Health Benefits and Uses: Olive

In addition to a striking flavor, olives have health benefits that you can't even imagine. Next, you will learn all the properties and benefits of olives, their varieties, how it can help your health, and even if it can cause any harm.

Olive Properties

With regard to nutritional properties, we can say that olives are made up mostly of water (about 75 to 80% of the total composition). Olives still have a fat content in the range of 11 to 15% (mainly good fat, of the monounsaturated type), carbohydrates between 4 and 6% (mainly in the form of dietary fiber) and low protein content.


The other most relevant components are vitamin E and the minerals iron and calcium.


In the case of green olives, a 100 g serving provides 146 calories, 3.81 mg of vitamin E, 52 mg of calcium, and 0.49 mg of iron.


The same amount of black olives contains 115 calories, 1.65 mg of vitamin E, and 3.30 mg of iron.


Benefits of Olive

See below how the properties of olives provide health and fitness benefits. So, what's the use of olives anyway?

1. Helps you lose weight


The benefits of olives for weight loss are provided by their high content of monounsaturated fats and also by the presence of fibers.


People who frequently use olive oil, a derivative of olives, tend to reduce the amount of food to be eaten and, in general, are not overweight. A study done with children and published in the "European Journal of Endocrinology", for example, found that consumption of olive oil, instead of other fats, reduces the amount of body fat and weight.


The monounsaturated fatty acids in olives help to slow down the digestive process and stimulate the release of the hormone cholecystokinin, conditions that the brain interprets as a message of satiety (an Italian study suggests that eating 10 olives before a meal can decrease appetite up to 22%).


In addition, these healthy fats also boost the synthesis of adiponectin, a hormone that promotes fat burning.


The soluble fibers of the olives help to minimize the levels of glycemia, which also provides weight loss because all the excess glucose in the blood is converted into fat.


2. Ensures energy for training


Olives, especially black olives, are a good source of iron, an essential mineral for cellular oxygenation. The nutrient is a constituent of the oxygen-carrying proteins in our body, hemoglobin and myoglobin.


The supply of this gas to the tissues brings olive benefits to the metabolic process, which becomes more profitable in terms of energy synthesis (or ATP) for the cells, aerobic respiration.


During training, our muscles both contract and relax, and ATP is indispensable at both times.


3. Has anti-inflammatory properties


The consumption of olives can help control typically inflammatory diseases, such as arthritis.


The phenolic compounds responsible for the taste of olives, such as oleuropein and oleocanthal, have anti-inflammatory properties.


Research indicates that oleuropein may reduce the activity of inducible nitric oxide synthase (or iNOS), an enzyme involved in inflammation.


Oleocanthal has an action similar to drugs in the class of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, as it non-selectively inhibits the enzyme cyclooxygenase (or COX), which also participates in the body's inflammation mechanism.


These benefits of olives can still be explained by their antihistamine action since their extracts are able to block H1 type histamine receptors. Histamine is a molecule mediator of the inflammatory process, and also very relevant for allergic conditions.


4. Helps prevent heart attacks and strokes


Ingesting olives helps prevent cardiovascular disease by minimizing important risk factors for their development.


Its monounsaturated fats, such as oleic acid and palmitoleic acid, increase the levels of good cholesterol (HDL) and decrease that of bad cholesterol (LDL). The fruit's soluble fiber also lowers cholesterol.


Oleuropein prevents the oxidation of LDL precisely by suppressing the levels of nitric oxide (a very reactive molecule). It is worth mentioning that this antioxidant action against cholesterol can also be performed by oleic acid.


Studies show that olives have antihypertensive action. Oleic acid also helps to control blood pressure by modifying the signaling cascades associated with protein G (a receptor found on the cell membrane).


The benefits of olives as an anti-inflammatory also guarantee a protective effect on the cardiovascular system. Olive polyphenols reduce levels of C-reactive protein, an inflammatory marker, in cardiac patients.


The association of factors such as excess cholesterol in the blood, oxidation of LDL particles and hypertension can result in atherosclerosis, an inflammatory condition that leads to the formation of plaques that obstruct the blood flow of the arteries, leading to heart attacks and strokes.


5. Has anti-cancer activity


Both olives and olive oil are widely consumed in the Mediterranean region, whose cancer rate is lower than in other parts of the world. There is even the Mediterranean diet, which contains both as staple foods.


The anti-inflammatory activity once again brings health benefits to olives because chronic inflammation also increases the chances for the appearance of tumors.


Olives still contain a significant amount of antioxidant agents (such as oleuropein, oleocanthal, vitamin E among others) that prevent oxidative stress, a situation where the excess of free radicals, being extremely reactive, can damage nuclear DNA, inducing mutations that turn healthy cells into cancerous ones.


Research has shown that eating olive pulp residue also increases blood levels of glutathione, another important antioxidant compound for the body.


In addition, it was found that the Oleuropein extract boosted the gene expression of TIMP, genes that stop tumor growth.


6. Helps protect the gut

The benefits of olives for intestinal health are offered by their fiber content, monounsaturated fat, and vitamin E.


The olives' insoluble fibers facilitate evacuation, thus preventing the accumulation of residues generated by the digestive process, which would harm this organ and the body as a whole.


Already the association of monounsaturated fatty acids and vitamin E help prevent colon cancer.


7. Helps in the fight against Alzheimer's


A survey by the "Greece's National Center for Scientific Research" concluded that the compound Oleuropeína may be an ally against Alzheimer's.


In the study, the researchers used this olive compound to treat human cells conducive to the development of the beta-amyloid protein complex. In Alzheimer's disease, the production of amyloid protein increases in such a way that it accumulates in the form of oligomers, compromising the synapses.


They observed that oleuropein stimulated the activity of an enzyme (MMP-9) in cells complexed with beta-amyloid, which led to a decrease in oligomers between them.


8. The olive is good for the skin


There are also olive health benefits for the skin. Vitamin E is a great moisturizer. Its antioxidant activity also protects the organ from damage from ultraviolet radiation, preventing both premature aging and the occurrence of skin cancer.


Oleic acid also softens wrinkles, promoting skin softness.


9. Helps prevent osteoporosis

The rate of osteoporosis is also lower in Mediterranean countries. One study assessed the impacts of the Mediterranean diet on pre-and post-menopause. The researchers concluded that this type of diet can indeed help prevent the decrease in bone density in women. Animal studies also report that compounds found in olives and oil prevent bone loss.

Final considerations

  • Because of the solution in which they are preserved (brine), the olives have a high sodium content. One tip is to wash the fruits in clean water to remove this salt content. But, in any case, avoid excessive consumption, as the mineral has hypertensive action (harming and canceling the benefits of olives for the cardiovascular system);
  • The olive helps to lower the blood glucose level. Concomitant use of antidiabetic drugs and olives can significantly reduce the amount of this sugar in the blood (causing hypoglycemia). Diabetic patients should always monitor their blood glucose level and, if necessary, talk to the doctor about changing the dosage of these drugs;
  • The olive interacts with antihypertensive drugs, as it also helps to lower blood pressure. Be careful not to suffer from hypotension;
  • There are rare cases of allergy to olives;
  • Olives can still contain small amounts of heavy metals and the compound acrylamide, potentially carcinogenic agents. This is another reason to avoid excessive consumption of these fruits.