-free traditional ricotta cheese.

Modern Ricotta

Modern dairies’ fresh ricotta is made up by adding whole/skim milk to the whey to increase cheese mass. In this case, 5-6 tablespoons of food acid like lemon juice (citric acid) get added to curdle the boiling milk-whey blend. Then, turn off the flame, set aside until solid white curds form on the surface, and filter. Although the tastes are identical, this version is somewhat creamier because of a different production procedure.

Varieties of Ricotta Cheese

You can prepare ricotta cheese from sheep, goat, or water buffalo milk. Then, it can be processed further to make shelf-stable varieties. Salting, baking, smoking, and additional fermentation are some of these procedures.

Some of the most popular types of aged ricotta cheese are:

Ricotta Salata

Ricotta Salata is pressed, salted, and dried. This ricotta cheese ages for at least three months, and it’s a milky white in appearance.

Ricotta Forte

Ricotta forte, also known as ricotta scanta, is made from ricotta leftovers from cow, goat, or sheep milk. This cheese is silk, soft, creamy brown paste, and fermented with a solid and pungent smell. These are aged for roughly a year and marketed in glass jars. It’s commonly present in the province of Lecce’s southernmost region.

Ricotta Infornata

Ricotta infornata is ricotta that gets baked until a brown crust forms. It is popular in Sardinia and Sicily. Ricotta infornata is also known as “ricotta al forno.”

Ricotta Affumicata

This affumicata resembles ricotta infornata in appearance. It is a smoked cheese with a distinctive flavour and aroma. Ricotta affumicata is a smoked cheese from the province of Calabria in southern Italy.

Ricotta Romano

This is a sheep’s milk cheese only accessible from the autumn to early summer.

Smoked Ricotta

Smoked ricotta is a speciality of Northern Italy’s mountains.

Health Benefits of Ricotta Cheese

Ricotta cheese is a nutritious cheese that is light and creamy with a great flavour. There are several reasons to include this product in your diet, and here are some of the top ricotta cheese health benefits:

Ricotta Cheese is High in Protein

Ricotta is a protein-rich dairy product, with one serving (50 grams) gives 3.77 g protein.  This cheese has a good protein content, making it a “complete protein” because it includes adequate levels of all essential amino acids. Ricotta is therefore helpful for the growth and maintenance of muscle, immune function, and the production of hormones and enzymes. It also helps maintain healthy bones, skin, hair, and nails.

Selenium-Rich Food

Ricotta is high in selenium, an essential antioxidant mineral in the body. Selenium protects the body from free radical damage and oxidative stress, and it is critical in preventing free radical damage and oxidative stress in the body. Yet, regretfully, one out of every seven persons on the planet is deficient in the mineral.

Low in Lactose

Lactose intolerance and sensitivity are prevalent. Fresh ricotta has a lower lactose concentration than other dairy products, and Ricotta cheese belongs to the ‘low lactose’ dairy food, making it easier to digest for lactose-intolerant persons.

Lactose intolerance can cause various symptoms, including abdominal pain, bloating, cramps, and diarrhoea. Ricotta is ideal for lactose-intolerant persons, but this is still likely too much lactose for people with severe lactose intolerance.

High in Calcium

Ricotta contains calcium at significant levels. Calcium is a crucial component of all milk and cheese products, and ricotta is no exception. Ricotta cheese, in particular, has 206 mg of calcium per 100g. Calcium serves various purposes in the body, including bone health, osteoporosis prevention, nerve communication, and muscular function. Yet, according to research, women aged 19 to 50 who skip dairy products acquire only 44% of the calcium, magnesium, and potassium required.

Rich in Vitamin B12

Animals are the most acceptable sources of B12, including meat and dairy. Studies show that vitamin B12 is abundant in ricotta cheese. Vitamin B12 is a necessary ingredient for metabolism, red blood cell manufacturing, and brain health, and vitamin B12 also aids in nervous system health and function. Dairy products like ricotta cheese are an excellent source of vitamin B12 for persons who are vegetarian or consume less meat.

