Here are a few questions just to see how observant you are. On the Great Seal of the United States of America, what is the eagle grasping in its right talon? Hint: it’s the same thing that the dove brought back to Noah, in the Biblical story, signaling that the flood waters were receding. Clue: historically and traditionally worn by brides and virgins. Another clue, it is an internationally recognized symbol for peace and victory. If you came up with the olive branch, you’re pretty sharp.
Olive oil, besides being the name of Popeye’s slender girlfriend, has been called liquid gold. It’s had important religious ceremonial significance for thousands of years and has anointed the heads of Kings, Queens, and Pharaohs throughout history. It was such an important commodity that the Greeks and Romans even had a special fleet of ships to transport it. Olives come in many different varieties, are native to the Mediterranean region, and the trees have been known to live as long as two thousand years. California is the olive capital of the U.S.
Instead of the symbolism of the branch or oil, let’s examine the health benefits of olives themselves. Most people think olives are a vegetable, but they’re actually a very nutrient-dense fruit produced in larger amounts than apples, oranges, or grapes. In fact the old joke of, “Hey bartender, put an olive in my martini; my doctor says I need more greens,” isn’t all that inaccurate.
Most fruits and vegetables are healthier when eaten raw, but olives are too hard and bitter to be popped in your mouth right off the tree. To make them fit for consumption, olives must go through a process called curing. They can be cured or pickled using a lye solution, a salty brine, or just water.
Olives are crazy rich in phytonutrients that provide huge antioxidant and anti-inflammatory advantages and have a low glycemic index. The list of specific benefits they provide is substantial and impressive. They are a rich source of a number of minerals, including iron; vitamins, including vitamin E; and amino acids.
- It is true that olives are high in monosaturated fats, but these are healthy and key in increasing the good cholesterol while diminishing blood vessel plaque, thereby helping lower blood pressure and the risk of heart disease.
- Olives are useful in protecting against anemia, as well as preventing blood clotting that can lead to heart attack or stroke.
- Olives fortify our immune system against chronic stresses and diseases.
- Olives encourage sensible weight loss by providing fiber that fills you up faster; diminishing appetite by elevating hormones levels, like serotonin and cholecystokinin; as well as stimulating the production of adiponectin which helps break down the contents of fat cells for hours after the meal.
- Olives impart anti-histamine substances that are helpful in dealing with irritating allergies.
- Olives may be just as beneficial to eyesight as carrots. They supply vitamin A to the retina, improving night vision, while fortifying against age related eye conditions like cataracts and macular degeneration.
- Olives may be the best friend of a person with indigestion since they activate the secretion of bile and pancreatic enzymes. Regularly consuming olives is associated with decreased rates of gallstones and even colon cancer.
- Olives provide numerous blessings to our anatomy and physiology: minimizing wrinkles by their hydrating and antioxidant qualities; improving memory as we age, including reducing the degenerative effects of Alzheimer’s disease; helping the fight against varicose veins; and improving fertility.
- I personally avoid canned olives when possible, because of possible metallic contamination. I prefer olives that are packaged in glass, or submerged in brine.
Don’t wait for special holidays to partake of this delicious and precious fruit. You can make everyday a special day by including olives in your menu. So let me extend the olive branch to you; make mine Kalamata.