The humble olive has never been short on taste — but what you might not know is just how healthy it is as a snack. We get it, you switched to olive oil years ago due to the health benefits. We’re talking about the delectably snackable olives here (especially, from our Olive Bar).
For many years, the olive was relegated to a supporting role on salads and pizzas. But this fruit (yes, technically fruit) has been around since 3,000 B.C. In fact, not only were olives part of diets those many years ago, the trees were also used for shelter, fuel, and medicine. The olive has so solidified its place in history that the olive tree symbolizes both peace and wisdom around the world.
Beyond its historical roots, olives pack some amazing nutritional benefits. Let’s start by dispelling the first myth: olives are high in fat and that’s not good for my diet. While olives are indeed high in fat — 80 to 85 percent of the calories in olives does come from fat — it’s the healthy kind of fat that your body needs. Three-quarters of the fat found in olives is monounsaturated, a fat that lowers harmful LDL cholesterol and raises beneficial HDL cholesterol. According to the American Heart Association, monounsaturated fats can actually prevent heart disease and stroke. Other foods that are rich in monounsaturated fats include: avocados, almonds, hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds.
Olives are also a key component of the Mediterranean Diet, which has been praised by the medical community for protecting against heart disease and other chronic illnesses. This diet includes a high intake of healthy fats, a large portion of vegetables, fruits, legumes, and nuts, and a small amount of animal protein. (Bonus, it also includes a glass of red wine at dinner, so pair those olives with your favorite bottle!) To learn more about why we need to stop wagging a war against healthy fat in our diets, watch our video with Dr. Angela Hind.
The health benefits of olives don’t stop with healthy fats — antioxidants and other anti-inflammatory nutrients are also in abundance. Hydroxytyrosol is one of the key phytonutrients found in olives and has been linked to the prevention of both cancer and bone loss. Another compound in olives, oleocanthal, prevents the body from making inflammatory enzymes (similar to how non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs work). There are also numerous free-radical zapping antioxidants, like Vitamin E, selenium, and zinc, that are beneficial in the prevention of numerous diseases.
There’s a long list of why olives are naturally good for your health, and an even longer list of why they make a delicious snack or addition to any meal. Very few high fat foods offer such a diverse range of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory ingredients. So, here’s one more excuse to indulge in a delicious food and live a healthier, happier, longer life.