Rich in Phosphorus

Ricotta is also high in phosphorus, which helps control blood pressure; according to some studies, increasing your phosphorus consumption and other minerals like magnesium and calcium can significantly lower blood pressure. In addition, a study shows phosphorus is vital for maintaining bone integrity and skeletal development.

The HealthifyMe Note

Due to the presence of calcium, Ricotta cheese helps strengthen and protect teeth, improves bone health, nerve communication, and muscular function.

Ways to Use Ricotta Cheese

Ricotta is a whey-based cheese that is useful in various ways. The most acceptable usage for this cheese is in desserts and pastries. It pairs well with sugar, condiment spices, and berry fruits and goes well in various pasta. Here are some tasty and nutritious ways to use ricotta cheese:-

Lemon-Thyme Whipped Ricotta

Serves: 4 servings

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • Ricotta cheese: 1 cup
  • Chopped fresh thyme: 2 tbsp
  • Minced fresh chives: 2 tbsp
  • Freshly grated lemon zest: 2 tbsp
  • Lemon juice: 1/4 cup
  • Freshly ground pepper: 1 tsp
  • Salt: 1/2 tsp
  • Extra-virgin olive oil: 2 tsp

Method of Preparation

  • Combine ricotta, thyme, lemon zest, lemon juice, chives, pepper and salt in a food processor. Blend for a few seconds until smooth.
  • Transfer to a bowl and drizzle with olive oil. 
  • You can cover and refrigerate for up to one day.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving

  • Calories: 88 kcal
  • Protein 6.2g
  • Carbohydrates 3.8g
  • Dietary fibre 0.2g
  • Fat 5.4g
  • Cholesterol 16.5mg
  • Vitamin A: 244.8IU
  • Calcium: 149.8 mg
  • Potassium: 85.4mg

Ricotta & Yogurt Parfait

Serves: 1 serving

Preparation time: 5 minutes

Ingredients

  • Ricotta cheese: 1/4 cup
  • Nonfat vanilla Greek yoghurt: 1 cup
  • Lemon zest: ½ tsp
  • Raspberries: ¼ cup
  • Almonds: 1 tbsp
  • Chia seeds: 1 tsp

Method of Preparation

  • Combine ricotta, Greek yoghurt, and lemon zest in a bowl.
  • Top with raspberries, almonds and soaked chia seeds.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving

  • Calories: 272 Kcal
  • protein 21.7g
  • Carbohydrates 25.1g
  • Dietary fibre 5.1g
  • Fat 9.6g
  • Cholesterol 23.9mg
  • Calcium 384.7mg

Potential Drawbacks of Ricotta Cheese

Ricotta cheese is a milk product that can cause vomiting, tingling, swelling of the lips, tongue, and throat, coughing, and difficulty breathing in people who are allergic to whey protein.

If you get abdominal discomfort after eating ricotta cheese, you might have an intolerance rather than an allergy. Symptoms like bloating, gas, nausea, or diarrhoea come with lactose intolerance after consuming ricotta cheese. If you have severe lactose intolerance, avoid ricotta cheese or seek medical advice. However, small amounts of ricotta are not harmful if you’re moderately lactose intolerant. Ricotta cheese has a low tyramine content and can be consumed in modest quantities by persons on a tyramine-restricted diet.

Storage and Food Safety

Refrigerate ricotta cheese at or below 40°F. The product acquires a shelf life of 2 weeks or 5 to 7 days after opening. After these dates, mould, yeast, and bacteria will grow if you keep them. Keep no more than two hours at room temperature for ricotta cheese, or half that time if the temperature is above 90 degrees. If you’re making ricotta at home, make small packets frequently and keep them refrigerated for a week.

Conclusion

Ricotta is a whey cheese noted for its texture, health benefits, and delightful flavour. Ricotta is high in fat and protein, with moderate carbohydrates. It also provides a good source of necessary vitamins and minerals and the ability to enhance the flavour of our meals. Ricotta also contains a lot of calcium, selenium, and phosphorus, and it also has lower levels of a variety of other essential minerals. Ricotta cheese nutrition facts show that this delicious food might help improve bone health, red blood cell production, and brain health, aid weight loss, prevent free radical damage and oxidative stress, and lower blood pressure.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. Is ricotta cheese good for you?

