Date: Saturday, August 07 @ 03:46:35 EDT
Olives are harvested in September but available year round to make a zesty addition to salads, meat and poultry dishes and, of course, pizza.
Olives cannot be eaten right off of the tree; they require special processing to reduce their intrinsic bitterness. These processing methods vary with the olive variety, region where they are cultivated and the desired taste, texture and color. Some olives are picked green and unripe, while others are allowed to fully ripen on the tree to a black color. Yet, not all of the black olives available begin with a black color. Some processing methods expose unripe greens olives to the air, and the subsequent oxidation turns them a dark color. In addition to the original color of the olive, the color is affected by fermentation and/or curing in oil, water, brine or salt.
This chart graphically details the %DV that a serving of Olives provides for each of the nutrients of which it is a good, very good, or excellent source according to our Food Rating System. Additional information about the amount of these nutrients provided by Olives can be found in the Food Rating System Chart. A link that takes you to the In-Depth Nutritional Profile for Olives, featuring information over 80 nutrients, can be found under the Food Rating System Chart.
Olives are concentrated in monounsaturated fats and a good source of vitamin E. Because monounsaturated fats are less easily damaged than polyunsaturated fats, it"s good to have some in our cells" outer membranes and other cell structures that contain fats, such as the membranes that surround the cell"s DNA and each of its energy-producing mitochondria. The stability of monounsaturated fats translates into a protective effect on the cell that, especially when combined with the antioxidant protection offered by vitamin E, can lower the risk of damage and inflammation. In addition to vitamin E, olives contain a variety of beneficial active phytonutrient compounds including polyphenols and flavonoids, which also appear to have significant anti-inflammatory properties.
Cellular Protection Against Free Radicals
Vitamin E is the body"s primary fat-soluble antioxidant. It goes after and directly neutralizes free radicals in all the fat-rich areas of the body. In combination, stable monounsaturated fats and vitamin E add a significant safety factor to cellular processes like energy production, a process that generates free radicals even when things are running smoothly.
When cellular processes such as mitochondrial energy production are not well protected, the free radicals produced can interact with and damage any nearby molecules-a process called oxidation. When a cell"s mitochondria become damaged, the cell cannot produce enough energy to supply its needs and dies. If a cell"s DNA becomes damaged, the cell may mutate and become cancerous.
Protection From Heart Disease
Free radical damage can lead to numerous ailments. For example, when free radicals cause the oxidation of cholesterol, the oxidized cholesterol damages blood vessels and builds up in arteries, and can eventually lead to heart attack or stroke. So, by preventing the oxidation of cholesterol, the nutrients in olives help to prevent heart disease.
Support Gastrointestinal Health
If free radicals damage the cellular DNA in colon cells, the cells can mutate into cancer cells. By neutralizing free radicals, the nutrients in olives help prevent colon cancer. A higher intake of both vitamin E and the monounsaturated fats in olives is actually associated with lower rates of colon cancer.
Beneficial Anti-Inflammatory Effects
The anti-inflammatory actions of the monounsaturated fats, vitamin E and polyphenols in olives may also help reduce the severity of asthma, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis, three conditions where most of the damage is caused by high levels of free radicals. The vitamin E in olives may even help to reduce the frequency and/or intensity of hot flashes in women going through menopause.
Olives are fruits of the tree known as Olea europaea. "Olea" is the Latin word for "oil," reflecting the olives very high fat content, of which 75% is oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat that has been shown to lower blood cholesterol levels. "Europaea" reminds us that olives are native to the Mediterranean region of Europe.
Olives cannot be eaten right off of the tree; they require special processing to reduce their intrinsic bitterness, caused by the glycoside oleuropein, which is concentrated in their skin. These processing methods vary with the olive variety, cultivation region, and the desired taste, texture and color to be created.
Some olives are picked green and unripe, while others are allowed to fully ripen on the tree to a black color. Yet, not all of the black olives available begin with a black color. Some processing methods expose unripe greens olives to the air, and the subsequent oxidation turns them a dark color.
In addition to the original color of the olive determining its finished characteristics, the color is affected by a variety of processing methods that olives undergo including fermentation and/or curing in oil, water, brine or salt. These methods may not only cause the olives to turn black, purple, brown, red, or yellow, but they also affect the skin texture, causing it to be smooth and shiny or wrinkled.
Some of the many available delicious varieties of olives include Moroccan oil-cured, Kalamata, Nicoise, Picholine and Manzanilla. In addition to varying in size and appearance, the flavor of olives spans the range from sour to smoky to bitter to acidic. In addition to whole olives, you can often find them pitted.
Olive oil is available in a variety of grades that reflects the degree to which it has been processed. Extra-virgin is the initial unrefined oil from the first pressing. Virgin olive oil is also derived from the first pressing but has a higher acidity level than extra virgin olive oil (as well as less phytonutrients and a less delicate taste). Chemically, the difference bewtween an extra virgin oil and a virgin oil involves the amount of free oleic acid, which is a marker for overall acidity. According to the standards adopted by the International Olive Oil Council, "virgin" can contain up to 2% free oleic acid, while "extra virgin" can contain up to 0.8% of free oleic acid. Pure olive oil usually means a lower-quality oil produced from subsequent pressings.
