Are Olives a Superfood?

Created by Beth Rush

Last Updated: May 30, 2023

CATEGORIES: Healthy Eating

Do you want to supercharge your health? One of the best ways to do so is through your diet. All foods are not created equal. Some are superfoods, meaning they are particularly high in nutrients for few calories, and olives are among the best. 

These diminutive fruits pack some serious health benefits into a small package. They’re also the primary source of perhaps the healthiest cooking oil known to humankind — olive oil. 

What makes olives so great as a snack or recipe addition? What are some creative ways to use olives in your cuisine? Here’s why olives are a superfood you should add to your diet today. 

(This post includes affiliate links for which I may earn a commission at no extra cost to you should you make a purchase)

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Olives and nutrition

Everything you eat affects your body chemistry, and modifying your diet is one of the most cost-effective ways to promote positive health naturally. Unfortunately, despite the nation’s great wealth, not everyone can afford insurance, and those who do have coverage may struggle to afford prescription medications and copays. Reducing reliance on the American healthcare system saves you money and stress. 

Olives are a superfood because they are chock-full of nutrients. Plus, each fruit contains less than five calories. You can and should snack on them guilt-free for the health benefits. 

Olive nutrition facts 

Each 3.5-ounce serving of olives contains the following: 

  • 116 calories
  • 0.8 grams of protein
  • 6 grams of carbs
  • 0 grams of sugar
  • 1.6 grams of fiber
  • 10.9 grams of fat 

Additionally, olives contain vitamins A, C, B5, and B6, with manganese, magnesium, and selenium. They’re also a rich source of phytonutrients, including various polyphenols that supercharge your wellness by reducing your risk of multiple diseases. 

Olives can be considered a superfood with their nutrient-dense profile

8 health benefits that prove olives are a superfood 

What are some science-based reasons why olives are a superfood that deserve a spot of honor on your dinner plate? Consider these eight fabulous benefits. 

1. Decrease systemic inflammation

Chronic systemic inflammation is a symptom and cause of various chronic diseases that sap your quality of life. Olives and their love child, olive oil, are superb for cooling the burn, thanks to their omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins E and K. 

One of the best things you can do is choose olive oil for salad dressings and light cooking. Although it has a low smoke point, you can use it for lightly sauteing vegetables if you don’t superheat your pan. Be careful and read labels — many manufacturers cut corners by blending olive oil with a less expensive version like canola with a different nutrient profile. 

2. Boost heart health 

Preventing heart disease is perhaps the best-known reason that olives are a superfood. Problems with this organ remain the number one killer of men and women globally — it only makes sense to reduce your risk. 

What makes olives so good for your heart? The magic lies in the phenolic profile — the polyphenols olives contain. Research shows they elevate HDL or “good” cholesterol while lowering triglycerides and oxidative stress markers. As virgin olive oils are richer in these polyphenols, they’re your best heart-healthy bet. 

Olive oil is also a monounsaturated fat. Your body needs some fats, and the monounsaturated variety doesn’t contribute to plaque buildup in your arteries. 

Are olives a superfood?-olive oil with olives

3. Help prevent cancer

Another factor that makes olives a superfood is their high levels of antioxidants. These substances bond with unpaired free radicals, whisking them out of your body before they can steal electrons from your cells, mutating them. 

Sometimes, those mutations result in cancer. Eating a serving of antioxidant-rich olives at lunch could reduce your risk. 

4. Preserve brain health

There’s more good news about the unique polyphenols in olives. They help protect your brain from aging and may reduce your dementia risk. 

A 2013 study in mice found that supplementing olive polyphenols elevated levels of three substances crucial to growing new neural connections: 

  • Neurotrophins
  • Nerve growth factor (NGF) 
  • Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF)

These substances help you grow new brain cells and protect old ones from death. 

Additionally, oleuropein, one of the polyphenols in olives that breaks into hydroxytyrosol in your body, reduces oxidative damage in the substantia nigra, a part of the brain implicated in Parkinson’s disease. 

