Saturday, April 14, 2012

NUTRITION: Benefits of Olives

I am a big fan of olives ... Green olives, black olives, kalamata olives, olive oil ... I love them all. Here is an article I am reprinting from

Green or ripe, olives are a delightful little fruit that was once considered sacred. The Greeks considered it a symbol of goodness and nobility. Even today the branches of the olive tree are a symbol of peace. Although the tree was first grown around the Mediterranean, it is now cultivated in subtropical areas in the United States, Latin America, and the Mediterranean.

Health Benefits: The juice of the olive, otherwise known as olive oil, is a delicious source of antioxidants. This oil is monounsaturated, and it has a positive effect on the cholesterol level in our blood streams. Monounsaturated fats are not considered “essential”, but they should be an important part of our diets. These oils act to keep cholesterol from sticking to our artery walls. Not only that, but they help to control blood sugar, a big plus in a controlled carbohydrate diet. After all, when the blood sugar is under control, so is the insulin. And, insulin is a huge factor in our bodies’ storing food as fat.

Olives contain substances that are believed to help us to ward off cancer, polyphenols. Polyphenols give the olive its taste and aroma. One of the polyphenols found in olives is thought to act as an anti-inflammatory.

Choosing olive oil: When you’re shopping for olive oil, always purchase oil that has been cold-pressed. The label could also say “expeller-pressed.” Heat processing destroys the better properties of oil. Extra-virgin olive oil is probably the healthiest. It is the “first pressed” and has a lovely flavor. Extra-virgin is the lowest in acidity and is the purest. Virgin oil also has a nice taste, but the acidity is higher than in extra-virgin oil. “Normal” olive oil is not as pure and has been refined, a process which can remove the benefits of the extra-virgin oils. Olive oil is stable and does not turn rancid as easily as seed oils, but it is best not to buy it in huge quantities. Try to purchase no more than can be used in a month.

Not all olive oils taste the same. The quality and the flavor vary widely from one grower to another. It is much like wine in this respect. The climate, weather, and soil can affect the oils. Some are spicy, some nutty, and others are very mild. The color also can vary from yellow to green. This color variation has to do with the time of harvest rather than the quality of the oil. Olives can be stored for up to two years unopened. After opening, olives in brine can be refrigerated for several weeks in a non-metal container. Dry-cured olives can be kept safely for a very long time in the refrigerator.

Olive oil is easy to digest. Because it is monounsaturated, your body can handle it with ease. Enjoy it on vegetables or whole-grain bread. It’s also nice for saute-ing, but be sure not to heat it to the point of smoking. Use the lowest heat possible to produce the results you want.


Mission Olives – also known as the common black olive. They get their color and flavor from lye curing and oxygenation.

Spanish Olives – often stuffed with foods such as pimentos, almonds, and onions. These olives are picked young, soaked in lye, then fermented in a brine solution for six to twelve months. Then, they are packed in a weak brine when bottled.

Kalamata Olives – also known as Greek olives, one of the more popular ripe olives which are imported to the U.S.

Nicoise Olives – French olives, also a ripe olive imported to the U.S.

Both kalamata and nicoise olives can be cured in a variety of ways, either in bulk, bottled or canned. These can also be found dry-cured, a process of drying them by packing the olives in salt. Normally, they are then rubbed with olive oil and often packed with herbs. Olives cured in this manner have an intense flavor and are delightful for snacking, as well as for imparting a lovely flavor to your recipes.

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