People have been reaping the benefits of olives for thousands of years. Olive trees are native to the Mediterranean, as is the olive’s reputation for delicious flavor and better health.
Many studies have shown that death from cardiovascular diseases (the number one cause of death in the U.S.) is significantly lower in countries around the Mediterranean Sea. This discovery spurred researchers to take a closer look at the potential health benefits of following the Mediterranean Diet.
The resulting research proved several benefits of the Mediterranean Diet: reduced inflammation, improved “good” cholesterol and lowered “bad” cholesterol, prevention of blood clots, decreased blood pressure, and improved blood vessel function.
In one major study, the Mediterranean Diet reduced the occurrence of heart attacks, strokes, and death by 30%!
These incredible results had one thing in common – olives. This incredible drupe truly is a superfood whose health benefits are due to healthy fats, phytonutrients, as well as, a variety of vitamins and antioxidants.
The body needs fat in order to function properly. For example, fat is necessary for the absorption of several vitamins like A, K, and E. Fat is critical for energy production, as well as, keeping hair and nails healthy. Even the brain needs fat in order to function!
Research has shown that eating a diet rich in good fats lowers risk for heart disease, obesity and type II diabetes complications. According to several studies, it is not the amount of fat you eat that affects health, it is the type of fat.
There are several different types of fats, each found in a variety of foods. It is crucial to choose the right healthy fats in order to reap these benefits. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids are two “good fats.” These fats have been found to lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels, therefore, reducing risk of heart disease.
Monounsaturated fats are the ones found in olives and olive oil, oleic acid to be precise. These fats can also be found in a variety of nuts, as well as in avocado. Polyunsaturated fats, also known as omega-3 fatty acids, can be found in walnuts, and in fish like salmon and mackerel.
Olives also contain phytonutrients. These are protective compounds in plants that are passed to us through ingestion. They improve not only heart health, but digestion as well.
The combination of the monounsaturated fatty oleic acid and protective phytonutrients in olives combine to provide serious anti-inflammatory power, helping to combat chronic health conditions like cancer, heart disease, and osteoporosis.
Olives contain yet another health superpower – antioxidants! Antioxidants are free-radical fighting masters, protecting the body from environmental damage. One main antioxidant found in olives is Vitamin E.
Vitamin E improves glucose control and helps to protect blood vessels and nerves from free-radical damage. Some studies have also shown that high doses of vitamin E may even reverse diabetic nerve damage, along with reducing risk for diabetes related cataracts and arteriosclerosis.
Speaking of glucose control and reducing diabetes risk, a team of Virginia Tech researchers has now discovered that the compound oleuropein found in olives encourages the body to secrete more insulin, helping to reduce blood sugar and better control diabetes!
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The health benefits of olives and olive oils are numerous, and it’s certain that these little drupes have well-earned their good (and delicious) reputation!
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