Olives are the fruit of the olive tree, Olea europaea, meaning “European olive.” Olive trees are grown throughout the Mediterranean Basin as well as in South America, South Africa, India, China, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, and the United States.
Olives of various varieties are a main ingredient in Mediterranean dishes and a significant export crop for Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey, and Morocco. The most common olives in the United States are green and black, though kalamata olives are also popular.
They are often sliced or used whole in recipes or pressed into olive oil, which is also a major agricultural export in the Mediterranean region.
Eating olives whole or using olive oil for certain meals may help protect against various health problems.
The vitamins and antioxidants found in olives may provide important health benefits. For example, some studies have shown that olives may protect against osteoporosis, in which bones become brittle or weak.
Olives are also rich in vitamin E, which can improve skin health and help your immune system.
Numerous studies have shown that consuming olive oil, especially the extra-virgin variety, may reduce the risk of heart disease and death in people who have a high risk of this condition.
Cancer risk reduction
Olives contain the compound oleocanthal, which researchers have shown can kill cancer cells in petri dish experiments. Other studies in humans have shown a link between consuming olive oil and reducing the risk of cancers, including breast cancer.
Lower risk and treatment of cognitive diseases
The oleocanthal in olives and olive oil is also linked to a reduced risk for Alzheimer’s disease and other brain-related diseases. This compound also increases the activity of the drug donepezil, which is used to treat dementia.
Research shows a link between consuming olive oil and preventing type 2 diabetes by helping the body regulate glucose (sugar). Unregulated glucose can lead to the development of type 2 diabetes.
Olives also contain:
Nutrients per serving
Five large black, pitted olives contain:
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