Olives are a fruit that grows on the olive tree, which grows in the Mediterranean, tropical and central Asia, and parts of Africa. Researchers have found olive seeds in Spain that date back 8,000 years, and archaeological evidence suggests that early civilizations cultivated olive trees as a crop as early as 2500 BCE.
Raw olives are far too bitter to eat, and can only be enjoyed after they are processed, usually by curing or pickling them. Most olives are made into olive oil, but some olives are preserved to be enjoyed in meals, especially in Mediterranean cuisine. Green olives are olives that are harvested before they are fully ripe. Their distinct flavor is due, in part, to the fact that they are soaked in lye before being brined in oil.
Olives are uniquely flavorful, with a sharp, salty taste. But in addition to being a delicious addition to your meals, they’re also incredibly healthy. Despite their high sodium content, olives are low in cholesterol and are packed with nutrients that help your body thrive. Here are just a few of the health benefits you can enjoy from eating green olives:
May Lower Risk of Heart Disease
Mediterranean diets are heavy in olives. Studies show that women who eat a Mediterranean diet have a significantly reduced risk of developing heart disease.
One explanation may be that olives are low in cholesterol, which has been linked to heart disease. Another potential explanation is that olives are a good source of monounsaturated fats, which the American Heart Association has shown can improve heart health.
Reduce Chronic Inflammation
Olives are packed with antioxidants, which have been shown to help with chronic inflammation. Two kinds of antioxidants found in olives, hydroxytyrosol and oleanolic acid, have been effective in reducing inflammation in animal test subjects. Studies have shown oleanolic acid’s health benefits in animals, not just in reducing inflammation, but also in promoting liver health and regulating fat levels in their blood.
Olives are an excellent source of healthy fats. They’re also packed with nutrients, including:
- Vitamin E
Nutrients per Serving
One green olive contains:
- Calories: 10
- Fat: 1 gram
- Cholesterol: 0 milligrams
- Sodium: 110 milligrams
- Carbohydrates: 1 gram
- Fiber: 0 grams
- Sugar: 0 grams
- Protein: 0 grams
Although olives are generally healthy in moderate amounts, it’s important to remember that they contain a high amount of fat and sodium. Keep in mind that just one green olive contains 110 milligrams of sodium, and that salt content can add up quickly. The Centers for Disease Control recommends that adults consume less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day.
The CDC estimates that 90 percent of American adults consume too much sodium, which is linked with higher blood pressure and bloating.
Pay attention to portion sizes when eating green olives, and make sure to balance your sodium intake by eating foods that are rich in potassium.
How to Prepare Green Olives
Store-bought olives can be eaten on their own in moderation, or paired with many different foods for a unique, salty flavor. Try adding green olives to:
- Pasta salad
- Greek salad
- Potato salad
- Spaghetti puttanesca