Health benefits of olives

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Medically reviewed by Barbie Cervoni, MS, RD, CDCES, CDN

Olives are small, oval fruits that grow on trees (European oils). These trees are traditionally found in the Mediterranean basin, especially in Spain, Italy, Morocco, Greece and Turkey, but are also planted in areas such as South America and California. Olives are naturally packed with healthy monounsaturated fats, as well as antioxidants like vitamin E, which help fight disease-causing free radical damage in the body.

A Mediterranean diet has been proven time and time again to be one of the best eating patterns for health and longevity. And it’s no coincidence that olives, as well as olive oil, are a hallmark of the healthy meal plan.

Health benefits of olives

Olives are packed with good nutrients that support our cardiometabolic health, including factors that affect your heart, blood and blood vessels. Thus, the fruit keeps us well fed.

They support heart health

Olives and olive oil are among the best sources of monounsaturated fatty acids (or MUFAs), the heart-healthy dietary fats that help lower our “bad” LDL cholesterol and raise our “good” HDL cholesterol.

Research repeatedly shows that diets high in MUFAs, such as those found in olives, nuts, seeds and avocados, are associated with better long-term health outcomes. A 2022 study reported that people who consumed more than half a tablespoon of olive oil daily were 19% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease than people who consumed little or no olive oil. Frequent consumers of olive oil also had a lower risk of death from other causes, including respiratory and neurodegenerative diseases, as well as cancer.

They are packed with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients

Olive oil usually gets most of the credit for being an anti-inflammatory ingredient, but olives themselves are packed with important nutrients, such as vitamin E. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that helps scavenge free radicals in the body (which your body breaks down) . cells), reducing oxidative stress or an imbalance between antioxidants and free radicals in your body. This ultimately lowers your risk of disease.

Olives also contain flavonoids (natural dietary compounds found in many fruits and vegetables) such as quercetin, which has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It also contains hydroxytyrosol, a polyphenol (another type of natural nutrient) with powerful anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and antioxidant properties.

They promote satiety

Fat fills. Dietary fats contain more calories per gram than proteins or carbohydrates and are digested more slowly. While one gram of fat contains nine calories, one gram of protein or carbohydrate provides only four calories. This is why adding healthy fats to our meals and snacks makes them more filling and satisfying.

Interestingly, the healthy fats found in olives can help with weight management and not just help fill us up. A 2020 systematic review reported that diets enriched in oleic acid, the most abundant MUFA in olives, could potentially support body reconstitution by increasing the fat-burning process and energy expenditure (calorie burn).

They can help balance blood sugar levels

Combining carbohydrates with healthy fats and lean protein is one of the best ways to promote stable blood sugar or blood glucose levels. That’s because both fats and proteins help reduce the blood sugar spikes that can follow after we eat carbs.

The type of the fats we consume matters, however. Consuming a large excess amount of saturated fats concentrated in foods of animal origin, such as ham or cheese, may contribute to the development of insulin resistance, a common precursor to type 2 diabetes.

On the other hand, unsaturated fats, such as the MUFAs in olives, can improve blood sugar control. A 2018 systematic review found that replacing carbohydrates with the same number of calories from unsaturated fats led to improvements in hemoglobin A1c (a measure of blood sugar control over the past two to three months) and insulin sensitivity. However, replacing carbohydrates with saturated fats did not have the same effect. In addition, when polyunsaturated fats – such as the omega-3s we get from oily fish – were exchanged for carbohydrates, even greater reductions in blood sugar were observed.

Related: Healthy High Fat Foods

Nutrition of olives

Olives are one of the best sources of monounsaturated fats such as oleic acid. According to the USDA’s Food DataCentral, one cup of black olives provides:

  • Calories: 157

  • Fat: 14 gr

  • Unsaturated fat: 11 gr

  • Saturated fat: 3 gr

  • Sodium: 992mg

  • Carbohydrates: 8 gr

  • Fiber: 2 gr

  • Added sugars: 0 gr

  • Egg white: 1 gr

Olives are generally low in protein and carbohydrates and high in fat. However, the majority of the dietary fats in olives are those unsaturated fatty acids that can help support healthy cholesterol levels.

However, if your main cardiovascular concern is hypertension (aka high blood pressure), be aware of olives’ high sodium content — nearly 1,000 milligrams per serving. It is important to note that the serving size listed above is 1 cup of olives, more than most of us consume in one sitting. But even half that amount would provide a significant amount of salt, especially for those who limit their daily sodium consumption.


People watching their sodium intake should enjoy olives in moderation. The staple of the Mediterranean diet is usually high in salt thanks to the fact that it is usually preserved in salt water or brine.

The American Heart Association recommends that healthy adults consume no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, while some individuals diagnosed with hypertension may need to limit their intake to as little as 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day. For people with hypertension, just ½ cup of black olives can represent 33% of their daily sodium goal.

If you’re salt sensitive or watching your blood pressure, stick to ¼ cup of olives (which contain about 250 milligrams of sodium) as your serving size. You can also rinse your jarred olives to slightly reduce the salt content.

Another option is to look for olives with the words “low sodium” on the label. Note: ‘Low Sodium’ and ‘Low Sodium’ are not synonyms. Just because a product has less sodium than the original doesn’t mean it’s a low-sodium food, so be sure to still check the nutrition facts panel to assess how many milligrams of sodium there are per serving.

Tips for eating olives

It’s a good idea to get the majority of the fats you consume from unsaturated fats. Nuts, seeds, avocado, fish and of course olives and olive oil are all great sources.

Here are some delicious and healthy ways to enjoy olives:

  • Incorporate olives into salads or Mediterranean-inspired grain bowls along with other antioxidant-rich ingredients like tomatoes and caramelized onions.

  • Try a simple pan-fried chicken recipe with flavorful fruits and vegetables, such as olives and fennel.

  • Toss olives into a quickie whole-wheat pasta along with kale pesto and sauteed Swiss chard for a fiber-filled noodle night.

  • Spread olive tapenade on a homemade chicken sandwich for a nutritious flavor boost.

  • Do you like pretzels? Swap them for low-sodium flaxseed crackers and add a few olives on the side for a high-fiber snack.

A quick overview

Olives are a great source of monounsaturated fats that support cardiovascular health, and also contain antioxidants such as flavonoids and vitamin E. They are also full of flavor and very versatile.

Unlike olive oil, olives are usually preserved in a high-sodium brine. Practice moderation with your olive portions to control your salt intake.

If you’ve been diagnosed with hypertension or are watching your sodium intake for other reasons, talk to your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian about the right amount of olives for you.

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Read the original article on Health.

Health benefits of olives

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