All about Olives

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While you may find the tangy, bitter flavours of olives irresistible, they are also good for you.

We are more likely to deem olives as condiments rather than as a food itself lumping them into the same group as gherkins, cocktail onions and chopped peppers. In actual reality, olives have a lot of health benefits to offer so should be included more often in our intake.

Health Benefits

Olives have a high content of fat, however there are certain types of fat that are actually good for the body. The majority of the olive is made up oleic acid, or omega-9 fatty acid, which is a very important monosaturated fat. Monosaturated fats play an important role in the formation of cell membranes. This type of fat is also less likely to be damaged, and therefore helps to add a bit of extra reinforcement to cellular structure. This means that the mitochondria and the DNA within the cells are given an extra bit of protection. Monosaturated fats can also help to increase HDL (good) cholesterol.

Not only can olives help to strengthen newly developed cells, but they also contain high amounts of the antioxidant vitamin e. This particular antioxidant helps to prevent and eradicate the occurrence of free radical cells. Free radicals are cells which have become damaged, and can even contribute to tumor growth and the development of cancer. The combined effectiveness of stronger cells and the elimination of damaged cells can actually decrease chances of developing a degenerative disease.

Nutrition facts

Olives have plenty of beneficial vitamins and minerals to contribute to your diet. Olives contain calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, copper, phosphorus, natrium, and selenium. Vitamins in olives include B1 – 6, vitamin A, vitamin E, and vitamin K. Olive also contribute small amounts of sugar, carbohydrates, and fibre.

Add olives to your diet

Eating three to five olives a day – it doesn’t matter what type – can effectively strengthen blood vessels as well as reduce the symptoms produced by hemorrhoids. Consuming olives on a regular basis can also improve eye strength and eyesight, growth and regeneration of bodily tissues, and combats and prevents common signs of aging.

A simple way to add olives to your diet would be to puree a few and add them to baking sauces, marinades, sandwich and cracker spreads, and dips. Toss a handful into a salad or stew. Olives are particularly tasty when chopped and sprinkled over pizza, chicken or fish dishes, or added to sandwiches. Olives can even be enjoyed on their own! Many grocery stores carry olives which are stuffed with of tasty extras such as pimentos, cheese, garlic and onions.

Someone who doesn’t really care for the taste of green or black olives can still squeeze them into their diet. Pureed olives, olive oil, chilli, and a bit of lemon juice make an excellent dressing. A cup of green olives can also be added to a package of softened cream cheese, half a cup of yoghurt.

Olive produce

The only difference between green olives and black olives is ripeness. Unripe olives are green, whereas fully ripe olives are black.

Olives are cured or pickled before consumption, using various methods including oil-cured, water-cured, brine-cured, dry-cured, and lye-cured.

Green olives must be soaked in a lye solution before brining, whereas ripe black olives can proceed straight to brining. The longer the olive is permitted to ferment in its own brine, the less bitter and more intricate its flavor will become. Green olives are usually pitted, and often stuffed with various fillings, including pimientos, almonds, anchovies, jalapenos, onions or capers.

Black olives are graded into sizes labeled as small (3.2 to 3.3 grams each), medium, large, extra large, jumbo, colossal, and supercolossal (14.2 to 16.2 grams). Black olives contain more oil than green.

Unopened olives can be stored at room temperature up to 2 years. Opened olives should be refrigerated in their own liquid in a non-metal container and will last up to several weeks after opening.

Olive varieties

• Manzanilla: Spanish green olive, available unpitted and/or stuffed, lightly lye-cured then packed in salt and lactic acid brine

• Picholine: French green olive, salt-brine cured, with subtle, lightly salty flavor, sometimes packed with citric acid as a preservative in the U.S.

• Kalamata: Greek black olive, harvested fully ripe, deep purple, almond-shaped, brine-cured, rich and fruity flavour

• Niçoise: French black olive, harvested fully ripe, small in size, rich, nutty, mellow flavor, high pit-to-meat ratio, often packed with herbs and stems intact

• Liguria: Italian black olive, salt-brine cured, with a vibrant flavour, sometimes packed with stems

• Ponentine: Italian black olive, salt-brine cured then packed in vinegar, mild in flavour

• Gaeta: Italian black olive, dry-salt cured, then rubbed with oil, wrinkled in appearance, mild flavour, often packed with rosemary and other herbs

• Lugano: Italian black olive, usually very salty, sometimes packed with olive leaves, popular at tastings

• Sevillano: Californian, salt-brine cured and preserved with lactic acid, very crisp

Recipe

Black Olive Tapenade

1/2 clove garlic, minced

1 cup parmesan cheese

1 cup oil-cured Mediterranean or Greek black olives, pitted

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Ciabatta, toasted

Blend ingredients to form a smooth or rough paste to your liking. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Before serving, let tapenade rest for 30 minutes at room temperature. Spread on ciabatta, or fresh vegetables.

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