A look into the benefits of three Turkish everyday ingredients.
The Mediterranean diet has often been referred to as the world’s healthiest, and after spending a weekend in Istanbul, I can now see why. Traditional Turkish cuisine is a Paleo dieter’s dream come true: rich in protein, veggies, fish, fresh herbs, healthy oils, and virtually free of processed foods and empty carbs. A typical meal will include a generous portion of meat, often beef or lamb, a fresh salad, and the optional (but small) side of bulgur, rice, or flatbread. The quality of the ingredients and the integrity of the flavors make cravings for junk food and other, “everyday” products disappear. One thing that I particularly loved was the savory yogurt sauce served during almost every meal. During a chat with a friendly Istanbul native, I learned not only how to concoct the tasty sauce, but also how it s doubles up as a superfood trifecta, with benefits beyond its palatable pleasure. Best of all, you probably have all the ingredients right in your fridge, so please do try this at home.
Super Yogurt Sauce
Here is the base to the hundreds of different Turkish yogurt sauces:
No, not Yoplait, nor any other overly flavored and artificial cup of nonsense, but real, and fresh—if possible—plain yogurt. My Turkish friend suggested Greek yogurt as a great go-to, and you can go skim or full fat, depending on what you prefer. Yogurt has a cooling effect, and it provides a perfect balance to many of the spicy Turkish dishes. The Turks and Greeks knew long about yogurt’s beneficial properties, and we’ve all been instructed by our doctors to eat yogurt to up our stomach’s good bacteria. According to my new Turkish friend, yogurt has anti-inflammatory properties and she explained that it does miraculous things when applied topically, reducing redness and irritation. Yogurt facemask anyone?
Garlic in yogurt? Trust me, this superfood is essential to the savory sauce. Garlic is the concentrated germ killer, known for fighting off bacteria and other germs in the body. Like yogurt, garlic is great for soothing the stomach and for fighting inflammation. The Turkish also believe that it is detoxifying, as it encourages the body to release its toxins and clean out essential organs. Smash garlic cloves in a garlic masher to extract their full flavor.
Thyme, Mint, Dill, Oregano, or all!
Almost as refreshing as yogurt itself are the fresh herbs found in Turkish cuisine. These herbs are as jam packed with concentrated anti-oxidants and vitamins just as they are with aroma and flavor. Thyme and dill, both aromatic, citrusy herbs, have germ-killing properties, while mint, cool and well, minty, can soothe the stomach and make you feel refreshed. Oregano, like rosemary, is known for its anti-bacterial quality as well as its antioxidants. Its bolder in flavor, so use sparingly! Treasured for its immense flavor and medicinal benefits, herbs play a vital role in Turkish cuisine.
Mix a cup of plain yogurt, a teaspoon of garlic, and a dash of fresh herbs together and refrigerate. Play around with other seasonings until it suits your taste. Serve your sauce over grilled meat and vegetables, or use as a dip for fresh snack vegetables, chips, and bread. Do as the Turks do and keep your diet fresh and clean, your body will thank you!