What Are Kalamata Olives?
You may have heard about how healthy olive oil is. You may have even read our article about the subject. But what often gets missed is just how healthy olives are by themselves. The olive fruit (yes, fruit!) is packed with vitamins and minerals, fatty acids and powerful phenolic compounds. However, all olives are not created equally!
The quality and nutritional value of an olive is determined by a host of factors, including: geography and climate where it is grown, soil composition, how much sun and water the plant gets, even how it is harvested and processed.
Olive connoisseurs have long known that Kalamata olives are some of the tastiest in the world, but now evidence is emerging to suggest that these are actually the healthiest olives as well.
A Kalamata olive is large compared to its cousins, and boasts a beautiful dark purple color. They are grown exclusively in southern Peloponnese, Greece, and are named after the nearby city of Kalamata. Read on to learn more about how these powerful superfoods can boost your health!
Kalamata olives are full of beneficial vitamins, minerals, fats, and phenolics. Each of these provide different benefits within the body, and they all come together to make these olives a truly super food. Let’s examine each of these components individually, to see just how healthy these olives are!
Vitamins and Minerals
Olives are one of the healthiest fruits on the planet. Like many fruits, they are packed with vitamins A and E. Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant in the body, protecting tissue from the damaging effects of free radicals. It also plays a key role in immune function, and helps your blood clot when you get a cut or bruise. Vitamin A also supports the immune system, along with vision and reproductive health.
Unlike other fruits, olives contain significant levels of iron and calcium. Iron is a mineral that is necessary for the production of red blood cells, and also supports healthy skin, hair, and nails. Calcium is vital for bone health and muscle contraction, and is vital component of dozens of important hormonal pathways. Deficiencies of these two vitamins may make you feel weak and tired, and cause brittle, dry nails.
Kalamata olives boast high levels of healthy fats. Oleic acid, the primary fat in olives, is an omega-9 fatty acid that has been studied extensively for its effects on cardiovascular health. It plays an important role in cell function. Oleic acid provides structure to the cell membrane, as well as a powerful source of energy. Adding healthy fats to your diet may reduce levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and prevent arteriosclerosis, the artery-clogging process that leads to heart attack and stroke.
Monounsaturated fats like oleic acid may also improve immune system health and prevent chronic inflammatory diseases like heart disease and Alzheimer’s.
The other majorly important components of Kalamata olives are the phenolic compounds. These olives contain dozens of powerful phenolics, including oleocanthal, hydroxytyrosol, oleuropein and gallic acid. These phenolics act as the “immune system” of the plant, protecting it from oxidation, inflammation and predators. When we consume plants that are high in phenolics, some of these properties are passed onto us.
The phenolic compounds in Kalamata olives have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties. They have been shown to improve immune function and reduce systemic inflammation. When taken regularly, anti-inflammatory compounds like these may help decrease your risk of developing inflammatory diseases like arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease and certain cancers. In fact, one of the phenolics in Kalamata olives, oleocanthal, has been shown to selectively target and destroy several types of cancer in the lab setting.
How Do You Eat Them?
In my opinion, the best way to eat Kalamata olives is straight out of the jar. Freshly-picked, these olives have a distinctive bitterness that makes them near inedible. However, after harvest the olives go through a curing process that draws out the bitterness to create a fruity, almost wine-like flavor. Kalamatas are considered by many to be the best tasting olives in the world. In addition to eating plain, they also go well with cheese and wine. Another delicious option is a Mediterranean pasta salad, complete with feta cheese, olive oil and Greek tomatoes.
Kalamata olives are not just for connoisseurs. They make a wonderful addition to any health-conscious diet. With tons of beneficial vitamins and minerals, heart-healthy omega-9’s, and the plant-medicine powers of phenolics, it’s no wonder that Kalamata olives are considered by many to be the healthiest olive in the world.
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