Tzatziki is the tart, Greek yogurt-based sauce that puts the zest in your falafel. Some recipes of tzatziki are healthier than others, so make your own tzatziki sauce to keep the calories and fat at a minimum. Here's what you need to know about tzatziki's nutrition profile.
Health Benefits of Tzatziki
Apart from falafel, tzatziki is also served with souvlaki, kebabs and gyros. The Mayo Clinic notes that tzatziki's tangy flavor is a good counterpoint to grilled meat. Tzatziki also makes for a healthy, yogurt-based dip for vegetable sticks or pita chips. It also works well as a salad dressing.
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According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (HSPH), yogurt, like milk, is a good source of calcium and protein. However, the HSPH notes that the health benefits of yogurt go beyond the benefits of milk because yogurt is a fermented food, made by introducing bacterial cultures to warm milk. These bacteria are known as probiotics, because they help support a healthy, diverse balance of microbiota in your gut.
The HSPH lists Type 2 diabetes, obesity, irritable bowel syndrome and chronic inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn's disease as some of the health problems that can result from a lower-than-optimal level of probiotics in the gut. Yogurt also improves weight management, according to the HSPH.
Tzatziki’s Nutrition Profile
The Charlie Foundation for Ketogenic Therapies notes that full-fat yogurt was traditionally used to make tzatziki sauce. However, the USDA's 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends opting for fat-free or low-fat dairy products as often as possible. Depending on the type of yogurt used, some store-bought varieties of tzatziki sauce have more calories and fat than homemade versions made with fat-free or low-fat yogurt.
For instance, the USDA lists a branded version of tzatziki sauce that has 60 calories, 4.5 grams of fat and 15 milligrams of cholesterol in a 2-tablespoon serving.
The Mayo Clinic lists a recipe for tzatziki that has half the calories, a fraction of the cholesterol and no fat. The recipe combines grated cucumber, fat-free plain Greek yogurt, finely chopped fresh dill, chopped garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Per this recipe, a 2-tablespoon serving of tzatziki sauce has 28 calories, 4 grams of protein, zero grams of fat and 2 milligrams of cholesterol.
According to the Charlie Foundation for Ketogenic Therapies, tzatziki is also compatible with low-carb diets like the keto diet and the Atkins diet. This is because tzatziki sauce is low in carbs; the Mayo Clinic's recipe for tzatziki sauce has 3 grams of carbs per serving. This sauce doesn't offer any fiber; per the Mayo Clinic, its tzatziki sauce recipe has 2 grams of carbs from sugar and none from fiber.
The American Heart Association lists a variation of the traditional tzatziki recipe that includes chopped fresh mint, lemon juice and chunks of avocado. This version of tzatziki has more nutrition and calories than the original recipe, due to the addition of avocado.
The avocado adds around 60 calories per serving according to the USDA, but these calories are accompanied by nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, potassium, folate and vitamins A and C.
- Mayo Clinic: “Tzatziki Sauce”
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: “Yogurt”
- Charlie Foundation for Ketogenic Therapies: “Tzatziki Sauce”
- USDA: “Tzatziki”
- USDA: “2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans”
- American Heart Association: “Beef Kabobs With Avocado Tzatziki Sauce”
- USDA: “Avocados, Raw, Florida”