Olives are small, oval fruits that grow on trees (Olia Europe). These trees are traditionally found in the Mediterranean – especially in Spain, Italy, Morocco, Greece and Turkey – but have also been planted in areas such as South America and California. Olives are naturally loaded with healthy monounsaturated fats as well as antioxidants like vitamin E, which help fight disease-causing free radical damage in the body.
Time and time again, the Mediterranean-style diet has been proven to be one of the best diets for health and longevity. And it’s no accident that olives—and olive oil—are hallmarks of a healthy meal plan.
Olives are loaded with nutrients that support our cardiometabolic health, which affects the heart, blood and blood vessels. Here’s how the fruit keeps us well-nourished.
They support heart health
Olive oil and olive oil contain monounsaturated fatty acids (or MUFAs), heart-healthy dietary fats that help lower ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol and raise ‘good’ HDL cholesterol.
Studies have repeatedly shown that foods high in MUFA, found in olives, nuts, seeds, and avocados, are associated with long-term health benefits. In the year A 2022 study found that people who ate more than half a tablespoon of olive oil daily had a 19 percent lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease compared to people who consumed little or no olive oil. Frequent olive oil users are less likely to die from other causes, including respiratory and neurological diseases, as well as cancer.
They are full of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients.
Olive oil tends to get most of the credit for being an anti-inflammatory ingredient, but olives themselves are packed with key nutrients, such as vitamin E. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that neutralizes free radicals in the body (which destroy your cells), thus reducing oxidative stress, or the imbalance between antioxidants and free radicals in your body. This will ultimately reduce your risk of disease.
Olives contain flavonoids (natural nutritional compounds found in many fruits and vegetables) such as quercetin, which also have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory benefits. In addition, hydroxytyrosol, a polyphenol (another type of natural dietary compound), has powerful anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and antioxidant properties.
They encourage satisfaction
It is fattening. Dietary fats have more calories per gram than protein or carbohydrates and are absorbed more slowly. While one gram of fat provides nine calories, one gram of protein or carbohydrates only provides four calories. That’s why adding healthy fats to our meals and snacks makes them more filling and more satisfying.
Interestingly, the healthy fats found in olives do more than just help fill us up, but they can also help with weight management. A 2020 systematic review reported that foods rich in oleic acid, the most abundant MUFA in olives, may support body composition by increasing the fat-burning process and energy expenditure (calorie burn).
They help balance blood sugar levels
Combining carbohydrates with healthy fats and lean proteins is one of the best ways to promote stable blood sugar or blood glucose levels. Because both fat and protein help lower the blood sugar spikes that can follow after eating carbohydrates.
of Kind of Although the fat we eat matter. Consuming high amounts of saturated fat, found in animal-derived foods such as ham or cheese, may contribute to the development of insulin resistance, a common precursor to type 2 diabetes.
On the side, Unsatisfied Fats like MUFAs in olives can improve blood sugar results. In the year A 2018 systematic review found that replacing carbohydrates with the same number of calories from unsaturated fats resulted in improvements in hemoglobin A1c (a measure of blood sugar control over the past two to three months) and insulin sensitivity. However, replacing carbohydrates with saturated fats did not produce the same results. Also, when PolyUnsaturated fats like omega-3s, which we get from oily fish, are converted to carbohydrates, lowering blood sugar even more.
Olives are one of the best sources of monounsaturated fats like oleic acid. According to the USDA’s Food DataCentral, one cup of black olives provides:
- Calories: 157
- Fat: 14 g
- Unsaturated fat 11 g
- Saturated fat: 3 g
- sodium 992 mg
- Carbohydrates: 8 g
- Fiber: 2 g
- added sugars; 0 g
- Protein: 1 g
Olives are generally low in protein and carbohydrates and high in fat. However, most of the dietary fats found in olives are those unsaturated fatty acids that help support healthy cholesterol levels.
However, if your high cardiovascular risk is high blood pressure (also called hypertension), be aware of olives’ high sodium content—nearly 1,000 milligrams per serving. It’s important to note that the serving size listed above is 1 cup of olives, more than most of us eat in one sitting. But even half that amount provides a significant amount of salt, especially for those watching their daily sodium intake.
People watching their sodium intake should enjoy olives in moderation. Thanks to the fact that the main salt of the Mediterranean diet is kept in salt water or in salt.
The American Heart Association recommends that healthy adults consume no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, while some people with high blood pressure should consume only 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day. For people with high blood pressure, ½ cup of black olives contains 33 percent of their daily sodium goal.
If you’re sensitive to salt or watching your blood pressure, include ¼ cup olives (which provide about 250 milligrams of sodium) as your serving size. You can also wash your pressed olives to lower the salt content slightly.
Another option is to look for olives with the words ‘reduced sodium’ on their label. Note: ‘reduced sodium’ and ‘low sodium’ are not synonymous terms. Just because a product has less sodium than the original doesn’t mean it’s a low-sodium food, so still check the Nutrition Facts panel to assess how many milligrams of sodium are in each serving.
It’s a good idea to eat more unsaturated fats. Nuts, seeds, avocados, fish, and–of course–olives and olive oil, are all great sources.
Here are some delicious and healthy ways to enjoy olives.
- Incorporate olives into salads or Mediterranean-inspired grain bowls, along with other antioxidants like tomatoes and caramelized onions.
- Try this easy sheet pan chicken recipe that includes delicious fruits and veggies like olives and greens.
- Throw olives into a quick whole-wheat pasta dish with kale pesto and sautéed Swiss chard for a fiber-filled noodle night.
- Spread olive tapenade on a homemade chicken sandwich to add nutty flavor.
- Like snacking on pretzels? Swap them for low-sodium flaxseed crackers and add some olives on the side for a high-fiber snack.
Olives are a great source of monounsaturated fats that support cardiovascular health, as well as antioxidants like flavonoids and vitamin E.
Unlike olives OilOlives are typically preserved in high-sodium brine. Practice moderation with your olive portions to control your salt intake.
If you’ve been diagnosed with high blood pressure or are watching your sodium intake for another reason, talk to your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian about the right amount of olives.