Now, we’re olive importers, not doctors or medical scientists. But if you’re interested, you can check all of this out on the web, and in the scientific and medical literature.
It seems the more research is done into olives, the more evidence is found to regard them as a great, healthy food source and an important part of a balanced diet.
Of course, olives on their own won’t cure cancer or heart disease, eliminate bad cholesterol or banish pain or diabetes, but there’s strong evidence to suggest that making olives part of a healthy diet can really help with all these things.
Here’s a few sample reasons why.
Olives contain powerful anti oxidants that are associated with helping to fight cancer, inflammation, diabetes, coronary heart disease and other illnesses.
The mono-unsaturated fats in olives help to reduce LDL (bad cholesterol) and increase HDL (good cholesterol).
Olives are central to the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in mono-unsaturated fatty acids; they improve the blood-lipid ratio and help to prevent heart disease and strokes.
You know those costly pain killers that are advertised as having anti-inflammatory properties? Well … olives contain oleocanthal, which does the same thing!
Olives contain Vitamin E, which helps maintain the integrity of cell membranes, mucus membranes and skin. It protects them from harmful oxygen-free radicals.
Historically, olives are more important than just a food source – the notion of the “olive branch” came about because to the Ancient Greeks, the giving of an olive branch was a sign of peace.
Why? No one really knows, but possibly because it was so essential, not just for food but also oil, which was used widely as a lubricant, cosmetic, and preservative.
If you’ve been on holiday to the Mediterranean you’ll have seen the knarled trunks and grey branches of the olive tree (Olea europaea). It grows slowly but can live for 500 years and reach 50 feet in its natural frost-free, dry, well-drained soil.
Olive trees bear fruit after 3-4 years (sometimes longer) and they bloom in the spring.
All olives contain a single seed (the ‘stone’) surrounded by edible pulp; they vary quite a bit in size but typically weigh 3-5 grammes.
Raw olives are usually green, but as they ripen most will turn first yellow, then dark. But some varieties stay green even when ripe; and just to confuse matters, some varieties start out black and remain that colour!
The fruit is picked in stages, depending on whether it is destined for the table, or to be pressed for oil.