Oh olives! You really do not get the appreciation you deserve. The world is going nuts about olive oil and all its goodness but there is rarely any talk about the actual olive. These little pieces of heaven are simply amazing! Olives are packed with omega-3 (the good fat), iron and lots of other minerals and vitamins that we all need.
Types of olives
There are over tens of varieties of olives, based on the region they are harvested (Greece, Turkey, Spain, France, etc) and the way they are cured. We rarely consume olives raw due to their bitter taste. Most of us know olives only in their marinated form. The most common olives are
Green olives are typically harvested before they are fully ripped. They are picked in September but they are enjoyed year around. The most popular type of green olives is pimento stuffed green olives, where a red pepper is inserted in lieu of the pit.
Black olives are mature olives that have ripened fully. However some black olives are not naturally black, but have been darkened through fermentation processes. Black olives come in a variety of shapes and sizes and typically contain more oil than green olives.
Kalamata olives are the most popular Greek olives.
They are harvested fully ripe and they have a deep purple color although they are a type of black olives. They have a distinct almond shape look and they are usually cured in brine. They have a very strong and fruity flavor.
Olives have a plethora of health benefits. The monounsaturated fats help fight against “bad” cholesterol and help protect our heart and cell membranes. Moreover olives have a very high content of vitamin E. One cup of black olives has approximately 20 percent of the recommended daily value of this essential vitamin. Vitamin E and the flavonoids found in olives have been shown to have antioxidant properties as well as an ability to fight free radicals (those little rascals that destroy body cell structures and can cause a ton of diseases). Although olives bring a lot of health benefits we should be mindful of the quantities we eat, as they have a relatively high content of salt (up to 12% of the daily recommended value for six olives) due to the curing process.
Olives can be consumed in so many ways. They can be used in salads, sandwiches or meat and casserole toppings.
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7 Health Benefits of Black Olives
Here are seven health benefits of black olives.
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.
Cancer Prevention 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.
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.
Bone and Connective Tissue The anti-inflammatory abilities of the monounsaturated fats, vitamin E and polyphenols in black olives may also help dull the asperity of asthma, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. Most of the suffering in having one of these three bone maladies is brought about by high levels of free radicals. Olive oil also contains a chemical called oleocanthal, which acts as a painkiller. Research has found that oleocanthal inhibits inflammation by the same means that drugs like Ibuprofen do.
Digestive Tract Health Frequent consumption of both vitamin E and the monounsaturated fats in black olives is associated with lower rates of colon cancer. These nutrients help prevent colon cancer by neutralizing free radicals. Olive oil’s protective function also has a beneficial effect on ulcers and gastritis. Olive oil activates the secretion of bile and pancreatic hormones much more naturally than prescribed drugs, thereby lowering the incidence of gallstone formation. A cup of black olives also contains 17% of the daily allowance of fiber, which promotes digestive tract health by helping to move food through the system at a healthier pace. This keeps any one part of the digestive tract from having to work too hard and supports the ideal balance of chemicals and populations of microorganisms required for a healthy digestive system.
Good Source of Iron Black olives 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.
Eye Health One cup of black 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.