Olives are a powerful and delicious fruit that can provide the human body with a wealth of health benefits including their ability to prevent bone loss, prevent various cancers, reduce inflammation and arthritis, improve digestion, soothe allergic reactions, improve blood circulation, protect against heart disease, boost cognitive function, defend against infections, and lower blood pressure.
Olives are perhaps best known in the Eastern Mediterranean region, and although they are now available throughout the world, this is the area where they first came to prominence, as well as in the northern regions of Iraq and Iran. They have been used for their culinary value and medicinal benefits for thousands of years, stretching all the way back to ancient times of Greece and Rome. The word “olive” is actually derived from those languages, and it appears in literature and history of countless Mediterranean empires and cultures. Olive oil gets a lot of attention because it is so functional in cooking, and is hailed as having a more concentrated form of nutrients than the olive fruit itself, but it is important not to overlook the massive health benefits that all olives possess.
There are many different species of olives, and some may have more or less of the important components that add to personal health, but they all possess certain elements that make them irreplaceable in a healthy diet. They are best when added to salads, sandwiches, or eaten as a salty snack or appetizer. Their oil is used in countless recipes, and the olive trees are sources of rich extracted oil and high-quality wood for construction. Basically, every part of the olive tree is important, and people around the world have valued it for thousands of years; they can’t all be wrong!
The health and medicinal benefits of olives mainly come from its nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and organic compounds, including iron, fiber, copper, vitamin-E, phenolic compounds, oleic acid, and a variety of antioxidants. let’s explore the health benefits in greater detail below.
Health Benefits of Olives
Heart Health Booster: Heart disease is one of the most deadly and widespread health conditions throughout the world, so people are always looking for ways to improve heart health and defend against all of the factors that can contribute to atherosclerosis, heart attacks, plaque build-up, cardiovascular disease, and strokes. Olives possess a monounsaturated fat called oleic acid, which has been linked to preventing heart disease. The oil of olives is where this oleic acid is located, and it is responsible for lower blood pressure, which reduces the chances of cardiovascular complications and general stress on the system.
Furthermore, olives are rich in phenolic compounds, which are commonly linked to cancer prevention, but also serve a major purpose in protecting the heart. Phenolic compounds like hydroxytyrosol act as anticoagulants to thin the blood, which reduces the chances of blood clots developing and dangerously blocking the flow of blood. Aside from that, the same phenolic compound also eases blood vessel tension and dilates the blood vessels, which reduces the strain on the heart and increases blood flow around the body in a healthy way, ensuring the proper functioning and oxygenation of the various organ systems.
Bone Loss: People eating a traditional “Mediterranean diet” have been found to have lower instances of bone loss and osteoporosis, but the definite explanation behind this phenomenon was only discovered recently. The compound mentioned earlier, hydroxytyrosol, as well as oleuropein, have been positively linked in research studies to increased calcium deposition and bone growth, leading to a distinct drop in osteoporosis. Add a healthy amount of olives or olive oil to your diet if you are already at risk for bone degeneration, or if you have some family history of it, and stay healthy and strong well into your old age.
Cancer Prevention: The mystery surrounding the “cure for cancer” remains a major problem in the world today, but there are many alternative ways to treat, slow down, or even prevent cancer from occurring. Olives approach the cancer problem from a number of beneficial directions. First of all, olives contain anthocyanins, which are positively connected to cancer prevention as an antioxidant and an anti-inflammatory substance. Antioxidants defend the body against free radicals, which mutate healthy cells into cancerous ones, so adding as many antioxidants as you can is the best way to protect yourself.
Secondly, olives have oleic acid as mentioned earlier, which inhibit certain growth factor receptors that trigger the development of breast cancer. Lastly, that hydroxytyrosol comes into play for a third time, working to prevent DNA mutation and abnormal cell growth; in other words, it acts as a second type of antioxidant. Even the skin of the olive contains maslinic, which has been connected to programmed cell death (apoptosis) in colon cancer cells.
Reduce Inflammation: Various compounds in olives function not only as antioxidant compounds, but also anti-inflammatory ones. These reduce inflammation throughout the body after eating them, which includes a reduction in pain and irritation in the joints, muscles, injuries, tendons, and extremities which may suffer from various types of inflammation from a number of medical conditions. Particularly in terms of arthritis, gout, and other rheumatic conditions, olives can be a major benefit and alleviate the associate pain.
Digestion: Olives are a healthy source of fiber, supplying almost 20% of the daily requirements for fiber in a single cup. High fiber content ensures the proper functioning of your digestive system, because it stimulates peristaltic motion in the intestines, moving the bowel movements along and helping to keep you regular. Fiber also makes you feel full, so ghrelin, the hunger hormone, doesn’t get released, and therefor, overeating is eliminated. Not only can fiber increase your digestive and gastrointestinal health, it can also help you lose weight! Fiber also boosts heart health by working to eliminate excess cholesterol in the blood.
Allergic Reactions: In a somewhat related aspect to their anti-inflammatory activities, olives can also help to reduce the intensity or frequency of allergic reactions. Certain components of olives function as anti-histamines by blocking the receptor sites for histamines, which induce allergic reactions. By adding olives to your diet, you may reduce the signs of seasonal allergies, as well as specific allergic reactions to something you ate or touched. This is a powerful and beneficial aspect of olives that is often overlooked.
Blood Circulation: Olives are rich sources of both iron and copper, two essential components for the creation of red blood cells. Without these two minerals, red blood cell count in the body will diminish, resulting in anemia, which is characterized by fatigue, upset stomachs, headaches, cognitive malfunction, and general decline of organ health and functionality. Eat plenty of olives and keep your blood pumping to every part of the body to guarantee overall health!
Antibacterial Qualities: Oleuropein, that valuable chemical component of olives, also functions as an antimicrobial and antibacterial booster in the body. Eating plenty of olives increases the presence of this chemical, which defends against bacterial infections throughout the body, both internally and externally.
A Few Words of Warning: Olives are generally an extremely healthy food, however, there are some seasonal allergies associated with olive tree pollen, which can sometimes get into the olives so allergic reactions are not unheard of. Also, consider the potent acids and organic compounds in olives and olive oil, it is not recommended to eat too many olives while pregnant or breastfeeding, as insufficient studies have been done on the transference of material from mother to child. Finally, olives do contain high levels of sodium, so if you already suffer from high blood pressure or related cardiovascular conditions, you might be better off finding a different food to treat your heart conditions, rather than exacerbating them with more sodium!
Other than those warnings, enjoy olives in their many forms and see just how healthy they can make you feel!