Are Olives As Healthy As Olive Oil?

Heidi-eating-olivesI’ve loved olives for longer than I can remember, as this photo (age 2?) will attest. I was conceived in Greece while my parents were living there for a year. And though I wasn’t born in Greece, Greek olives were one of my first solid foods. Recently, I had the opportunity to visit Italy, and was in olive-heaven at the local markets. A plethora of varieties that we’ve never seen in the states, and the were soooo tasty.

Olive trees have been around for thousands of years, and their fruit has been a staple of the Mediterranean people for just as long. Olive oil has been in the limelight a lot lately for all of its nutritious properties (as well as its connection to the Mob…but I’ll save that for another post.) So what about the olive itself? How does it stack up nutritionally against olive oil?

Olives and their oils both contain phytonutrients with a whole host of healthy benefits, including:

  • Anti-inflammatory properties
  • Immune boosting properties
  • Anti cancer properties
  • Cardiovascular protection
  • Raising HDL (good) cholesterol

olives-n-oilBut some olives have an additional health benefit that the oil does not have. As I mentioned in my previous post on sauerkraut, many cultures around the globe have a traditional fermented food. In the Mediterranean, olives were traditionally cured by the fermentation process.

Fermentation creates lactobacillus – a natural probiotic, beneficial for digestion. Today however, most canned and bottled olives are processed using lye, and ferrous gluconate, to reduce processing time. Therefore, they don’t contain the beneficial lactobacillus probiotic.

Traditionally cured (fermented) olives can be found in bulk in some specialty food stores and grocery store olive bars. Look for olives that are “oil cured”, “water cured”, “brine cured”, and “dry-salted”. Remember to keep an eye on the sodium content if you are watching your sodium intake, as olives can be quite high in sodium.

4 Responses to “Are Olives As Healthy As Olive Oil?”

  1. Jean Jorgensen

    Thanks for good info — having just been in Italy I can totally relate. And LOVE the photo — :-).

    • Heidi

      Thanks for your comment Jean. Hope you had a chance to taste some of the unique varieties of olives when you were in Italy! 🙂

  2. kathleen

    That is one of the things I miss about living in southern Italy–eating out or at someone’s house there were always bowls of fresh olives…black, brown, green…so many varieties in Puglia! Never been able to find anything here that comes close. Let me know if you have found some you would recommend!

    • Heidi

      Kathy, I know what you mean, I think we ate about a pound of olives a day when we were in Italy! 😉 The ones I like best in the states are Castelvetrano olives, they are bright green and have a nice buttery taste. You can find them in most bulk-olive bars. Also check out Big John’s PFI in downtown Seattle for a GREAT variety of imported bulk olives. Enjoy!


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