Why you Should Adopt the Mediterranean diet: Health Benefits of Olives

Flavourful and nutrient-dense, olives have been around for centuries and were first cultivated in the Mediterranean. Soaring in popularity due to their taste and health benefits, they have become one of the world’s most enjoyed foods and are now grown across the globe. The Olive Oil Council says by 1560, olive groves were being cultivated in Mexico, followed by Peru, California, Chile and Argentina. In more modern times, olives are also farmed in southern Africa, Australia, Japan and China. Iowa State University says California is the only US state to commercially produce olives.

Health Benefits of Olives

The George Mateljan Foundation has published a book about Olives. It talks about benefits that include:

  • High in antioxidants
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Anti-cancer
  • Source of copper, iron, dietary fibre and Vitamin E

Few high-fat foods provide such an array of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients—some of which are distinct to olives themselves. According to The Arthritis Foundation, a diet rich in olive oil is believed to reduce the risk of a diverse range of diseases, from diabetes and asthma, to colon cancer, arthritis and cardiovascular disease. It reduces inflammation in arthritis sufferers, and also offers benefits to those suffering from neurological diseases. Regular consumption of olive oil is also believed to improve heart health: check out this study.

You’ve probably heard of the Mediterranean diet. Though not a specific diet plan, the Mediterranean diet is a collection of eating habits that are traditionally followed by the inhabitants of the Mediterranean region. We’re talking about the 16 countries boarding the Mediterranean sea. It is typically high in olive oil and research shows this diet has an influence on blood pressure and reduces cardiovascular mortality.

What Makes the Olive Tree Special?

In parched California where plants are withering and browning from lack of water in the dry climate, the olive tree flourishes. Not only is the olive tree drought tolerant; it thrives in this arid land, preferring full sun to shade and making due with what a little water is available. Planted with wide spacing allows the roots to stretch out and allows for the sun’s rays to pervade all parts of the tree. The leaves of the olive are unique; they are dark green on top and pale grey beneath. The curved stalks of the olive branch rotate, allowing the leaves to absorb and reflect light as needed.

The olive tree is hardy drought, disease, and fire-resistant, they can live to a great age. Its root system is robust and capable of regenerating the tree even if the above-ground structure is destroyed. The older the olive tree, the broader and more gnarled the trunk becomes. Many olive trees in the groves around the Mediterranean are said to be hundreds of years old.

Did you know that the olive branch is a sign of peace? The olive is such a rich fruit with a rich history. In the book Olive Oil, authors Jacques Chibois and Oliver Bauussen comment:

“Imagine a thousand years of continuous cultivation and not an ounce of innovation.”

olive-tree

Harvest Time

The olive harvest generally starts in September and runs into November, though olives are available all year round. To assure quality, harvesting is done by hand with crews using ladders to reach the fruit and painstakingly pluck the olives off each branch. Next autumn, reap the bounty of fall fruits and veggies and let us not forget the olive. It is a bountiful fruit loaded with healthy fats.

In honor of the great olive tree, try  a variety of raw and organic olives by Sky Island Organics. When choosing your olives, Zebra Organics recommends raw, organic, live, cultured olives, cured without lye.

Olives are traditionally cured with lye, a strong alkaline solution which leaches the oleuropin, to lessen their bitter taste (they’re too bitter to eat straight from the tree). Though lye is common in olive curing, there are other ways to cure olives which don’t require this caustic agent.

Image_OlivesPlate

Types of Olives

To impress friends and family with some unique olive flavours, we suggest dishing up these delicious varieties.

Organic Lemon and Rosemary Lucque

Traditionally grown in France, the lucque is prized for its firm texture and buttery flavor. Fresh rosemary sings out and lemon balances the slight bitterness of these cultured lucques. The only truly raw live-cultured olives in California. We recommend those sourced from Good Faith Farm in Flournoy, California. Enjoy straight out of the jar, or serve with thinly sliced radishes and Sky Island Organics Sprouted Walnuts. This olive pairs well with white wines.

Organic Moroccan Spice

Garlic and warming spices complement this Sevillano olive but don’t out-shine its rich flavour. Serve straight out of the jar, tossed over a salad, or enjoy a raw Moroccan-style breakfast and serve with sweet mint tea, sliced tomatoes, and cucumbers.

Organic Garlic and Oregano

These olives contain piquant notes of garlic and fresh oregano. Balanced by salt from the ancient sea beds of Utah, the tart and fruity flavor of this Sevillano olive is enhanced. Enjoy straight out of the jar, toss over a salad, or pair with a raw soft goat cheese and Sky Island Organics Sprouted Pistachios.

To learn about how olive oil is made, watch this clip that was featured on the National Geographic channel.