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Olives

This article is part of a larger article titled "100+ Healthiest Foods On Planet Earth."  Read it here.

Olives Nutritional Information (per 100g)

Water: 80 g
Calories: 115 kcal
Protein: 0.8 g
Carbohydrate: 6.3 g
Dietary fiber: 3.2 g
Fat: 10.7 g
Saturated fat: 1.4 g
Monounsaturated fat: 7.9 g
Polyunsaturated fat: 0.9 g
Vitamin C: 0.9 mg
Vitamin A: 20 μg
Vitamin E: 1.7 mg
Vitamin K: 1.4 μg
Calcium: 88 mg
Iron: 3.3 mg
Magnesium: 4 mg
Phosphorus: 3 mg
Potassium: 8 mg
Sodium: 735 mg
Zinc: 0.2 mg

Olives are without doubt one of the healthiest (and most researched) foods on the planet. The vast amount of research done into olive oil (get extra virgin, it does make a difference) has shown a wide array of health benefits (including lengthening your life!). However, the whole food has some fantastic benefits for your health on top of that, ranging from being a powerful cancer fighter to stopping many risk factors for heart disease.

Although often olives are neglected in favour of olive oil (widely recognised as the ‘healthiest oil’ widely available), you really don’t want to exclude the whole food from your diet if you want to reap the full benefits of the olive, as there are a couple of nutritional surprises in there!

Firstly, 100g of olives contains 18% of your Daily Value (DV) of iron, an essential mineral that you don’t want to be deficient in (if you want to avoid tiredness, pale skin and other signs of anaemia). Also, with 12% DV of dietary fibre, 8% DV vitamin A, and 8% calcium, olives will help to ensure your digestive, eye and bone health stay in shape. But a word of warning: olives are very high in salt (100g contains 30% of your DV), so if you are guilty of having a high sodium diet, it’s probably best to stick to olive oil.

Aside from the nutrition, however, the olive is really valuable for its uniquely beneficial effects to a wide variety of aspects of our health. One compound in particular, oleuropein, has an astonishing variety of health benefits. This review paper points out that oleuropein has proven antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, anti-microbial and anti-viral capabilities, in addition to helping prevent atherosclerosis, protect the cardiovascular system from toxic chemotherapy drugs, and help the treatment of heart disease and possibly even weight loss. Research even suggests that oleuropein may lessen the effects of fatty liver disease (common in obese people), and possibly prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s.

That’s a lot to take in, so let’s recap: a compound unique to olives can not only help prevent infection from bacteria and microbes, prevent cancer, and prevent heart disease (all huge killers in the developed world), it also helps prevent inflammation, free radical damage, and possibly Alzheimer’s. But even that list doesn’t cover the many benefits of olives: the triterpenes found in their skin have been found to fight breast cancer, in addition to antioxidant benefits. In fact, not only do olives have well documented antioxidant effects, they also have been shown to increase glutiathone levels, and important antioxidant in the body.

So, olives are fantastic for your health. But what about olive oil? Well, of course you miss out on some of the nutritional benefits, because what is left is essentially fat. But it is the healthy fats in olive oil (and olives) which we really need to talk about! The primary fat is something called oleic acid (a kind of monounsaturated fat), and it is extremely good for you as fats go. It has been shown to lower blood pressure, in addition to being a potent anti-inflammatory. It also has been shown to have a beneficial effect on genes that lead to cancer, especially breast cancer.

But why do we know about all these benefits? Well, the reason that olive oil is so well researched has to do with the ‘Mediterranean Diet’, or the eating habits of some countries that lay around the Mediterranean Sea. The diet became famous because of the amazingly low instances of heart disease in these countries compared to the rest of the developed world; and it has been proven to have astounding effects on longevity, with olive oil coming in for specific praise as a key part of the diet. If proof that eating olive oil will make you live longer won’t persuadeyou to eat it, then I don’t know what will!