Olives have been around for thousands of years. They are one of the oldest foods known to mankind, and are believed to have originated in the island of Crete, in Greece. Olives come from the tree Oleaeuropaea. Olea refers to the fruit’s high oil content and europaea refers to the continent on which it originated. Olives come in dozens of shapes, colors, and sizes. Regardless of how they look, however, all of them are nutritious and offer many health benefits.
Are Greek black olives good for you?
Olives don’t just differ in appearance; the ways in which they are cured also vary and result in the different kinds of olives available at the supermarket. Green olives were treated with lye. Black olives were cured in brine. Kalamata olives were cured in water. Generally speaking, black olives contain more health-promoting phenols and have higher antioxidant content than green olives.
Greek olives health benefits
- Greek olives have cancer-fighting properties: The oleic acid in Greek olives inhibits a gene that is overactive in a significant percentage of breast cancer cases. Hydroxytyrosol, a phenol abundant in olives, helps combat abnormal cell growth and DNA damage.
- Greek olives help improve heart health: The capacity of monounsaturated fat, of which olives are an excellent source, to help prevent heart disease is well known. Greek olives also help lower blood cholesterol levels, have anti-inflammatory effects, and prevent unnecessary blood clotting with their mild blood-thinning effect.
- Greek olives fight oxidation: Greek olives contain many phytonutrients that function as antioxidants. These antioxidants combat the process of oxidation, the culprit behind many so-called lifestyle diseases today, and help the body avoid the many problems that result from oxidative stress.
Preparing and cooking Greek olives
To pit Greek olives, break the flesh by pressing down on the olive with the flat side of a large knife. After the flesh has been split, the pit can be easily removed using a small knife.
A few quick serving ideas for Greek olives:
- Chop Greek olives and toss them with pasta, tomatoes, and herbs.
- Add them to a Greek salad.
- Marinate Greek olives in olive oil, lemon zest, and spices; serve them as part of an antipasti platter.
- Combine marinated Greek olives with feta, garlic, rosemary, and a squeeze of lemon juice and serve them on flatbreads or slices of crusty baguette.
- Make olive tapenade by putting Greek olives in a food processor with garlic, olive oil, herbs, and spices of your choice. Serve the tapenade as a dip or as a sandwich spread. The tapenade can also be used to top grilled or baked fish or poultry.
- Add chopped Greek olives and artichokes to tuna salad or tuna pasta.
- Place whole Greek olives in a small bowl and set them on the table with a small plate of vegetable crudités for everyone to enjoy with the meal.
- Use chopped Greek olives, fresh tomato slices, fresh basil leaves, and mozzarella as pizza toppings.
- Cook the olives with chicken, tomatoes, capers, and spinach. Serve over whole wheat pasta.