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Olives are possibly the most delicious, nutritious natural snack going. If your only association with olives is as tiny, chewy black rings on cheap pizza, think again. Olives come in all shapes, sizes and colours; all equally good for you. Here are four reasons (science stuff courtesy of World’s Healthiest Foods) to eat more olives:
Antioxidants help repair the cellular damage done by stress, pollution, exercise and less-than-perfect diets. Olives are a good source of antioxidant vitamin E, and they also contain small amounts of antioxidant minerals like selenium and zinc. However, it’s the phytonutrient content of olives that makes them unique. Perhaps the best-studied antioxidant phytonutrient found in olives is oleuropein. Oleuropein is found exclusively in olives, and it’s been shown to function as an antioxidant nutrient in a variety of ways.
Inflammation is our body’s response to stress. Even beneficial activities like yoga can cause inflammation as our bodies adapt. Extracts from whole olives have been shown to function as anti-histamines at a cellular level. By blocking histamine receptors components in whole olive extracts provide with anti-inflammatory benefits. Whole olive extracts have also been shown to lower risk of unwanted inflammation by lowering levels of leukotriene, a common pro-inflammatory messaging molecule.
Healthy fats are essential for vitamin absorption and metabolism. Olives are unusual because they provide almost three-quarters of their fat as oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid. (In addition they provide a small amount of the essential fatty acid called linoleic acid, and a very small amount of alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid.) The high monounsaturated fat content of olives has been associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.
When our cells get overwhelmed by oxidative stress, that is damage to cell structure and function by overly reactive oxygen-containing molecules, and excessive inflammation, our cancer risk is increased. By providing rich supplies of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients, olives can help avoid this dangerous combination of chronic oxidative stress and chronic inflammation.
What’s your favourite type of olive? Share in the comments!