Abdul Qudoos, founder of healthyfoodmanagement.com explains the health benefits of olives.
The olive's origin lies in the Mediterranean region, 8,000 years ago. Olives were used for food and as a source of oil, and that's why they're considered one of the oldest foods known to mankind. The olive tree was known as the symbol of peace and happiness.
The oil content of olives varies from 15 to 35% according to the types of olive (variety) and the origin where climate, weather, and soil can affect climate. The oil is rich source of omega-9/oleic acid.
Olives are rich in iron, calcium and copper, and are excellent source of dietary fibre, with the only negative factor being that they are high in sodium. The real benefit is that they contain no cholesterol and no sugar – a perfect fit for a low-carb life-style.
100g of olives contains around 103 calories, 3g of fibre and 2mg of vitamin E.
Health benefits of olives
Olives are considered one of the best natural sources of Vitamin E, a fat-soluble natural antioxidant (widely used in medicines, and as preservative in food) that neutralises damaging free radicals.
They are a good source of healthy monounsaturated fat, which has been found to reduce the risk of atherosclerosis and increase HDL (good) cholesterol. A positive effect on the blood cholesterol in our body has also been shown (keeping cholesterol from sticking to artery walls and away from plaque formation). It also helps to control blood sugar levels.
Olives contains natural antioxidants called polyphenols and flavonoids that are believed to help us to ward off cancer, having properties of anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal.
They stimulate the immune system and encourage the production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach. For muscles, olives possess a beneficial protein-to-fat ratio while remaining alkaline. For the skin, it erases fine lines and wrinkles, and smoothes the skin. Olives have a protective effect on cells that can lower the risk of damage and inflammation, and they can help reduce the severity of asthma, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Olives have also been found to help prevent heart disease, colon cancer, and reduce the frequency and intensity of hot flashes in women going through menopause.
Uses of olives
Olives are a fruit by nature, but they are generally used as a vegetable in cooking, you may see them in salads, as toppings for pizza or as a snack. Raw olives cannot be consumed because of their bitterness; Olives are normally cured through the lye process, fermented, or stuffed with herbs and spices.
One of the most popular uses of olive is extracting olive oil. Olive oil is popular for cooking, sautéing and stir fry and considered as healthy alternative to other seed oils (However, take care of high temperatures/flames, the oil should not exceed smoke point. Use the lowest heat possible to retain the healthy properties of olive oil).
Olive oil is easy to digest because of monounsaturated fat, our body can handle it with ease; it can be consumed with vegetables or wholegrain bread, or as a topping for salad and sauces.
The juice of olive and olive oil is consumed as it is for various ailments and by mixing-up with functional foods and medicinal foods, hence olive and olive oil should be considered as important part of our diet and essential.
Olive soup is a good remedy for a sore throat, according to traditional Chinese medicine.
What do studies say?
It has been found by the University of Granada that maslinic acid prevents cancer and regulates apoptosis in cancer growth. This ingredient is found in olive skin wax taken from the broken olive pulp.
Maslinic acid regulates cell growth and helps control the hypertrophy and hyperplasia process, which is beneficial in cancer treatment. Professor L Cara from the department of molecular biology and biochemistry, and PhD student Fermando Zurita found three advantages of Maslinic acid – the first is that it is highly cytoxic, which is different from anti-carcinogenic products. Second, it is a less toxic and more natural compound that only acts on carcinogenic cells. Third, it prevents cancer appearance and has a preventative nature.
Even though Professor L Cara studied the effect of maslinic acid for treating colon cancer, the acid can be effective in many types of tumours. This has only been tested on mice, but could easily be tested on humans in the near future.
When choosing olives for their health benefits (and flavour), always opt for those that have been traditionally cured (as opposed to lye-processed). No matter what the variety, they're sure to add a burst of flavour and nutrition to any dish.
When choosing olive oil for health benefits always go for extravirgin, first-pressed or cold-pressed/expeller-pressed. Extra-virgin olive oil is purest, most stable against oxidation (doesn't turn rancid as other seed oils), lowest in acidity and one of the healthiest oils in the world.
Constituents of the olive tree, olea europaea, as phenolic compounds extracted from the leaves have a traditional usage history. Olive leaf extract has anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties and has been used to fight colds and flu, yeast and viral infections, and shingles. 3, 4-dihydroxyphenyl ethanol or hydroxytyrosol (HT) is a simple phenol found predominantly in olea europaea, is known for its potent antioxidant property and radical scavenging capacity.