What are the health benefits of olives? Well, for one let's make the distinction between green olives and black olives. The olives we eat and choose to consume for maximum health benefits are naturally ripened black olives not green olives.
Green olives are picked before they are actually ripe and then chemically treated with harsh substances to soften and remove the bitter substance present in them.
This is the difference between a green olive and a black sun-ripened one. Ripened black olives contain more nutrients, more olive oil and are a far healthier fat to eat.
Black olives are traditionally a fermented food that is cured or fermented in a salt brine solution of some kind and then sometimes marinated in vinegar. The curing technique is a way to preserve them as well as enhance flavor and texture.
A black olive straight from the tree contains no salt what so ever and tends to be quite hard and crunchy to eat.
Olives are one of those fruits that ripen off the tree, after they fall to the ground. Once an olive sits in the sun for a period of time, it wrinkles and much of the bitterness is converted. The fruit then softens and the flesh turns a dark brown or black. They are actually edible in this form, but many olive producers tend to stick with the more traditional method of salt curing.
The fermentation process helps to soften the fruit by breaking down the sugars in the olive and creating lactic or acetic acid.
This is very similar to what happens when you make sauerkraut. This process allows the oleuropein to be released (the bitter component) and improves the flavor and phytonutrient composition. Although sauerkraut is cultured in a salt water brine only, olives can be cured in oil, water, brine or salt.
When shopping for olives, black olive selections are always the way to go. You must, however, always read labels to make sure they are not pasteurized or chemically cured. Also, canned olives are a far less superior choice and usually processed using lye and low grade table salt.
The olives we eat and recommend are sometimes more purple than black. They are sun-ripened, organic and traditionally cured using natural methods that involve either sea salt brining and/or oil curing.
Botija Peruvian black olives are some of the best we have ever tasted. There is one particular brand of botija olives by Sunfood that aren't cured, contain no salt and no oil.
They are actually probably one of the only unsalted olives ever sold, but are a wonderful choice for those of you wanting to limit your salt intake.
The olive fruit, from the tree species known as Olea europaea, is one of the oldest foods known. Not only that, olive trees are one of the longest living trees on earth, growing between 200 to 2,000 years!
They are native to Mediterranean climates but now grow in mild foothill terrains all over the world. The black olive tree was thought to have originated on the small Greek island of Crete and/or parts of Syria.
The earliest evidence of olive cultivation in these regions dates back to 2500 B.C. Olives and the olive tree are extensively featured in Greek mythology as well as ancient Egyptian art. They also have a well documented history in Spain, Italy and Turkey.
The Romans were the first to create the stone-press for extracting olive oil. They believed that olives were an aphrodisiac and sexual fruit to be enjoyed in large quantities.
The olive tree was brought to California
via the Spanish colonists during the 1500-1700's. Today it is the
largest olive producing state in the U.S.
There are many
different types of olives and they are all unique to different regions
of the world, having diverse colors, shapes and tastes that distinguish them apart.
One of the commonly overlooked health benefits of olives is that they are excellent mucus dissolvers. In fact, they are one of the most powerful of any fruit, next to figs.
Too much mucus in the body clogs up the sinuses and can cause cold/flu-like symptoms resembling a stuffy nose, puffy eyes and unclear thinking. Mucus dissolving olives can help to break up this flem and clear out the sinuses relieving brain fog and respiratory health.
Olives can be a great food to add to the diet for those prone to allergies or asthmatic conditions. This is not just for their mucus dissolving effects, but likewise, olives are a natural anti-histamine and an anti-inflammatory.
Olive extracts are also available and often prescribed by herbalist and holistic doctors to help those with allergy-related inflammation.
For those people eating a high raw diet, olives are typically enjoyed on a regular basis as a prime source of good fat.
plant fats, and their oils, are important to include in a raw vegan diet because they
insulate nerve tissue, lubricate and ground the body yet are easily
broken down by the liver.
Olives are about 80-85% fat and can be a great alternative fat to consume for those people trying to wean off of other "not so healthy" fats and dairy products.
