What is Olives?
Olives are small fruit that grow on olive trees (Olea europaea). They belong to a group of fruit called drupes, or stone fruits and are widely grown all over the Mediterranean and are mainly green or black, but can also come in many different shades in between.
The difference in colour reflects not their variety, but the stage of ripening when picked. Green olives are harvested in October or November, when still young. Black olives are picked in December, by which time they have matured and are fully ripe.
Health Benefits of Olives
Weight Loss: It appears that monounsaturated fats, the kind found in olives, may encourage weight loss. Olive oil consumption has been shown to breakdown fats inside fat cells, get rid of belly fat and reduce insulin insensitivity.
Skin and Hair Health: Black olives are rich in fatty acids and antioxidants that nourish, hydrate and protect. Chief among those is vitamin E. Whether applied topically or ingested, vitamin E has been shown to protect skin from ultraviolet radiation, thus guarding against skin cancer and premature aging. You can gain a healthy, glowing complexion by washing your face in warm water, applying a few drops of olive oil to vulnerable spots, and letting it work its magic for 15 minutes before rinsing it off. In fact, you can moisturize with olive oil before any bath, and even condition your hair with it by mixing it with an egg yolk and leaving it before rinsing and washing.
Cardiovascular Benefits: When free radicals oxidize cholesterol, blood vessels are damaged and fat builds up in arteries, possibly leading to a heart attack. The antioxidant nutrients in black olives impede this oxidation of cholesterol, thereby helping to prevent heart disease. Olives do contain fat, but it’s the healthy monounsaturated kind, which has been found to shrink the risk of atherosclerosis and increase good cholesterol. When diets low in monounsaturated fat are altered to increase the monounsaturated fat content (without becoming too high in total fat), research study participants typically experience a decrease in their blood cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and LDL:HDL ratio. All of these changes lower our risk of heart disease.
Eye Health: One cup of olives contains ten percent of the daily recommended allowance of vitamin A which, when converted into the retinal form, is crucial for healthy eyes. It enables the eye to better distinguish between light and dark, thereby improving night vision. Furthermore, Vitamin A is believed effective against cataracts, macular degeneration, glaucoma and other age-related ocular diseases.
Good Source of Iron: Olives, especially black are very high in iron. The ability of red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout the body is due to the presence of iron in the blood. If we suffer from a lack of iron, our tissues don’t get enough oxygen, and we may feel cold or weak. Iron also plays a vital role in the production of energy. It is a necessary part of a number of enzymes, including iron catalase, iron peroxidase, and the cytochrome enzymes. It also helps produce carnitine, a nonessential amino acid important for the utilization of fat. To top it all off, the proper function of the immune system is dependent on sufficient iron.
Cancer Prevention: The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of olives make them a natural for protection against cancer because chronic oxidative stress and chronic inflammation can be key factors in the development of cancer. If our cells get overwhelmed by oxidative stress (damage to cell structure and cell function by overly reactive oxygen-containing molecules) and chronic excessive inflammation, our risk of cell cancer is increased. By providing us with rich supplies of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients, olives can help us avoid this dangerous combination of chronic oxidative stress and chronic inflammation.
Black olives are a great source of vitamin E, which has the brilliant ability to neutralize free radicals in body fat. Especially when working with the stable monounsaturated fats found in olives, vitamin E can make cellular processes safer. When such processes such as mitochondrial energy production are not well protected, the free radicals produced can cause oxidation, damaging a cell’s mitochondria, and preventing the cell from producing enough energy to supply its needs. If the DNA of a cell is damaged, it may well mutate and become cancerous. Studies have shown that a diet supplemented with olive oil leads to a lower risk of colon cancer, almost as low a risk as a diet rich in fish oil.
Uses of Olives
Most of the Olives crop is used to make olive oil, and the remainder is preserved by pickling, marinading or sometimes salting, to be eaten as they are or used in cooking.
Green olives are the ones most often seen on a relish tray and dropped into Martinis, while the black variety is usually used in recipes like salad (Greek salad, for instance), chopped in vegetable dips and combined with herbs and spices to make a delicious spread.
Nutritional Information of Olives
Olives are a good source of several vitamins and minerals, some of which are added during processing.
- Copper: This essential mineral is often lacking in the typical western diet. Copper deficiency may increase the risk of heart disease.
- Calcium: The most abundant mineral in the body. It is essential for bone, muscle and nerve function.
- Iron: Black olives are a good source of iron, which is important for the transport of oxygen in red blood cells.
- Sodium: Most olives contain a high amount of sodium, since they are packaged in brine or saltwater
- Vitamin E: High-fat plant foods usually contain the highest amounts of this powerful antioxidant.