Olives are actually fruits; they are stone fruits and are related to mangoes, peaches, almonds, and pistachios. They grow on trees, and they are generally green when unripe but darken to black when fully ripened (some olives stay green even when ripe).
In the Mediterranean regions where olives are native, most olives are pressed into olive oil. Olive oil is a healthy source of fat and used for cooking many different kinds of dishes. It also makes a delicious salad dressing.
The olives that are not pressed for oil are usually processed and cured in brine, since most olives are fairly bitter in their raw state. Olives are used in salads, on pizzas, as garnishes, and in tapenades. An olive salad is one of the defining features of New Orleans’ famous muffuletta sandwiches.
How Are Olives Healthy for Us?
Olives’ nutritional benefits include being low in carbohydrates, moderately high in fiber, and high in healthy fats. They are one of the highest-fat fruits at about 11% to 15% fat. Most of the fat in olives is oleic acid, which is a monounsaturated fatty acid and offers powerful protective health benefits; it has been linked to reduced incidences of inflammation, heart disease, and cancer.
Other vitamins and minerals in olives include calcium, copper, iron, and vitamin E. Olives also contain natural and beneficial compounds such as quercertin, oleanolic acid, tyrosol, oleorupin, and hydroxytyrosol.
How Can Olives and Olive Oil Help Boost the Immune System?
Olives, and especially olive oil, are staples of the Mediterranean diet, which is widely considered to be the healthiest diet in the world and is linked to a significant decrease in heart disease. Besides olive oil, the Mediterranean diet includes whole grains, fruits and vegetables, legumes and nuts, and moderate amounts of fish and lean meat.
Olives and olive oil are also high in polyphenols, which have protective effects on the heart and blood vessels. Polyphenols, along with oleic acid, help lower and stabilize blood sugars and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. Vitamin E in olives helps prevent blood clots, and iron improves circulation. Oleuropin, which is only found in olives, and other antioxidants reduce inflammation; this improves healing and general well-being.
Can Olives Help with Weight Loss?
Despite the name, the Mediterranean diet, of which olives are a staple, is not designed for weight loss; however, many people who do switch to this way of eating do lose weight and keep it off. Specifically, the low calorie density of olives’ nutritional benefits means that they leave people feeling full without taking in too many calories. The healthy fat in olive oil also contributes to a feeling of satiety.
Can the Nutrition in Olives Fight or Prevent Cancer?
Olives are very high in antioxidants, which have been shown to reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer. Antioxidants and oleic acid can kill breast, colon, and stomach cancer cells in test tubes (human studies have not yet been conducted).
The rates of cancer and other chronic diseases are lower in countries where the Mediterranean diet is a staple, as opposed to countries that eat the standard Western diet. It is believed that the olives and olive oil in the Mediterranean diet are linked to these lower levels.
What Is the Best Kind of Olive to Consume?
All olives are high in healthy fats, moderately high in fiber, and loaded with antioxidants, vitamins, and other beneficial compounds. The main drawback to an olive-heavy diet is the sodium that they’re processed with. Some types of olives require more salt than others to make them palatable.
Black olives are naturally sweeter than others, so the sodium content of processed black olives is notably lower than in other olive varieties. This may make them the healthiest whole olive to consume. Olive oil is also a very healthy way to consume olives and take in all their goodness.
What Amount Is Optimal to Reap Olives’ Benefits?
The main limiting factor in olive consumption is the high sodium content in processed olives. It’s hard to establish a uniform recommendation for optimal olive consumption because it varies by olive variety, and because the recommended daily limit of sodium is different for different people dealing with different health conditions. Also, olives and olive oil are loaded with healthy fats. These fats are beneficial in moderation, but too much fat and too many calories are never a good thing.
People should consume olives and olive oil as part of a healthy diet, since they offer significant health and wellness benefits. But nobody should exceed the recommended daily limits of sodium and calories, so olive consumption needs to be moderated to reflect that.
Olives and olive oil are staples in the Mediterranean diet, which is widely acknowledged to be one of the healthiest ways of eating. Even if you don’t fully embrace the Mediterranean diet and olives’ nutritional benefits, they are still very healthy. They are loaded with polyphenols and other antioxidants as well as healthy fats, vitamins, and other beneficial compounds.