Why Are Olives Good for Me?

Why The Health Is This Good For Me?

From the WebMD Archives

By Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN

What They Are

A bowl of olives (black, from a can) was considered an exotic treat 30 years ago. Our modern food-distribution system deserve props for making a wide variety of olives more accessible, even commonplace.

Olives are closely associated with the Mediterranean, although they grow worldwide. You'll find olive trees in Spain, Argentina, Greece, Italy, Morocco, Egypt, Mexico and California.

I know you’re comfortable with olive oil by now, so let’s shimmy up to the antipasto bar.

The Dirty Deets

Calorie count varies depending on the size and shape of olives (e.g., the little green ones are about 4 calories each, and the colossal black ones are about 7 calories each). Olives are green when unripe and grow darker in hue as they mature. No matter what size or color, olives are a great source of vitamin E, copper, zinc and fiber.

  • Olives are loaded with antioxidants, and the antioxidant profile changes as olives mature. These ant-o’s help fight inflammation, oxidative stress and cancer. Oleuropein, an antioxidant phytonutrient found exclusively in olives, has been linked to colon-, breast- and skin-cancer protection.
  • Eating olives and olive oil has been linked to a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease, thanks to oleocanthal, a neuroprotective compound.
  • Considered fruits, not vegetables, olives are high in iron, which helps form hemoglobin. This protein carries oxygen in your blood, which keeps you energized and your immune system humming.

How To Chow Down

You don’t have to be creative to work olives in. They’re great straight up (just pop one on each finger like you're giving a makeshift finger-puppet show, and count down your characters). You can eat 'em hot or cold, and at any time of day.

  • Tapenade is a healthy, flavorful starter. Add in a bunch of herbs, swap the toast or bread for endive and you’ll have amazing hors d'oeuvres to serve guests.
  • Olives pair famously with chicken and spices in a flavorful Moroccan-inspired tagine or Italian-inspired Sicilian stew.
  • I recommend that daily snacks feature veggies and a fat, and nothing fits the bill better than olives, which can satisfy the hummus, guac, cheese or nut-butter boredom. Olives and crudites are a go-to snack in my book.

In The Know

If you're extending an olive branch, it means you're seeking peace or reconciliation. Peace out, friends. I’m off to find myself some Niçoise, Kalamatas and Manzanillas!