Are Olives Good for You?

Olives are the fruits of the olive tree (Olea Europaea). Yes, olives are fruits, not vegetables.

There are about 700 varieties of different olive varieties in the world. Nevertheless, buying olives in a store you can usually see just two color type differences: green and black olives. 

different black and green olive varieties growing

Black is a conventional name because absolutely black olives do not exist in nature. Ripening, the olives darken, getting various shades, from bright brown to deep purple. 

If you bought perfectly black olives then they are most likely artificially coloured green olives. Such olives are processed with caustic soda (sodium hydroxide, a very toxic substance!) and then colored with artificial color iron gluconate E579. They are less tasty and most of their nutrients are killed by this process. 

Right after harvesting, olives are impossible to eat because of their bitterness. In order to get rid of bitterness, olives are kept in brine for several months. The only exceptions are Greek olives Throumpa from Thassos island. These olives lose their bitterness during the ripening and by the time of harvesting are already edible.  

Why Are Olives Good for You? Health Benefits of Olives. 

Why are olives so bitter? The cause of bitterness is oleuropein. This phytochemical with such a complicated name helps the olive tree save its fruits from birds and animals. (However, even this is not able to stop the olive fly, which is capable of ruthlessly destroying all the olives on your tree.) 

Green olives are larger and harder and contain more vitamins and polyphenols than dark ones. Dark olives are always slightly smaller, more gentle, and contain more oil than green ones. 

Oleuropein is a polyphenol, a natural antioxidant that supports the good functioning of the cardiovascular system by reducing bad cholesterol. Thus healthy fats and antioxidants in olives may help lower blood pressure, which can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. 

It also has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties and strengthens the immune system. 

Besides polyphenols, the pulp of olives is rich in proteins, pectins, vitamins A, E, C and B, as well as iron, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, sodium and copper.

Vitamin E protects our cells from oxidative damage and is a powerful antioxidant essential for a healthy body to function.

Iron plays an important role in energy production, immune support, as well as red blood cell formation and oxygen transport.

Copper is a microelement necessary for the normal functioning of the nervous system, immunity and wound healing. Also, copper deficiency may increase your risk of heart disease.

Olives are rich in calcium which helps in maintaining healthy muscles, bones and teeth. And of course, olives contain more than 30% of olive oil, which has high levels of the most valuable healthy poly- and monounsaturated fatty acids, which can help improve heart health and reduce the risk of chronic diseases. 

So, do you think olives are good for your health? 

Olives in Mediterranean Cuisine

In Mediterranean cuisine olives are used both as snacks and as ingredients in many dishes. They are put in salads, soups and stewed with vegetables. 

Olives are added to meat and fish to spice up the dish, usually along with oregano, rosemary and other herbs. Also, olives are absolutely indispensable for cooking canapes, rolls and bruschetta for various stand-up dinner parties. 

Olives, especially large green olives, can be marinated in olive oil with herbs, garlic, lemon, anchovies, onion cheese or fennel. 

Olives go well with Asian cuisine. For example, you can add them to thin green beans with tomatoes in soy sauce or to wild rice with mango sauce and vegetable salad. But in general, olives are simple, tasty and healthy snacks. But wait a moment, don’t eat them right out of the jar. Put the olives on a plate and dry them with a paper towel to remove residual brine. Add some olive oil, sprinkle with oregano and drizzle with lemon. And that’s it!   

How To Buy Good Olives? 

There are many types of olives available in stores and marketplaces. The most popular of them are olives in brine and olives in brine with olive oil. 

 How to choose and buy good olives? These simple rules will help:

  • Ask the seller about the region and harvest period. Olives are harvested from October to December and come to the store after aging in brine for 4 – 6 months. Usually, the shelf life is 2 years but it may be longer because salt is a very powerful preservative. 
  • When buying olives, taste them and only trust your taste buds. Olives must be juicy and saturated. You should feel the distinct, fresh, natural taste of olives but not the tasteless mass that has lain in brine for many years.
  • Buy olives with stones. Pitted olives are dead olives. They instantly absorb the brine or marinade in which they are stored. Since the texture of such olives is broken, the brine easily penetrates the pulp of the fruit and completely deprives it of its natural taste. 
  • Also, be careful when buying olives stuffed with almonds, lemon, pepper, or anchovies. First of all, all these flavors are a great opportunity to distract you from the lack of taste in the olives themselves. And secondly, in the production of stuffed olives, more preservatives are used. However, if you are in the region where olives are grown, then you can buy stuffed olives from farmers. In this case, you can be sure of the freshness and high quality of the product.

In general, the main rule is: only buy olives that have a natural and fresh taste of olives. Even if they are in vinegar or with herbs, the first thing you should feel is a taste of olives.  

Are Olives Good for You? – Depends on Quantity. 

If you (like us) can’t stop eating olives, you may already be wondering how many olives you should eat a day. 

You’ve probably heard this before: “While olives are an excellent source of healthy fats and antioxidants, there are certain limitations.” Or this: “Olives are good for you, but too many olives will make you fat because it’s fat.”

That’s bullshit. Eat as much olives as you want, what’s the problem?! The only limitation that should come to your mind is your conscience. You are (most likely) not alone, so think about your family and leave them some olives too. Well, if you are alone, there is no reason at all why you should part with a jar of your favorite olives. 

And if some “dietician” starts telling you that too much olives are not good for you, because olives contain fat and you risk gaining excess weight and so on and so forth… Just grab your olives and go to another room. Have you ever seen a person who has grown fat because of olives? You know, only politicians are more disgusting creatures than dieticians! 

Another “brilliant” idea, directly opposite to the previous one, sounds like this:
“Olives are good for weight loss because they are high in fiber and antioxidants, as well as oleuropein, which speeds up metabolism and promotes weight loss.” You can also find something like this: “Do olives help burn belly fat?” Yes, we live in such an weird world. 

In fact, it doesn’t work like that. There is only one cause of weight loss – a calorie deficit. And there is only one cause of obesity – a calorie surplus, and olives as well as meat, or sparkling wine or anything else have nothing to do with it.  

However, Be Careful: Most Olives Are Too Salty!

Yes, there’s one thing to keep in mind: most olives are too salty. And if you have high blood pressure, then this is a really serious problem. As we already know, in order to remove bitterness, olives are kept in brine for several months. Therefore, is very important to get rid of this salt. 

Sometimes, It is not enough to simply rinse them with cold water. This will only remove some of the salt from the surface of the olives. In order to remove all the salt from your olives, you need to do the following:

  1. Drain off any brine from the jar of olives. 
  2. Rinse the olives in running cold water for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Fill a jar of olives with clean, cold water and refrigerate for 1 day.
  4. Drain the water and repeat the whole procedure again.
  5. Do this for 3-5 days in a row. On the third day, you will already feel a significant reduction in salt in the olives. You can even take a couple of olives out of the jar the first day and save them for later comparison with less salty olives. 

On the fifth day, the olives will be quite edible. You can keep removing the salt if you want, but please note that along with the salt, your olives also lose some of their taste. 

So you need to find some balance between removing excess salt and preserving the natural flavor of your olives.  And then… enjoy!  

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