Despite all the controversy that surrounds olives, they have huge health benefits and add a certain sophistication to a variety of dishes.
Some people despise them, and some people will eat the whole jar in one guiltless sitting. What are we talking about? Olives, of course! These pop-in-your-mouth flavour-bombs evoke strong feelings in olive lovers and haters alike. As an olive lover, it can get pretty intense ordering a pizza with a non-olive lover. Even if we do half-and-half, my anti-olive other half gets all uppity with me if one olive ventures onto his half of the pie. Seriously.
However, despite all the controversy that surrounds olives, they have huge health benefits and add a certain sophistication to a variety of dishes.
Health benefits of olives
Olives, which come from the olive tree (surprise!), have been an important staple in the Mediterranean diet for centuries. Loaded with monounsaturated fatty acids, olives (the source of heart-healthy olive oil) are an ancient superfood, providing endless health benefits. For example, recent research points to a diet rich in olive oil for osteoporosis prevention. In addition, the antioxidants found in olives and olive oil may be super-protective against heart disease and stroke, even protecting red blood cells from oxidative damage.
Additional health benefits of olives and olive oil include lowering LDL (bad) and total cholesterol as well as increasing HDL (good) cholesterol; preventing against a variety of cancers including breast, colon, lung, skin, and ovarian; boosting immunity; and offering relief from rheumatoid arthritis.
Types of olives
Here are a few common (and not so common) olive varieties.
These olives are the most common green olives found on grocery shelves. Also known as Spanish olives, Manzanilla olives are often stuffed with pimento, but also sometimes garlic and jalapenos.
These olives are picked when they become a rich purple-y colour. They have a rich, meaty flavour, a smooth texture, and an almond-like shape. Kalamata olives are often sold with their pits.
Also known as cailletier olives, these black beauties are a key component of the famous niçoise salad made famous by Julia Child (Happy100th Birthday, Julia!). Niçoise olives are a small in size but pack huge flavour and pair well with strong cheeses such as Parmesan and blue.
These Italian olives are medium sized with dark brown-black flesh and a long rounded shape. They are very salty and are often served alone as a finger food or in salads and pastas.
Sometimes called queen olives, these large, green olives originated in the Seville region of Spain. Sevillano olives are usually quite large in size and they have a firm, crisp bite. They’re often stuffed with pimento, and are common in a dirty martini.
Cooking with olives
If you need more olives in your life (Don’t we all?) try out these delicious alive recipes.
- Tempeh with Syrian Lemon and Olive Sauce
- Grilled Halibut with Lemon, Oregano, and Olives
- French Tapenade
- Mouth-Watering Mediterranean Stir-Fry
- Marinated Feta, Olive, and Roasted Red Pepper Skewer
- Pasta with Lemon Zest and Olives
- Lentil Tapenade