Much of the Mediterranean diet is quite tasty and delicious as well as good for you. One of the most popular Mediterranean snacks is olives. Whether you like to eat green or black olives, or just cook with olive oil, most all types and forms of olives help decrease inflammation, risk of heart disease and may help fight cancer.
What are olives and where do they come from?
Olive trees and olive oil originated 6,000 to 8,000 years ago in the Mediterranean where they were highly coveted and valued for their versatility. Olives picked directly from the tree are extremely bitter but when brined or ground and pressed olives turn into a delicious, pickled snack or a multi-faceted oil. They are brined in several different ways, with water, salt, or lye, which removes the bitter taste of oleuropein. And olive oil is made with a series of crushing, grinding and separating to achieve the delicious oil.
Olives are 11 to 15% fat, 75% of which is oleic acid which is a type of monounsaturated fatty acid. But these particular fatty acids are healthy for your heart function. Of the 10.9 g of fat in an olive 7.7g are monounsaturated fats and these fats are loaded with tons of vitamins, including vitamin E, vitamin A, Copper, amino acids and antioxidants. These all aid in strengthening your immune system as well as preventing heart disease, chronic illness and decreasing inflammation.
How to eat Olives
Olives are a food that make a great plain snack or can be incorporated into different meals. If you like to snack on olives, eating about a handful (a quarter cup) a day will fulfill your quota. Be sure not to go overboard because if you eat too many olives, the calories do start to add up as well as the amount of sodium you are consuming. That said, if you aren’t an olives-out-of-the-jar person they can taste fantastic with many kinds of meats including chicken, beef, salmon but also salads, pastas, quinoa, and rice. Olives also can work with avocado, hummus and even some types of chocolate!
However, take caution if you have high blood pressure or are sensitive to high amounts of sodium as the large amounts of salt in the brine that olives are pickled in turns them into quite a salty snack. So, if you suffer from high blood pressure choosing a snack with lower sodium levels might be in your best interests.
Now if you don’t like olives or don’t want to consume them on a daily basis then olive oil is your perfect solution. Olive oil can is a great butter substitute that contains many more healthy fats than butter. If you are using olive oil, make sure it is extra virgin olive oil as it is the least processed of the olive oils and thus contains more antioxidants than regular olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil should taste refined, slightly peppery, and a little bitter just like biting into an olive. Olive oil can be used in a Greek salad dressing, pesto or pasta sauce, or a marinade for chicken and roasted vegetables.
But olive oil is more than just a cooking essential, it can be used as a skin moisturizer, in your hair, to loosen ear wax, alleviate a baby’s cradle cap, repair cracked heels, and soothe stretch marks and so much more.
The benefits of olives and olive oil and wide and diverse as was discovered by the Mediterranean peoples thousands of years ago. Both can help maintain good cholesterol, decrease inflammation, reduce risks of heart disease, and cancer. Help your body by providing it with the vitamins and antioxidants it craves by eating just a handful of olives every day.