Ingredient of the Week: Olives Aren't Just a Garnish–They're a Superfood

August 7, 2015
by Michelle Pellizzon for Thrive Market
Ingredient of the Week: Olives Aren't Just a Garnish–They're a Superfood

Order a dirty martini, heavy on the olives. Turns out this common drink garnish could be more helpful for combating a hangover than popping a few aspirin the morning after.


There are more than 200 types of olives available, typically black or green in color, and you’ll always find these fruits (yes, that pit makes them a fruit) cured somehow. Completely inedible in raw form, olives derive their signature salty taste through pickling, brining, or being cured in an alkali solution.

Every variety of olive tastes a little different, and their flavor profile vacillates from salty, acidic, pungent, bitter, to fruity, depending on when they have been picked and how they’ve been cured. Green olives are younger and less ripe, while darker purple and black olives are more mature.

Regardless of flavor or variety, olives contain enough incredible health benefits to make you consider eating them every day. Low in carbs and sugar, yet high in healthy fat, they make a perfect Paleo-friendly snack. You’re probably familiar with the healthy benefits of olive oil, but actual olives contain more of vitamins A and E, iron, and fiber than olive oil alone.

Like olive oil, olives contain monosaturated fats that are great for your heart and help increase your HDL (or good) cholesterol. More heart-healthy good news: Black olives contain an antioxidant that stops bad cholesterol from damaging blood vessels and clotting in the heart. In fact, olives seem to have an anti-inflammatory effect on the entire body. Olive extract has been shown to function as an anti-histamine in the body, protecting you from allergies naturally.

Olives may also be the key to getting the best results from your workout. The polyphenols (or micronutrients) in olives contain a glutathione boosting compound that increases the levels of glutathione in the blood. Glutathione is a super important antioxidant in the body that does everything from regulate energy levels to promote immune function. In laymen's terms, that means that olives will give you more energy and help you build more muscle.

And as for the soreness you feel after an intense sweat sesh? Olives have your back there too. Oleocanthal, a compound found in olives, has anti-inflammatory properties that can be as effective as ibuprofen when it comes to pain relief. In light of the current warnings that now come along with NSAID pain relievers, you might consider switching over to olives in lieu of popping your pain killers. (That's also why they're helpful in that martini.)

Best of all, olives add depth and saltiness to any dish, so experiment with them as in the kitchen. Need ideas? Try this salmon niçoise salad with a green olive vinaigrette and this beautiful roasted tomato tapenade tart.

Photo credit: Paul Delmont



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This article is related to: Superfood, Antioxidant, Anti-inflammatory, Olives

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  • Ali

    I believe HDLs are the good cholesterol, and LDLs are the bad cholesterol (See paragraph 4). http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Cholesterol/AboutCholesterol/Good-vs-Bad-Cholesterol_UCM_305561_Article.jsp