Olives have been enjoyed for thousands of years and are much appreciated for the use of their oil. However there are surprising health benefits that whole olives contribute towards. Olives decrease heart disease risk, anti-inflammatory effects, and even manipulating cellular development!
Over 80% of the calories in 1 cup of olives come from dietary fats, however these are overwhelmingly from monounsaturated fats. Olives contain no cholesterol because they are of plant and not animal origin. Dietary fats have been extensively studied and there are still many controversial views and opinions on how much and what type of fat to consume. As a registered dietitian nutritionist and registered nurse, I hold to the opinion and the research that plant-based fats are superior to animal-based fats and that dietary fat is a healthy part of a balanced diet.
In fact, a group of research participants who increased their intake of monounsaturated plant-based fats without increasing their overall dietary fat intake, showed improvements in LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol, and HDL/LDL cholesterol ratio. Oleic acid, a type of dietary fat found in olives was able to influence signaling patterns in blood vessel cell membranes, which resulted in decreased blood pressure. Oleuropein, a phytochemical in olives has been shown to decrease oxidation of LDL cholesterol, lower oxidative stress, and protect neurons from damage.
Olives contain a vast array of phytochemicals that give them their color, flavor, and healing abilities. Most likely the phytochemicals found in Olives are responsible for enhancing glutathione in the human body which is a powerful antioxidant. Research study shows that phytochemicals in olives block histamine and lower blood levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) and therefore can be considered as an anti-inflammatory food.
Amazingly enough, phytochemicals in olives have been shown to interrupt the life cycle of breast cancer cells and gastric cancer cells! Even in a person without active cancer, olives can be consumed to lower cancer risk and protect DNA development and replication.
Olive Leaf Extract
As a supplement, olive leaf extract is known for its high antioxidant levels and boosting the immune system. Olive leaf extract has also been studied and shown to have antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and antioxidant effects. Taking olive leaf extract orally also seems to lower blood pressure in patients with hypertension. If I could name a favorite brand, I would choose Barlean’s Olive Leaf Extract (since I toured factory and met the Barlean family, I would say they are a trustworthy, industrious, and hardworking family business). Barlean’s Organic Oils.
Olives are a meaty, zesty, and savory type of fruit that is categorized as a drupe. A drupe is a fleshy fruit with thin skin and a central stone or pit such as a plum, cherry, or almond. They are a staple of the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern diet as the plant originates from these two regions. Years ago, an inspirational author, who became the most widely translated female author of all time, Ellen G. White, wrote many articles, letters, and books featuring health and dietary counsel. She wrote back in the early twentieth century “when properly prepared, olives like nuts, supply the pace of butter…the oil, as eaten in the olive, is far preferable to animal oil or fat.” Ministry of Healing, 298, 1905.
How to select olives
I prefer to use olives from a glass jar than from a can. In America, most olives from the can are lye-cured, and I would rather stick with as natural and chemical-free foods as possible. Instead, select olives stored in glass jars, cured in a brine, water, or dry-cured with salt. It may surprise you that curing olives is not indicative to color change and there are a variety of olive species that range from green to a dark purple color.
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