Olives are one of the most nutritious food on the planet. The fruit grows on a tree called Olea europaea and belongs to the group called drupes or stone fruits.
High in powerful antioxidants and vitamin E, olives are known to protect against cancer and osteoporosis. These tiny oval-shaped fruits are rich in healthy fats extracted to produce olive oil—one of the critical components of the Mediterranean diet.
Not only that olives have fantastic health benefits, but they also get along well with the taste buds. You can consume them in salads, pesto, tapenade, etc. From meat and poultry dishes to pizza and salad, olives can augment the taste of everything.
However, you cannot eat olives right off the tree. They are too bitter and need curing to lessen their intrinsic bitterness. They can be picked unripe or fully ripened from the tree. However, the color of the fruit does not indicate its state of maturity, as some olives turn black when fully ripe while some remain green.
Health Benefits of Olives
Several health benefits of olives are backed by science. Olives contain antioxidants, vitamin E, healthy fats, and protein that render them highly beneficial.
As for its components, olive contains 11-15 percent fat, 4-6 percent carbs, 52-86 percent fiber, and compounds like Iron, Copper, Calcium, and Sodium.
1. Olives reduce harmful cholesterol levels
Olives contain a monounsaturated fat called oleic acid that protects against heart diseases like atherosclerosis, plaque buildup, strokes, and heart attacks.
The fats portion of olive contains the oleic acid, which also lowers the bad cholesterol, aka low-density lipoprotein (LDL). Oxidation of LDL cholesterol is a significant contributor to plaque buildup. Eating olives can prevent LDL cholesterol oxidation and thus save you from developing heart disease.
2. Olives protect against high blood pressure
Apart from the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, high blood pressure is another significant risk factor for heart disease. According to numerous studies, consuming olive and olive can do wonders in treating hypertension.
In one study, taking olive oil reduced the need for blood pressure medication by 48 percent. However, it does not mean that one should replace their hypertension medicine with olives. Do not stop taking your medicine without consulting with a physician.
Nevertheless, another study has shown that consuming two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil daily reduces blood pressure drastically thanks to phenols present in olives.
Phenols play a significant role in lowering blood pressure. Especially, a polyphenol called oleuropein helps keep blood pressure under control. Oleuropein regulates the nitric oxide present in the blood vessels, which can help relax the vessel wall. That ultimately reduces blood pressure.
The effectiveness of olives in lowering blood pressure has been researched thoroughly. A study has revealed that 35 percent of the participants could discontinue their hypertensive medications after just six months of regularly consuming extra virgin olive oil. Nevertheless, it is not good to substitute olives with your blood pressure medicine. Add olives to your diet to complement the allopathic treatment.
3. Olives Improve blood circulation
The plant-based compounds in olives can ramp up nitric oxide production in the body.
Nitric oxide is a very potent vasodilator, i.e., it relaxes the walls of the blood vessels. This ensures undisrupted and smooth blood flow through the vessels and reduces blood pressure.
Nitric oxide also helps decrease the post-exercise tiredness and soreness in muscles. It also helps enhance the person’s overall performance after and during exercise.
Therefore, eating olives improves your blood circulation and helps you with exercise and workouts.
4. Olives improve the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood
Olives are rich in iron, a vital mineral for the human body. It is crucial for disseminating oxygen to all the organs of the body.
Furthermore, iron is a crucial compound of hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying compound of blood. The deficiency of iron can cause anemia which usually means an insufficient supply of oxygen to the organs, including the brain.
You must be aware that oxygen is critical for the functioning of the cell. If there is not ample oxygen provided to an organ, it may not function properly. If the brain is not getting enough oxygen, you may feel dizzy or experience a foggy brain.
Several types of olive can provide around 25-30% of a person’s daily iron needs.
5. Olives are high in Vitamin E
Olives are a significant source of vitamin E, which is a potent antioxidant. It can help prevent the free radicals from causing deterioration of body cells. Free radicals form due to oxidative stress. They have to be removed before they start damaging the cells.
Vitamin E is also known to prevent mental decline no resulting from aging. It is known to reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s while keeping one’s cognitive abilities intact. It is also beneficial in slowing down mental decline.
In cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, Vitamin E has been shown to reduce nerve damage. This soluble compound also helps people undergoing radiation therapy to help treat fibrosis.
Vitamin E is also beneficial for patients who have rheumatoid arthritis because of its pain-relieving properties. However, it has not been shown to reduce any swelling in the joints.
It improves stamina and the physical performance of an individual. If the intake of vitamin E is insufficient, a person becomes prone to becoming weak and falling sick quickly.
Vitamin E also keeps your eyes healthy and makes your skin glow. It also strengthens nails and prevents them from breakage. Therefore, a deficiency in this compound can lead to weak eyesight and frail muscles.
Limited research has also shown that vitamin E can help prevent cancer in some instances and reduce the risk of diabetes.
Eating olive may save you from all these widely prevalent ailments.
Olives also contain selenium and zinc, which aid vitamin E in its anti-oxidative functions.
