What are olives
Olives are a variety of fruit, native to the Mediterranean region. It is believed to have been cultivated in Crete by the Minoans about 3000 years ago. Olives are frequently mentioned in the Bible, commonly depicted by the Egyptians and often present in Greek mythology.
The tree olives are derived from, has been a source for food, fuel and medicine. It is also signified as a symbol of peace and wisdom.
Some olives are picked unripe and green while others ripen completely on the tree to a black color. However, olives may also turn black as a result of oxidization, fermentation and curing.
Are there different varieties of olives
There are numerous varieties of olives dependent on the region in which they are harvested and the way they are cured. Due to their bitter taste, olives are rarely consumed raw. They are usually eaten in their marinated form. The common ones are,
Green olives are harvested before ripening. They are harvested in September but are eaten throughout the year. A popular variety of green olives is pimento stuffed green olives wherein the pit is replaced with a red pepper.
Black olives are the mature ones that ripen completely. Some black olives are not naturally black and instead, have been darkened by fermentation processes. Black olives vary widely in shapes and sizes. They contain more oil than green ones.
Kalamata olives are popular Greek olives. They are picked ripe and have a deep purple color. They have a unique almond shape and are generally cured in brine. They have a distinct and fruity flavor.
What is the nutritional value of black olives
Black olives are low on calories and these come from the fat content. Four to five olives measure only 25 calories and just 2.5 gms. of fat. Black olives have omega 3 fatty acids or monounsaturated fats that are healthy for the heart. They are rich in anti-inflammatory agents such as vitamin E, polyphenols and flavonoids. Each serving measures only 1 gms. of carbohydrates. However, black olives are high on sodium.
How are black olives beneficial for health
With the free radicals oxidizing cholesterol, blood vessels get damaged and fat begins to pile in the arteries, resulting in a myocardial infarction. Antioxidants in black olives inhibit this process and thereby prevent heart problems. Black olives contain a monounsaturated fat that increases the good cholesterol.
Black olives provide vitamin E that neutralizes the free radicals. Vitamin E in combination with stable monounsaturated fats makes the cellular processes safer like protecting the mitochondrial energy production. Damage of DNA results in mutation and malignancy leading to cancer. Black olives inhibit cancers.
Anti-inflammatory properties of monounsaturated fats, vitamin E and polyphenols in black olives, dulls the asperity of asthma, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Each of the three results from abnormally high free radicals. Black olives neutralize free radicals and also serve as a painkiller due to possessing oleocanthal.
Regular intake of vitamin E and monounsaturated fats through black olive results in a lower rate of colon cancer. The benefits extend to ulcers and gastritis. Black olives also facilitate secretion of the bile and pancreatic hormones thereby preventing formation of gallstones. They are a rich source of fibers and promote a healthy digestive system.
A single cup of black olives has about 10% of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A and is thereby vital for maintaining healthy eyes. It facilitates a better sight by aiding in distinguishing between light and dark thereby improving night vision. This vitamin is effective against several ocular diseases.
Apart from these benefits, black olives are also advised for skin and hair health and are a rich source of iron.