The olive oil in olives is a monounsaturated fat primarily composed of oleic acid with a smaller linoleic acid content and a very small portion of the omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid.
Monounsaturated fats are unsaturated fats that have one double-bonded carbon and can be a good fat to include in the diet when eaten in moderation and in their raw unheated state.
Cooking olives or olive oil changes it's structure and makes it far less healthy to the body. We ALWAYS eat and consume black olives and olive oil in their raw state for this reason.
Olives are one of the key stars of the Mediterranean Diet made popular in recent years through their success at increasing heart health and reducing the risk of osteoporosis, chronic inflammation and other related conditions.
The American Heart Association states, "Monounsaturated fats can help reduce bad cholesterol levels in your blood and lower your risk of heart disease and stroke." According to the "The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods" the fats in black olives can help to lower your blood pressure which can further reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
The health benefits of olives and olive oil are indicated in studies exhibiting a decrease in LDL and blood cholesterol when the right amount is added to the diet on a regular basis.
Black olives are rich in the antioxidant Vitamin E which is a known
source of anti-inflammatory polyphenols and flavonoids. These
components help to restore body tissues, protect against infection, and
decrease risk of atherosclerosis, arthritis, cancer and various liver
disorders. Vitamin E also helps neutralize free radicals in body fat.
The antioxidant-rich phytonutrients in olives help us to avoid "oxidative stress" and protect against the damaging effects of cellular oxidation, key factors in the development of cancer.
The "Journal of Nutrition" reported in a published 2006 study that olives might be particularly beneficial for inhibiting the growth of colon cancer cells.
There are several other phytonutrients in olives that make them a very unique anti-inflammatory food source.
Hydroxytyrosol is thought to be one of the main antioxidant compounds responsible for the olive's anti-inflammatory properties as well as its positive influence on the cardiovascular system.
The oleuropein content found in olives has been shown to decrease nitric oxide synthase activity (iNOS), an enzyme associated with chronic inflammation.
The anti-histamine constituents and its ability to lower leukotriene levels B4 also helps to provide for the anti-inflammatory health benefits of olives.
Olive polyphenols have been shown to lower blood levels of C-reactive protein (CRP). Increased levels of CRP are used as a measurement of inflammation in the body.
The health benefits of olives and olive pulp have recently been shown to increase blood levels of glutathione, a powerful antioxidant that exists within the cells to help neutralize free radicals and pull out toxins.
Because olives are high in Vitamin E, as well as other healthy fats, eating them is a great way to nourish soft supple skin and hair. These oils naturally help to lubricate, protect and beautify!
For those eating a high raw diet olives are a great "meaty" textured food to add in for fat and nutrient content.
Obviously, because most olives are high in salt you don't want to consume too many at once. Black olives, like the kalamata or the botija olive are so rich and packed with flavor that it really only takes 8-12 olives to satisfy the appetite and taste buds.
Generally, we suggest eating olives on salads or with green leafy vegetables because they help to zest up these more neutral tasting foods and also provide more calories to fuel your day.
(Try bojita olives in our quinoa salad recipe in the link at the bottom of this page.)
Remember that the health benefits of olives are severely diminished when they are heated or cooked. They are best eaten raw for maximum nutritional value.
One of the greatest things about olives is that they also produce "olive oil." The oil from olives is a much healthier alternative to vegetable oil and one that we promote for use as a "raw" oil sprinkle on foods or added to dehydrated meals or snacks.
You should always avoid cooking with olive oil as the nutrients are far less stable at high heat temperatures. Coconut oil is a better choice to use when preparing cooked meals.
The best olive oil to buy is cold pressed, stone-crushed, extra virgin organic oil. Higher quality oils are sold in dark bottles as the oil is sensitive to light. It is good to stay away from low grade olive oils that are often cut with vegetable oil or refined olive oil.
Our favorites here at Superfood Evolution are Bariani's Raw Extra Virgin Olive Oil, a family owned company, and Organic Bojita Olive Oil. In our opinion they are of a higher quality and the best that we have ever tasted hands down.