A teaspoon of olive oil provides 1.9 mg of vitamin E, around 10% of the recommended daily allowance of 15 mg per day.
6. Olives are rich in antioxidants
Dietary antioxidants help lower the risk of chronic diseases like cancer and diabetes. Olives are highly rich in antioxidants and thus can play a significant role in fighting unwanted microorganisms and inflammation.
A compound called oleocanthal that is present in olives acts just like any anti-inflammatory drug.
According to one study, eating the pulpy residue from olives drastically increases the glutathione levels present in the blood. Notably, glutathione is one of the most potent antioxidants in the human body.
Olives are also believed to fight against the bacteria causing stomach and airway infections. One study indicates that olives contain antimicrobial compounds, which inhibit the growth of unpleasant microorganisms.
7. Olives help prevent cancer
There are several nutrients in olives that are linked to cancer prevention. Some studies show that olives contain antioxidants and anti-cancer compounds like squalene and terpenoids.
Hydroxytyrosol is another compound present in olives. It usually coexists with tyrosol, and both are considered to have the ability to prevent cancer.
Moreover, the oleic acid and antioxidants present in olives have been shown to damage the life cycle of cancer cells in the colon, stomach, and breast.
You may have heard that olive and olive oil are staples in the Mediterranean region. It may be a probable reason why the incidents of cancer and other chronic conditions are lower in the Mediterranean region.
8. Olives are a good source of Vitamin K
Olives contain high amounts of Vitamin K. If you are not a big fan of green veggies, you can still get Vitamin K from olives.
Vitamin K keeps your brain alert and sharp, even when you grow old. Studies show that it improves memory in older adults. Vitamin K helps improve brain health in the elderly and preserve their cognitive abilities.
Olives can also help contain the loss of some mental abilities, all thanks to Vitamin K. This vitamin also helps clotting blood. The risk of losing extra blood after an injury increases if there is a deficiency of Vitamin K.
9. Olives can improve bone health
Osteoporosis is quite common these days, especially in women of post-menopausal age. It marks decreased bone mass and bone quality. Osteoporosis increases the risk of fractures.
Occurrences of osteoporosis are lower in Mediterranean countries as compared to European and American countries. The statistics have led scientists to speculate that olives may be able to protect against the disease and improve bone health.
Some plant compounds in olives help prevent bone loss in animals. However, this premise is not yet confirmed because human studies on this issue are non-existent. But the current data links the Mediterranean diet to decreased fracture rates.
Olives also help decrease inflammatory processes giving rise to conditions like rheumatoid and osteoarthritis. Olives help promote bone health by slowing down the degeneration of bones secondary to bone-related conditions. Eating olives can prevent fractures and brittle bones.
10. Olives help with weight loss
Olives can prove to be quite efficient in shedding some pounds. One olive contains around seven calories, but these are negative calories. It takes more energy to process those calories.
Moreover, olives have monounsaturated fats that help lose visceral fat and promote insulin sensitivity. They are also beneficial in lowering the risk of heart diseases.
Snacking on olives before a meal can help you eat less. Consuming olives increase satiety and improve digestion. The monounsaturated fatty acids slow down digestion and release hormones to signal the brain that the stomach is full.
11. Olives reduce the risk of depression
Depression is one of the most common mental diseases prevailing worldwide. Research has shown that reducing the consumption of trans fats can lower the risk of depression.
Our dietary habits have become highly unhealthy mainly due to busy life routines and common fast foods. All this has led to an increased risk of depression. Fast food is rich in trans-fats that are associated with depression.
Apart from making the right dietary choices, eat olives to reduce your risk of depression. Olives do not contain any trans fats. They help to revamp your mental state.
They help alleviate exhaustion and provide necessary fats without being harmful.
Furthermore, scientists believe that the Mediterranean diet is linked to 33 percent lower depression risk.
A few studies have found a link between the consumption of polyunsaturated fats and a lower risk of depression.
However, there is a lot of room for research to verify if consuming olives or olive can reduce the risk of depression. Still, consuming olives will not impact your health negatively. There is no harm in eating them.
12. Olives can help relieve pain
Olives are rich in phytochemicals. One phytochemical called oleocanthal is a potent anti-inflammatory compound that rivals the effect of some very effective painkillers.
This compound makes olives an efficient remedy for pain resulting from chronic inflammatory conditions like arthritis, especially rheumatoid arthritis.
According to several studies, olive oil supplements reduce oxidative stress and improve inflammatory markers in individuals having rheumatoid arthritis.
13. Olives increase glutathione levels in the body
Glutathione is an essential antioxidant in the human body. Glutathione prevents damage to crucial cellular components caused by free radicals and other reactive oxygen species.
Several studies have shown that eating the pulpy residue of olives increases glutathione levels in the blood.
The essential functions of glutathione include helping immune functions, regenerating vitamins C and E, transporting mercury out of the brain, assisting apoptosis or programmed cell death, forming sperm cells, and many others.