- Dozens of health-protective nutrients have been identified in olives, and recent studies have taken a very close look at olive varieties, olive processing, and changes that take place in olive nutrients. The overall conclusion from these studies is exciting for anyone who loves olives of all varieties. Greek-style black olives, Spanish-style green olives, Kalamata-style olives, and many different methods of olive preparation provide us with valuable amounts of many different antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients. While there are trade-offs that occur during olive ripening and olive curing—for example, decreased oleuropein with advanced stages of ripening yet increased amounts of anthocyanins—it’s impossible to rule out any single type of olive as being unworthy of consideration as a uniquely health-supportive food, particularly in terms of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.
- Hydroxytyrosol, an olive phytonutrient that has long been linked to cancer prevention, is now regarded as having the potential to help us prevent bone loss as well. Several recent laboratory animal studies have found increased depositing of calcium in bone and decreased loss of total bone mass following consumption of this olive phytonutrient (as well as oleuropein, another key phytonutrient found in olives). These findings are fascinating, since consumption of a Mediterranean Diet has long been associated with decreased risk of osteoporosis, and olives often find themselves on center stage in Mediterranean Diet studies.
- In traditional herbal medicine practices, preparations from olives and olive leaves have often been used in treatment of inflammatory problems, including allergy-related inflammation. New research may help explain how olives work to provide us with anti-inflammatory benefits, especially during circumstances involving allergy. Olive extracts have now been shown to function as anti-histamines at a cellular level. By blocking special histamine receptors (called H1 receptors), unique components in olive extracts may help to lessen a cell’s histamine response. Because histamine is a molecule that can get overproduced in allergy-related conditions and can be a key player in the inflammatory process, it’s likely that the anti-inflammatory benefits we get from olives involve this anti-histamine pathway. It’s also possible that olives may have a special role to play as part of an overall anti-allergenic diet.
This chart graphically details the %DV that a serving of Olives provides for each of the nutrients of which it is a good, very good, or excellent source.