Don’t Forget the Olives
Forget the canned ones if you want. They’re not very good. But don’t forget to include good quality imported olives in your meal plans occasionally. These beauties are packed with heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and antioxidant phytonutrients. And if you haven’t switched to olive oil yet, you may be missing out on one of the most important components of the life-extending Mediterranean diet.
Olives and olive oil are among the few constants across the many diets from diverse countries and cultures that comprise the Mediterranean diet. And while it certainly helps that the classic Mediterranean diet includes very few sweets and little meat, but plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and some fish, it’s also becoming clear that olive oil is the chief source of fat in this diet. One of the nutrients that give olive oil its unique flavor—oleic acid—was once believed to be responsible for most of olive oil’s obvious health benefits. But it has become clear in recent years that olives and olive oil also contain some unique, potent antioxidants.
Many investigators now think these natural chemicals, called polyphenols, provide substantial additional health benefits. Emerging research shows that some of these chemicals help boost immunity, fight atherosclerosis, help turn down inflammation in the body, and reduce oxidative stress. Some research suggests these chemicals may even help prevent cancer. I should mention that most of these investigations have concerned themselves with extra virgin olive oil. Choose whole olives or extra virgin olive oil when you’re shopping, and don’t hesitate to include these “secret” weapons in your healthful diet.
Virruso C, Accardi G, Colonna Romano G, Candore G, Vasto S, Caruso C.Nutraceutical properties of extravirgin olive oil: a natural remedy for age-related disease?Rejuvenation Res. 2013 Nov 12. [Epub ahead of print]