Olives: The rich nutritional value of the Greek land !
Olives: The rich nutritional value of the Greek land !
Olives are the seeds of the Olive tree, are considered to be one of the most popular food choices of the Mediterranean population, are used as appetizers and go well with cooked meals, salads pizza and many more. They are found in the Mediterranean and they constitute the foundation of the Mediterranean diet. After they are collected, they are cleansed and stored in bins to remove some of their bitterness and in a later stage they are preserved in salt, brine, vinegar or even in olive oil.
What is the nutrition value of olives?
Calories in different types of olives.
Depending on their size, 5 small olives or 3 big ones contain 45 calories and are equivalent to 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Therefore, you can tone down the quantity of olive oil in your food or salad and add a few olives.
The below-mentioned calories are based on data collected and analysed by the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and refer to 100 grams of olives with removed stone. You can see at length the number of calories in each variety of olives in the following chart.
Types of Olives
Nutrient content of olives
Olives are rich in nutrient content and for this they match up with the extra-virgin olive oil. They contain a considerable amount of vitamin A and a small percentage of vitamins B1, B6 and B12. Black olives are richer in tocopherols than green olives and are the only ones to have b-tocopherol and a-tocotrienols. The trace minerals of olives are potassium, calcium, phosphorus, iron and magnesium, while those that are preserved in brine contain a high amount of sodium.
Moreover, olives, because of Vitamin A, help in the development – replication of the body, sight, skin and assist in preventing cancer, while tocopherols have antioxidant qualities and also assist in preventing cancer.
Depending on the variety, the conditions of olive cultivation, the processing and the storing conditions, table olives can be different as far as their nutritional aspects are concerned. In general, fatty acids in table olives can be found in quantities varying between 13% to 40%. The most important fatty acids in the oil of olives are monounsaturated fats (73% of total fats), while saturated fats are undoubtedly fewer (11%-12% of total fats). There are plenty of scientific studies which prove the benefits of monounsaturated fatty acids, especially when they replace saturated fats (e.g. lowering “bad” cholesterol).
Monounsaturated fatty acids that are contained in olives strengthen the function of the cardiopulmonary system and protect us from cardiovascular conditions. Those who suffer from high blood pressure should be careful how many they consume due to the amount of sodium (in those that are preserved in brine).
Olives, just like many fruits and vegetables, besides the nutrient contents that are necessary for the body, they also include phenolic compounds that have multiple benefits for our health.
Finally, because in the process to remove the olives' bitterness, the olives are usually either salted or stored in brine, the amount of salt in table olives might be high (might range from 2g to 6g of salt per 100g of olives). It happens that salt intake might exceed 3g when someone daily consumes a serving equal to 10-12 olives. After taking into consideration the recommended daily value for salt as indicated by the World Health Organization, consumers should be careful in how much salt they intake as a whole. It is recommended that consumers who wish to integrate the Greek table olives in their meal plan, they do so by desalinating them before consumption or by choosing those with the less amount of salt.
Olives or Olive Oil?
In comparison to olive oil, the only thing that olives seem to be slightly lacking is vitamin E, which is almost non-existent in olives. However, consuming them ensures that the body acquires adequate antioxidant protection, as they contain high levels of carotenoids, especially of b-carotene (provitamin A). Therefore, they can be part of an anti-aging meal plan, which will prolong the youthfulness of the skin and will also function as an ‘antidote’ for degenerative diseases or others such as heart disease, different types of cancer and type 2 diabetes.
What kind of preservation is needed?
Consumers should buy olives after having tasted them first and the amount they purchase, should ideally be enough to cover 2 weeks the most. Pitted olives are more sensitive.
At home, they are preserved in glass containers and in a liquid mixture of vinegar or brine. Later on, covering the olives with a layer of oil, effectively protects them from rancidity and natural mould. After opening canned pitted olives, they should be preserved in the fridge.
How to integrate them in your meal plan?
The most traditional way is to include olives in salads or as side to legumes. You can however, easily include them in many more meals. For example, in a toasted or not sandwich with feta cheese and vegetables, in omelettes, pasta, potato salads, in recipes with chicken or meat, in dough so as to make bread or breadstick with olives, creating bruschetta with tapenade and vegetables, and in many other ways. The tapenade can be easily made at home, by simply mashing up olives and adding garlic, oregano and a little bit of olive oil. 1 spoonful of this, contains 28-39 calories.
Many Greek families consume olives almost on a daily basis, for cooking (pasta) and in salads, we consume them with a variety of cheese, legumes, sardines or, in the form of tapenades with bread, toast or crackers. So, it is better to add some olives in the salad than to dip the bread in oil.