Monday, January 23, 2012

Food Worship #9: Olives

So which do you like, black or green?  Personally, I hated both until a few years ago when I basically taught myself to like them.  Now the taste of an olive, black OR green makes my mouth water.  These little guys are taaaaassty.  And they're a great addition to any sort of salad, healthy pizza, meat topping, or a great stand-alone snack!  They're a great source of important macro and micro nutrients, and I would suggest trying a few the next time you get a chance.

But honestly, what the heck's the difference between black and green olives?  Some people will swear by one, but despise the other (my mother falls into this category, but I can't remember which one she loves and which one she hates.  You like the green ones, right mom?)  In fact the only difference between black and green olives is the time at which they're picked relative to their ripeness!  Green olives are picked before they're ripe, and black olives are picked after.  Pretty simple eh?  Sure there are many more variations of olives, like all those yummy greek ones, but for now lets just focus on the commonly seen black and green ones.

Now olives are actually pretty inedible in their raw form, so they're soaked in either water, brine, oil, or some special mixture of the three.  Because the green olive isn't quite as ripe at the time of eating, they're usually firmer and more bitter than the very soft black olive.  Both olives are quite healthy, and here are the major health benefits you'll receive by consumption of these delectable little morsels:

Healthy Fats:  That's right, olives are LOADED with healthy unsaturated fats which do you tons of good.  To be specific, almost all the fat (80-85% of the calories in the olive itself) is monounsaturated, and comes from a fatty acid called oleic acid.  These fatty acids strongly decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease, and also help to decrease LDL cholesterol.  I think we've learned by now that fat doesn't make you fat, and that this monounsaturated fat will do you nothing but good in the long run.  Plus it smooths out the texture of olives to a point where they seem to just melt in your mouth.  YUMMY.

Antioxidants:  Olives have so many phytonutrients and antioxidants it's pretty darn astounding.  To throw a few scientific names at you, olives are extremely rich is flavanols, terpenes, simple phenols, anthocyanidins, and many more.  All you need to know is that most of these fancy name phytonutrients help to protect your cells from oxidation damage from free radicals, which is a BIG DEAL.  Olives also have a nifty little phytonutrient called oleuropein, which is only found in olives.  Oleyropein is another very strong antioxidant, and because it doesn't come from other sources you'd do well to get some olives (or at least some olive oil) in your diet.

Vitamins:  Olives have quite a bit of vitamin E, another antioxidant that also keeps blood vessels from constricting.  They're also rich in vitamin A, which is not only ANOTHER antioxidant but helps to keep teeth and skin healthy.  Vitamins B-1 through B-6, and vitamin K can also be found in olives.

Minerals- Olives have about 25% of your daily iron, and about 17% of your daily recommended zinc, in every cup.  Copper, selenium, phosphorus, and potassium are also found in olives, all minerals vital to your long term health.

All these health benefits are available in ALL olives, black or green.

Nutritional Information:  

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1 10 small serving
Amount Per Serving
Calories from Fat 29
Calories 36
% Daily Values*
Total Fat 3.24g5%
Saturated Fat 0.429g2%
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.277g
Monounsaturated Fat 2.395g
Cholesterol 0mg0%
Sodium 299mg12%
Potassium 3mg
Total Carbohydrate 2.06g1%
Dietary Fiber 1g4%
Sugars 0g
Protein 0.3g
Vitamin A 0%Vitamin C 1%
Calcium 3%Iron 6%
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Nutrition Values are based on USDA Nutrient Database SR18

This is for a serving of 10 small black olives.  With 10 medium to large olives, you can bet you'll get around 50 calories.  Green olive nutritional information is similar, if not identical.  The one thing to watch out for in olives (besides the relative caloric density) is the sodium content, as it can add up quickly.

Hungry for olives?  I sure am, I can't wait to have a few on my salad today.  If you want to do your body some good, make sure you get a few of these little guys in your diet ASAP.

Black or green, it doesn't matter, just pop 'em and enjoy.  Good Luck!!!


1 comment:

  1. I just started a beginner cooking class and my assignment is to find good green olive recipes. I had no idea how healthy olives actually are. Even thought I am not the biggest fan of olives I am going to start eating more things with olives, I don't think I can go raw just yet.