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Health Benefits of Kalamata Olives

Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on September 17, 2020

Named for the city in Greece where they were first grown, kalamata olives — like all olives — come from the olive tree and must be cured in a specific way before they can be eaten. 

Kalamata olives, in particular, only grow in the Peloponnese Peninsula in Greece. Although all olives come from olive trees, different climates have different effects on the olives that are produced.

Olive trees in the Peloponnese Peninsula tend to have larger leaves than other olive trees and can absorb a lot of sun, which is a major factor in the production of the delicious, purple-hued kalamata olives. 

Health Benefits

In addition to injecting a unique, salty Mediterannean flavor into your favorite dishes, Kalamata olives provide a number of important health benefits. They are full of rich antioxidants, and studies link diets including regular servings of olives with a number of impressive results. 

Reduce Risks of Heart Disease

Kalamata olives may reduce your risks of heart disease. This is due to the presence of hydroxytyrosol in the olives.

Hydroxytyrosol is an antioxidant that has been shown to decrease LDL (bad) cholesterol and increase HDL (good) cholesterol levels. 

High levels of LDL cholesterol are associated with increased risks of heart attack and stroke, while high levels of HDL cholesterol are associated with a decreased risk of heart attack and stroke. Eating foods, such as kalamata olives, that put your cholesterol ratios on track can benefit your overall heart health. 

May Reduce Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease

Kalamata olives contain a compound called gallic acid. A recent study showed that gallic acid can help repair nerve cell damage caused by Alzheimer’s Disease in rats.

Although more studies are needed to see if gallic acid would have the same effect on humans, these initial findings suggest that kalamata olives could be beneficial to people living with Alzheimer’s Disease or at risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease. 

Nutrition

In addition to their many health benefits, kalamata olives are also loaded with micro- and macro-nutrients, including: 

  • Iron
  • Calcium
  • Copper
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin E
  • Magnesium
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium

Nutrients per Serving

One serving of kalamata olives is equivalent to approximately two olives. Those two olives contain:

Portion Sizes

Kalamata olives are healthy when consumed in moderation, but it’s important to remember that, like all olives, they’re high in sodium. Having too much sodium in your diet forces your heart to work harder to do its job and can lead to conditions that include congestive heart failure and kidney disease. Limit your portions of olives, as well as processed foods, and try to keep your sodium intake at or below 2300 milligrams each day. 

How to Prepare Kalamata Olives

Kalamata olives are only grown in the Mediterranean, so it should come as no surprise that they’re often called for specifically in Mediterannean-style dishes. 

Here are some ways you can add kalamata olives to your diet: 

  • Included in a cheese platter
  • Added to a submarine sandwich with Italian meats
  • On pizza
  • In homemade spaghetti sauce
  • In Greek salad
  • Paired with fish

Show Sources

SOURCES:

Basic Clinical Neuroscience: “Effect of Gallic Acid on Dementia Type of Alzheimer Disease in Rats: Electrophysiological and Histological Studies.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “LDL and HDL Cholesterol: "Bad" and "Good" Cholesterol.”

Frontiers in Nutrition: “Hydroxytyrosol and Potential Uses in Cardiovascular Diseases, Cancer, and AIDS.”

Frontiers in Plant Science: “The Major Qualitative Characteristics of Olive (Olea europaea L.) Cultivated in Southwest China.”

Mayo Clinic: “Sodium: How to Tame Your Salt Habit.”

University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences: “Olives.”

USDA Food Data Central: “Kalamata Olives.”

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