ICYMI, butter boards are wooden cutting boards topped with slabs of butter and dipping ingredients. Although this latest TikTok sensation makes for an elegant appetizer at holiday parties and dinners, it's far from nutritious.
"Butter is a high-calorie food, which can contribute to obesity. It's also a high-fat food, specifically high in saturated fat, which can contribute to an increased risk of heart disease and increase your LDL [cholesterol]," says Sarika Shah, RD, a dietitian based in San Ramon, California.
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And yes, the holidays are meant to be a time to enjoy your favorite festive foods, but butter as the centerpiece of your appetizer before a meal has some drawbacks.
"Butter boards make butter the main attraction of the appetizer or entree and are accompanied with bread or crackers, which can replace a balanced meal composed of fiber, protein and fat," Shah says. "Although I believe all foods fit and consume butter myself, I do in moderation. Butter should be considered a condiment — not the center of the meal or main attraction of an entree."
So if you're looking for a dip that's just as flavorful and creamy as butter but is loaded with nutrients, go for tzatziki instead.
What Is Tzatziki?
Tzatziki is a popular dip or sauce that has roots in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine and is traditionally made with Greek yogurt, grated cucumber, fresh herbs, olive oil, garlic and lemon juice.
"Tzatziki is a great source of protein and is generally low in calories. Two tablespoons of tzatziki have about 30 calories compared to 2 tablespoons of butter at 200 calories, making tzatziki a healthier option," Shah says.
Shah also notes that tzatziki has protein and is low in carbs. If you're looking to cut back on calories and fat, she recommends substituting full-fat Greek yogurt with low-fat or fat-free Greek yogurt.
Here are all the reasons you should be scooping up tzatziki for your holiday parties instead of serving up a butter board.
4 Health Benefits of Tzatziki
1. It's High in Protein
Greek yogurt is the base of tzatziki, which makes it a good source of protein, says Bianca Tamburello, RD, a dietitian at FRESH Communications. "Protein helps keep you full, so tzatziki as a party dip will help hungry guests feel more satisfied as they wait for the main course."
Greek yogurt also has two to three times as much protein as regular yogurt, according to Rachel Gargano, RD, a dietitian at Top Nutrition Coaching.
Greek yogurt also contains gut-healthy probiotics that support your immune system. Because your gut is connected to many parts of your health, keeping your microbiome healthy can positively affect your digestion and support your immune system, Tamburello says.
2. It Boasts Fiber and Other Vital Nutrients
The secret ingredient in tzatziki that makes it so much more filling is grated Persian cucumber. Cucumber is a great source of important nutrients, including vitamin K, vitamin C and magnesium, Shah says. Vitamin K is a key nutrient for blood clotting and maintaining healthy bones, according to the National Institutes of Health.
"Cucumbers have a bad rap; many people think they have no nutritional benefit. However, they are packed with vitamin K, as well as phytonutrients, which studies show have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects," Gargano says. "And while more studies are needed, early studies indicate that certain phytonutrients in cucumbers may play a role in helping maintain your blood sugar levels."
Plus, tzatziki features fresh herbs, like dill and mint, which not only enhance the flavor of your dish but also provide health-supporting antioxidants that fight harmful free radicals, Tamburello says.
"The small amount of dill and mint in tzatziki makes it challenging to reap all the health benefits of these tasty herbs but nonetheless shows that tzatziki is often made with wholesome ingredients," she says.
3. It Has Healthy Fats
Most tzatziki recipes call for a bit of extra-virgin olive oil for flavor. Even though there isn't a whole lot of olive oil in the dip, research shows that a little can have big benefits. Olive oil is made up of monounsaturated fat, aka healthy fats, which have been shown to help decrease your risk of heart disease, Tamburello says.
According to a large April 2020 study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, those who enjoyed just over 1/2 a tablespoon per day had a 14 percent lower risk of heart disease compared to those who didn't eat any olive oil.
4. It's Loaded With Flavor
Minced garlic and lemon juice round out the savory elements of tzatziki. Garlic lends scrumptious flavor and lemon juice infuses some zest and tang.
While there isn't a whole lot of garlic and lemon juice in this festive party dip to reap major health benefits from them, they're still health-supporting ingredients, Tamburello says.
For example, lemons are a great source of vitamin C, which is linked to a strong immune system, and garlic has antioxidant effects, she says.
And a July 2022 review in the Journal of Medicinal Food found that the organosulfur compounds in garlic have been linked to some health benefits, including its antihypertensive and antidiabetic effects. Plus, a March 2015 review in Phytomedicine suggests that garlic can be an effective approach to blood pressure control in people with hypertension, though more well-designed trials are needed with long-term follow-up.
Healthy Ways to Serve Tzatziki
You can find all ingredients for making tzatziki year-round, so it's an excellent party dip — no matter the occasion.
Gargano suggests serving tzatziki as part of a baked potato bar, where guests can add their own toppings. It's also a great sauce for a salmon bites appetizer. Instead of a butter board, make a tzatziki board and serve it with a variety of vegetables, such as cucumbers, peppers, radishes, celery and carrots, as well as whole-wheat pita triangles, skewers, kabobs and falafels, Shah says.
"For a bite-sized treat, cut cucumber rounds 1-inch thick and top with a dollop of tzatziki and sprinkle with fresh dill," Tamburello adds.
Tzatziki Brands We Love
If you're strapped for time, you don't have to make tzatziki from scratch. Try these delicious ready-made tzatzikis:
- National Institutes of Health: "Vitamin K"
- Journal of the American College of Cardiology; "Olive Oil Consumption and Cardiovascular Risk in U.S. Adults"
- Journal of Medicinal Food: "The Role of Garlic in Metabolic Diseases: A Review"
- Phytomedicine: "Garlic for Hypertension: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials"
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