Two causes of well-being are making sure the fats we eat are good for us, and that we consume plenty of antioxidants.
One excellent source of both healthy fats and antioxidants are the world’s many varieties of olives.
The good fat in olives benefits those with diabetes since it decreases the risk of developing cardiovascular problems, and olives’ antioxidants help reduce the inflammation associated with many illnesses, including diabetes and heart disease.
Fats That Fight Heart Disease
Though olives have a veggie-like flavor, they are actually a “drupe.” Drupes are fruits that come with stones or pits, and this puts olives in the same food category as cherries, mangos, and peaches.
Unlike the sweeter, juicier drupes, olives are brimming with a monounsaturated fat called oleic acid. In research studies people reduced their LDL and total cholesterol levels, and improved their LDL to HDL ratio, by consuming more monounsaturated fats—as long as they kept their total fat intake reasonable.
Other studies revealed that fats such as oleic acid help lower blood pressure, and olive oil - particularly extra-virgin - is linked to a diminished risk of heart disease in those with high cardiovascular risk factors (e.g., diabetes).
The stew of antioxidants in olives has properties proven stronger than those of vitamin E. One of these antioxidants, oleuropein, is only found in olives.
Oleuropein does our body a big favor by decreasing the oxidation of our LDL cholesterol and disrupting the activity of certain inflammatory substances. Though both green and black olives are good for us, the green variety may offer more oleuropein.
An antioxidant found in virgin olive oil, oleocanthal, works much the same way ibuprofen does to reduce inflammation in our body. This is good news since studies associate chronic tissue inflammation with insulin resistance and the development of type 2 diabetes.
Other Olive Benefits
Olives carry diabetes-helpful nutrients that support eye health, protect the liver, and increase insulin sensitivity. Their antimicrobial and anti-viral properties strengthen the immune system.
Olives are also useful for cancer prevention, bone health, and have anti-aging benefits—the oleuropein, squalene, and hydroxytrosol in olives help protect our skin from UV light radiation.
Cooking with Olives
It's easy to include more olives in our diet. They make a great stand-alone snack, and enhance the flavor of many other foods:
- Toss them, whole or sliced, into rice, pasta, or quinoa dishes.
- Sprinkle slices or pieces on flatbreads, pizzas, bruschetta, baked potatoes, scrambled eggs, frittatas, and omelets.
- Stir olives into hummus, cottage cheese, tuna, chicken, or crab salads, and into tomato sauces.
- Add them to dressings or stuffings prior to baking.
- Puree olives with light cream cheese for a quick spread.
You can also make a yummy paste or dip by blending pitted Spanish or Greek olives, fresh parsley, capers, lemon juice, fresh oregano and garlic in a food processor. Add a bit of olive oil if needed to make a puree.
Sources: Diabetes Forecast; Mercola; Food Network
Photo credit: Neil Barnwell