A. Ricotta cheese is high in various vitamins and minerals. Calcium, selenium, and phosphorus are all abundant in ricotta, and it also has lower levels of a variety of other essential nutrients. Ricotta’s nutritional value suggests that it can benefit bone health, red blood cell generation, and nervous system development, promote weight loss, minimise free radical damage and oxidative stress.

Q. Is ricotta the healthiest cheese?

A.Low-fat ricotta cheese has fewer calories and carbohydrates and less fat than other low-fat cream cheese. Ricotta made with whole milk has 25.1 grams of fat per cup. On the other hand, ricotta has more protein (7.54g) and calcium (206mg) per 100 grams than low-fat cream cheese. In addition, ricotta has a lower lactose concentration, making it excellent for moderately lactose-intolerant people. Finally, ricotta cheese is more delightful and has low cholesterol than butter.

Q. Is ricotta good for weight loss?

A. Ricotta contains around 150 calories per 100 grams. So while ricotta is not one of the lowest carb cheeses, it is generally suitable for low carb diets like the keto diet. When compared to other complete meals, ricotta cheese has a medium to high-calorie load. However, compared to different cheeses, ricotta has a low-calorie content per 100 grams, making it one of the best for weight loss. However, both considered fulfilling, lipids and protein account for most of these calories, and protein intake is crucial for weight loss.

Q. Why is ricotta cheese so good?

A. Ricotta is a creamy, soft cheese lighter version of cottage cheese. Because it is lower in salt and fat than most cheeses, ricotta is a superior choice (25.1g of total fat, 15.8g saturated in 100g of ricotta). It’s light and creamy, with a bit of grainy texture and delicate flavour that works well on its own or in savoury dishes. Low-fat alternatives are easier to digest and produce fewer fat-related problems. In addition, ricotta cheese’s nutritional profile might aid in weight loss, blood pressure reduction, and bone health and strength.

Q. Can I eat ricotta every day?

A.When compared to other meals; ricotta cheese has a medium to high-calorie load. Adults should seek to consume between two and four servings of dairy foods each day, depending on their age, physical, medical status and gender, and ricotta cheese is a fantastic way to achieve those requirements. If you’ve lactose intolerance or an allergy to whey protein, you should consult your doctor before changing your diet. 

Q. Is ricotta healthier than butter?

A. Ricotta cheese is healthier than butter for certain people since it is lower in fat and calories and higher in protein. It is also suitable for baking as a butter substitute. If you’re concerned about the fat content of butter, substitute low-fat ricotta cheese instead. In addition, according to its nutritional profile, ricotta cheese aids in bone health, weight loss, anti-inflammation and blood pressure reduction.

Q. Is ricotta cheese anti-inflammatory?

A. Obesity and the risk of chronic disease are linked by inflammation. For example, dairy foods might lower the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, but their effect on inflammation is unknown. Ricotta cheese and other dairy products may also help lessen inflammation in some cases.

Q. Which is healthier, ricotta or cottage cheese?

A. Ricotta and cottage cheese are high in calcium, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Ricotta has more calcium, zinc, lipids, and cholesterol than cottage cheese, but cottage cheese is high in sugar and sodium. On the other hand, ricotta is high in Vitamin A and potassium.

Ricotta is much less nutritious than cottage cheese, and the calories and fat content will be significantly different. Ricotta cheese has 65% more cholesterol than cottage cheese. Cottage cheese is high in protein.

Q. Is ricotta a high-fat cheese?

A. Ricotta, like most cheeses, has a high-fat content, and mostly it is saturated fat. The saturated fat content is 15.8 g of whole milk ricotta cheese. According to a study, consuming a high-saturated-fat diet raises blood cholesterol levels, increasing cardiovascular disease risk.

Q. Is ricotta a keto?

A. Ricotta cheese, while not one of the lowest carb cheeses, is generally suitable for low carb diets such as the keto diet in limited amounts. It is medium to high in carbs (7.27g net carbs per 100g serving). Keep your net carb consumption between 20 and 30 grams per day to stay in ketosis.

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