Featured Food: Olives

We’ve talked about olive oil several times, but where does olive oil come from? Olives, duh! The Mediterranean produces the best olives, and of course olives and olive oil are a central part of their diet, so we must discuss them. I think that olives tend to get a bad rap. Some canned verisons can be a bit high in sodium, and they do contain fat (which again I don’t worry about fat because I am a fat burner), and calories so you don’t want to overdue them (which is true with most foods). Before we get into all the benefits I thought we’d do a little history, because olives have such a large past (plus I find it interesting). They are thought to have originated in the Mediterranean region some 5,000-7,000 years ago. The trees are drought-, disese-, and fir-resistant, so they live a long time. A tree in Portugal has been shown through radiocarbon dating to be 2,000 years old. In addition, there are several in Israel (Galilee) that are over 3,000 years old, and one tree in Sardinia, Italy is 3,000-4,000 years old. They’ve been written about many times, in literature and the olive leafs have served as a sybmbol of abundance, glory and peace (think of the Olympic Games). Its’s been mentioned in the Quran 7 times, and in the Bible 30 times (it is an olive branch that a dove delivers to Noah to signal the end of the flood). With such a rich history, this great tree must produce some great treasures: olives. Olives are actually a fruit, and they cannot be eaten right off the tree. They must be processed (tossed in brine and such) because they are so bitter. They change in color from yellow to green to purple to black, when they are fully ripe.

They’re are all kinds of olives, but they differ based on processing, variety, the home region, and desired taste, texture, and color. They are produced heavily in Spain, Italy, and Greece. What’s so great about them? Well for starters they’re a great source of monounsaturated fat; just like their counterpart olive oil (which again fat is a good thing, and in my case I use it for a fuel and energy source). It’s also high in vitamin E. The stability of monounsaturated fats combined the antioxidant protection of vitamin E lower the risk damage and inflammation. The vitamin E neutralizes free radicals in the body, which wreck havoc on the body and lead to many diseases. One thing that they do is oxidize cholesterol, which causes build up in the arteries and can ultimately lead to a heart attack or stroke. Another example of free radicals bad rap, is that they can damage DNA of colon cells, therefore leading to cancer. Olives contain polyphenols and flavonoids that have anti-inflammatory properties that help against conditions like: asthma, osteoarthitis, and rheumatoid arthitis. Lastly, they contain lutein, which is responsible for such things as:

  • protect against premature aging
  • destroy free radicals
  • improve eye sight and retina strength

  Like I said there are a variety of olives that you can get, but I’ll run through a few.

  • Manzanilla: slightly bitter with a nutty flavor
  • Hojiblanca: almond/peppery flavor
  • Gordal: jumbo size that are meaty with a mild flavor
  • Kalamata: meaty with a sweet fruit flavor
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