Olives, one of the oldest foods known, are thought to have originated in Crete between five and seven thousand years ago. Their use quickly spread throughout Egypt, Greece, Palestine and Asia Minor.
Olives are mentioned in the Bible, depicted in ancient Egyptian art, and played an important role in Greek mythology. Since ancient times, the olive tree has provided food, fuel, timber and medicine for many civilizations. It has also been regarded as a symbol of peace and wisdom. Olive oil has been consumed since 3000 BC.
Olives were brought to America by the Spanish and Portuguese explorers during the 15th and 16th century. Franciscan missinariesw introduced olives into California in the late 18th century. Today, much of the commercial cultivation of olives occurs in Spain, Italy, Greece, and Turkey.
How to Select and Store
While olives have been traditionally sold in jars and cans, many stores are now offering them in bulk in large barrels. Buying bulk olives will allow you to experiment with many different types with which you may be unfamiliar and to purchase only as many as you need at one time.
While whole olives are very common, you may also find ones that have been pitted, as well as olives that have been stuffed with either peppers, garlic or almonds. If you purchase olives in bulk, make sure that the store has a good turnover and keeps their olives immersed in brine for freshness and to retain moistness.
Olives will keep freshest if stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
How to Enjoy
Tips for Preparing Olives:
To pit olives, press them with the flat side of a broad bladed knife. This will help break the flesh so that you can easily remove the pit with your fingers or the knife. The brine in which olives are packed can be used as a replacement for salted water in recipes.
A Few Quick Serving Ideas:
Olive tapenade is a delicious and easy-to-make spread that you can use as a dip, sandwich spread, or topping for fish and poultry. To make it, put pitted olives in a food processor with olive oil, garlic, and your favorite seasonings.
Toss pasta with chopped olives, tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and fresh herbs of your choice.
Marinate olives in olive oil, lemon zest, coriander seeds and c umin seeds.
Add chopped olives to your favorite tuna or chicken salad recipe.
Set out a small plate of olives on the dinner table along with some vegetable crudités for your family to enjoy with the meal.
Olives and Acrylamides
Research on olives and their acrylamide content has shown some inconsistency over the past several years and this inconsistency has sparked controversy in the public press about olives and their health risk with respect to acrylamide. In data assembled by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), we"ve seen more than a dozen different kinds of olives, including Spanish, Greek, Kalamata, Nolellata, Sicilian, d"Abruzzo, and Gaeta, and di Cerignola that were determined to contain no detectable level of acrylamide. Yet we have also seen FDA data showing levels of acrylamide as high as 1,925 ppb in some canned, nationally distributed brands of black pitted olives. Based on this data, we suspect that these higher acrylamide levels in select canned black olives were related to specific handling, storage, processing (especially preservation and darkening methods), and heating steps that favored formation of acrylamide. It"s also important to note here that we are not aware of any data showing problematic levels of acrylamide in any extra virgin olive oils available in the marketplace.
At present, we are not aware of any foolproof method that consumers can use to avoid purchase of canned black olives that contain unwanted amounts of acrylamide. Since the FDA data has shown no detectable levels of acrylamide in numerous samples of important olives packed in brine, those olives may be worth considering as options that may help avoid unwanted acrylamide. As stated previously, extra virgin olive oil is another form of this nutrient-rich food that, to our knowledge, has not been shown in research to contain unwanted amounts of acrylamide.
For more on acrylamides, see our detailed write-up on the subject.
Olives are a very good source of monounsaturated fat and a good source of iron, vitamin E, copper, and dietary fiber.
For an in-depth nutritional profile click here: Olives.
In-Depth Nutritional Profile
In addition to the nutrients highlighted in our ratings chart, an in-depth nutritional profile for Olives is also available. This profile includes information on a full array of nutrients, including carbohydrates, sugar, soluble and insoluble fiber, sodium, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, amino acids and more.
Introduction to Food Rating System Chart
In order to better help you identify foods that feature a high concentration of nutrients for the calories they contain, we created a Food Rating System. This system allows us to highlight the foods that are especially rich in particular nutrients. The following chart shows the nutrients for which this food is either an excellent, very good, or good source (below the chart you will find a table that explains these qualifications). If a nutrient is not listed in the chart, it does not necessarily mean that the food doesn"t contain it. It simply means that the nutrient is not provided in a sufficient amount or concentration to meet our rating criteria. (To view this food"s in-depth nutritional profile that includes values for dozens of nutrients - not just the ones rated as excellent, very good, or good - please use the link below the chart.) To read this chart accurately, you"ll need to glance up in the top left corner where you will find the name of the food and the serving size we used to calculate the food"s nutrient composition. This serving size will tell you how much of the food you need to eat to obtain the amount of nutrients found in the chart. Now, returning to the chart itself, you can look next to the nutrient name in order to find the nutrient amount it offers, the percent Daily Value (DV%) that this amount represents, the nutrient density that we calculated for this food and nutrient, and the rating we established in our rating system. For most of our nutrient ratings, we adopted the government standards for food labeling that are found in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration"s "Reference Values for Nutrition Labeling."