Are olives superfoods?-photo of olives hanging from a tree

5. Prevent bone loss

The oleuropein-hydroxytyrosol in olives protects more than your brain. It can also prevent bone loss, reducing your osteoporosis risk. This condition is more common in females and causes pain and degeneration in the spine. Those with the disease often “shrink,” losing inches in height due to spinal curvature, and may have mobility challenges. 

6. Help you manage weight 

Olives help you manage your weight in several ways. They’re low in calories but rich in filling fiber, which keeps you full longer. Additionally, eating olives stimulates the release of cholecystokinin, a hormone that helps tell your body when you’ve had enough. 

Olives come in various colors and have several benefits for health

7. Improve digestive health

Fiber is a prebiotic that’s important for digestive health. That means it feeds the beneficial bacteria in your intestines that help with digestion and other functions, including influencing your immunity and mood. The high fiber content is another reason why olives are a superfood.

Probiotics are the actual bacteria themselves. Although you’re born with a supply, it gets depleted with time, poor diet, and antibiotic and alcohol use. You won’t find probiotics in the typical olives lining your grocer’s shelves. Still, you can ferment them like other vegetables or find commercially produced versions in specialty health food stores that contain probiotics. 

8. Support healthy skin and hair 

The healthy oils and vitamin E in olives help keep your hair shiny and skin supple and youthful. What comedian Billy Crystal once joked about is true — you do feel better when you look good! 

Olives are good for your hair and skin, helping you to look good and feel good

Types of Edible Olives 

All olives offer the above health benefits, but there are slight variations among the species. You might find the following seven types on your store shelves: 

  • Mission 
  • Niçoise
  • Cerignola 
  • Moroccan salt-cured
  • Kalamata
  • Arbequina 
  • Castelvetrano 

How to Eat Olives 

You need to cure olives before you can eat them — so don’t pluck one if you plant a tree in your backyard. You’ll need to soak them in brine to ferment them first.  

Furthermore, natural olives contain stones or pits that you must not swallow. Manufacturers often pit olives and stuff them with pimento or another tasty filling. 

You can eat most store-bought olives by popping them in your mouth. They also make fabulous additions to the following dishes:

  • Pizza
  • Pasta
  • Sandwiches 
  • Tacos 
  • Salads 
  • Soups
  • Dips 
There are many ways to each olives, such as on pizzas or in a Greek salad

Olive Oil Beyond the Kitchen 

Here’s a final pro tip: Olives are more than a superfood. Their oil has uses outside the kitchen, too. Do you have dry skin or hair? Use it as a natural moisturizer and conditioner, rubbing it in or giving your locks a quick rinse with it in the shower. 

Furthermore, olive oil makes a fabulous natural furniture polish. You can dab a bit on a rag and use it solo or mix it with a teaspoon of Castile soap. If doing the latter, make like Daniel-san from “The Karate Kid” and wax-on, wax-off — wipe off any excess with a clean rag to avoid leaving behind a sticky residue that draws dust.

Olives are a superfood you didn’t know you needed

Superfoods pack a wallop of nutrition in a few tiny calories. They’re rich in substances your body needs for optimal health. 

Olives are a superfood for all the above reasons. They are a common part of the Mediterranean diet, commonly cited as one of the healthiest approaches to eating. Add these diminutive fruits to your diet today and enjoy a healthier tomorrow.

If you enjoyed this article, learn more about what superfoods are and whether soy, blueberries, avocado oil, or fermented foods can be considered superfoods. You might also want to read about other plant-based superfoods and supplements, such as cacao, pili nuts, sea moss, ashwagandha, sacha inchi, golden berries, and golden milk.

Looking for healthy superfood recipes? Try these delicious sea moss powder recipes, these golden berries recipes, and these cacao powder recipes.

Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links. If you purchase after clicking on one of these recommended service provider links, like an insurance broker, or a travel agent, I may earn a commission – at no extra cost. [For my full disclosure, please see my DISCLAIMER page].

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Beth Rush

1 Comment

  1. Zara

    Great article! I’ve always enjoyed olives but never knew they could be considered a superfood. Your information about their high nutrient content and potential health benefits is fascinating. I’m going to include more olives in my diet now. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply

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