9 Health Benefits of Olives You'll Be All Over. Yep, that includes olive oil too

February 12, 2018

By Jaclyn London, MS, RD, CDN


It's no secret that olives pack a powerful health punch. Pressed into cooking oil or eaten cured and whole, these little fruits are building a rep as excellent heart helpers, but the benefits go beyond just a cardiovascular boost. Know these major perks, and you'll want to start living the Mediterranean way.

1. They're the ultimate heart-healthy snack.
Olives are chock-full of monounsaturated fatty acids, a type of fat linked with lowering LDL ("bad" cholesterol) while maintaining HDL ("good" cholesterol"). The powerful antioxidant properties of olive polyphenols can also protect against oxidative stress and chronic inflammation, a key initiating factor of heart disease.
Plus, long-term evidence suggests that people who consume extra- virgin olive oil daily are at a lower risk of heart attack, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular mortality than those who don't.

2. They can improve circulation.
The plant-based compounds in olives can increase nitric oxide production, improving vascular function by promoting blood flow to your tissues. That's beneficial for both short-term and long-term health, since better circulation enhances everything from sprints at the gym to overall risk of chronic disease.
Some types of olives can also provide up to 25% of your iron needs, an important mineral that helps deliver oxygen to your organs.

3. They've got anti-inflammatory benefits.
The polyphenols found in olives can help reduce chronic inflammation by stopping organ tissue damage before it starts. That said, olives are best known for their primary role in Mediterranean diets, which are full of health-boosting veggies, fruit, and 100% whole grains. That's why it's important to focus on improving your diet as a whole instead of one meal or snack!

4. They may be beneficial for your bones.
Polyphenols can also improve bone mineral density by reducing degeneration. Plus, Mediterranean diets have been linked to a lower risk of fractures in older adults.

5. They can improve brain health.
Since olives help reduce oxidative stress caused by inflammation, they also protect the tissues of vital organs (i.e. your brain!) from harmful and potentially irreversible damage. Another benefit: Olives contain vitamin E, an antioxidant linked to improved cognition and reduced risk of cognitive decline. Diets that rely on olive oil as a primary fat source are also associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer's disease.

6. They can help you stay satisfied.
Using extra virgin olive oil when cooking can boost satiety by providing healthy, flavorful fats that keep you fuller, longer. One tablespoon is about 120 calories, while 120 calories worth of olives is roughly 30 olives (depending on type and size). Snacking on the fruit also provides dietary fiber; a cup has about 15% of what you need in a day! That said, those on a low-sodium diet should stick with the oil version.

7. They can reduce risk of some cancers.
The benefits of fruits and veggies make them no-brainers when it comes to daily meals and snacks. High-antioxidant foods like olives can also lower your chances of certain cancers, both by protecting cellular DNA (potentially preventing tumor growth) and reducing oxidative stress.

8. They may improve blood sugar.
Extra virgin olive oil in particular could lower blood sugar as early as two hours after a meal by aiding insulin action. The oleic acids (a heart-healthier type of fat) and polyphenols in olives can help too. Research indicates diets high in monounsaturated fats and antioxidants may lessen the risk of type II diabetes.

9. They can help you absorb other nutrients better.
Antioxidants found many veggies and fruits are best absorbed when eaten with dietary fat such as olives. Adding a tablespoon of olive oil to salads and drizzling it in veggie dips can help enhance your intake of carotenoids, which benefit your eyes and diminish long-term disease risk.

The Bottom Line
Eating olives in addition to more vegetables and fruit results in some significant perks, helping you achieve weight-loss goals and make a positive change that benefits your health for the long term.