There are hundreds of types of olives, but some of the most popular are Manzanillo, Sevillano, Mission, Ascolano, Kalamata, and Barouni. Take your pick, because olives are one of the healthiest fruits for your heart, your bones, your skin, and your overall health. And don’t avoid them due to their high-fat content…that’s one of the benefits that make them so healthy! So, if you’ve got 5 minutes to spare, take an olive snack break.
More than 75% of the fat in olives (and olive oil) is oleic acid, which is a monounsaturated fat that has been proven to help reduce your cardiovascular disease risk by lowering blood pressure. When you consume olives, oleic acid travels into your cells and has the ability to alter the signaling patterns at the cell membrane level, in this way helping to regulate blood pressure. And the prestigious journal BMC Medicine reports that olive oil (high-quality extra virgin olive oil that is) can decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease and death in people predisposed to heart disease.
Increase Your Antioxidant and Anti-inflammation Power
According to the European Journal of Cancer Prevention, olives are abundant in antioxidants, with antioxidant properties higher than those of vitamin E! Olives are rich in distinctive antioxidants, such as oleuropein, which helps keep LDL cholesterol from oxidizing in your body and causing your arteries to harden. Oleuropein also exhibits anti-inflammatory capabilities by helping to suppress the activity of nitric oxide synthase (iNOS), which contributes to inflammation. Another phenolic compound in olives called oleocanthal has demonstrated anti-inflammatory action that rivals the anti-inflammatory power of the drug ibuprofen.
The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory mechanisms in olives make this nutrient-dense fruit a notable cancer weapon. Compounds in olives have been shown to help activate two anti-cancer genes: one that inhibits the development of tumors and another that helps induce cancer cell death.
The International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Medicine sums up the health benefits of olives:
“Several studies have shown that the incidence of coronary heart disease and cancers is lowest in the Mediterranean basin as compared to other parts of the world because of the diet … rich in olives and olive products.
… Oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid plays an important role in cancer prevention, while squalene showed anticancer effect …
Olive oil shows a role in the prevention of the development of carcinomas and olive oil may have chemopreventive properties against colon carcinogenesis …
Oleuropein is a powerful antioxidant and anti-angiogenic agent and shows a potent anti-tumor agent and cancer-protective effects.”
Oleuropein to the Rescue
Oleuropein in olives, along with other antioxidants such as Tyrosol, have been shown to increase life span. In lab studies, oleuropein increased longevity by 15% in treated cultures.
Along with the unique antioxidants hydroxytyrosol and squalene, oleuropein may help protect the skin from UV radiation. And studies have shown that olive oil infuses the skin with antioxidants when applied topically; so feel free to slather some olive oil on your skin when you are cooking!
Oleuropein has also been shown to help protect against the loss of bone mass. One hundred and twenty seven elderly men ate a Mediterranean diet high in olive oil for two years and saw an increase in a bone matrix protein called serum osteocalcin, as well as an increase in procollagen I N-terminal propetptide, which is another marker of bone health. Other antioxidant compounds in olives have been shown to activate bone-forming cells called osteoblasts.
Other benefits of olives include:
- Protecting against insulin resistance
- Keeping the liver healthy
- Providing antimicrobial and antibiotic assistance
- Stimulating testosterone production
- Delivering nutrients, such as vitamin A, for healthy vision
- Being a great source of copper, fiber, iron, and vitamin E
High-quality olives are easier to come by than high-quality olive oil. Always choose the extra-virgin variety of olive oil from a trusted source. Go local if you are fortunate enough to have an olive oil producer nearby.