Nutrition and Health Benefits of Olives

Olives are a staple of the Mediterranean diet. They are a nutritional powerhouse. Olives offer an array of health benefits, ranging from heart health and antioxidant power to weight management and anti-aging effects. The vitamins and antioxidants found in olives (substances that protect cells from damage) may provide important health benefits. By incorporating these delicious olives into your diet, you can enjoy their extensive nutritional value and support your overall well-being. Below you can read more specifically about the amazing properties of this superfood.

Olives are an Antioxidant-Rich Food

Free radicals are molecules within your body with unpaired electrons; they're on a quest to find another electron and are very reactive and damaging to surrounding molecules. Free radicals contribute to aging and diseases like stroke, cancer, and heart attacks. Antioxidants are molecules that can safely interact with free radicals, giving up some of their electrons and neutralizing the free radical.

Rich in polyphenols, olives possess potent antioxidant properties, which combat free radicals and protect cells from damage. Kalamata olives specifically contain a significant amount of antioxidant phenol compounds that neutralize free radical damage that can cause heart disease, cancer, and other diseases.

In brief, the main antioxidants in olives are:

  • Oleic acid is an antioxidant that helps reduce inflammation, supports heart health, and aids in the absorption of essential nutrients. Studies suggest that oleic acids may prevent inflammation and protect against diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Some studies have suggested that oleic acid may have analgesic properties. Oleic acid is used by the brain to regulate mood, which could be beneficial for patients with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
  • Squalene is an antioxidant that protects the skin from damage caused by free radicals and UV radiation. It also helps moisturize and improve skin elasticity. Squalene in olives may lower the risk of skin cancer (melanoma).
  • Oleocanthal: Oleocanthal has potent anti-inflammatory properties that help your cells work properly. Studies suggest that oleocanthal in kalamata olives may benefit joint and brain health.
  • Tyrosol is an antioxidant that supports cardiovascular health by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation. Tyrosol can reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol and may therefore enhance heart health.
  • Oleuropein is an antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties. It helps protect against chronic diseases, supports brain health, and enhances immune function. Olive oil and olive leaves are rich sources of oleuropein. Oleuropein is a powerful antioxidant with anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antibacterial properties. Studies suggest that oleuropein could be beneficial for the heart and brain.
  • Hydroxytyrosol is a powerful antioxidant that provides various health benefits, including reducing oxidative stress, supporting heart health, and protecting against neurodegenerative diseases. Researchers have reported that hydroxytyrosol prevents the damaging effects of oxidation. Along with its antioxidant properties, it also helps reduce inflammation.
  • Gallic acid is an antioxidant that helps fight against free radicals, reducing the risk of chronic diseases. This phenolic antioxidant can help reduce insulin resistance in metabolic disorders. According to recent studies, gallic acid reduces neuronal damage and amyloid neuropathology in the brain while improving cognitive performance.

In addition, one study showed that eating a pulpy residue from olives significantly increased blood levels of glutathione, which is one of the most powerful antioxidants in the body.

Olives are Anti-Inflammatory and May Help Reduce Chronic Inflammation

Many chronic diseases are linked to chronic systemic inflammation. This is inflammation that occurs throughout the body and has been linked to cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver, autoimmune disorders and neurodegenerative disorders.

But diet can be helpful in calming inflammation. For example, extra virgin olive oil and the Mediterranean diet have been associated with lower levels of inflammation and have been shown to help manage chronic inflammatory diseases. Olives and olive oil are also rich in antioxidants, specifically, polyphenols. While abundant in several types of polyphenols, there are two that olives, and olive oil are especially high in hydroxytyrosol and oleuropein (oleuropein is unique to olives and you won't find it anywhere else). Studies show that these two powerhouses have been linked to reduced inflammation (among other beneficial things), and consequently lowered risk of diseases related to inflammation. Hydroxytyrosol and oleanolic acid, have been effective in reducing inflammation in animals. Animal studies have also shown oleanolic acid's health benefits in promoting liver health and regulating fat levels in the blood.

Oleocanthal, contained in olives, appears to share the same pharmacological activity as ibuprofen acting as a natural anti-inflammatory. Interestingly, this useful property prevents the formation of inflammatory enzymes that could lead to diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, type 2 diabetes, and psoriasis.

Protection of Nerve Cells

Nerve cell damage may occur by inflammation caused by pathogens and/or toxins. Compounds in olives inhibit specific pathogens and promote detoxification. In particular, oleuropein is found to be a strong antiviral against herpes viruses.

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