By now, it shouldn’t be surprising to learn that popular food in the Mediterranean is likely to be super healthy. It turns out that Kalamata olives, which originate from a city in Greece with the same name, are one of the best options you can get from the region.
These olives are distinct for their dark purple, almost black color and usually come with the pits still inside. They are cured in a salty brine which causes fermentation and calms down their naturally strong bitter flavor. You can find them in pretty much every grocery store (Buy at Walmart, $2.98) and they’re great for filling out a charcuterie board, throwing in a salad, or snacking on right out of the jar!
Although they are technically high in fat, it’s monounsaturated fat — meaning you don’t have to feel guilty about chowing down on it in moderation. In fact, monounsaturated fat is often referred to as “healthy fat,” like the kind you get from avocados and nuts. The fat in Kalamata olives is mostly made up of oleic acid, which studies have found is particularly helpful at warding off heart disease and risk factors like high blood pressure or cholesterol. It does so by preventing plaque buildup in our veins, making everything run smooth.
Kalamata olives are also jam-packed with two antioxidant polyphenols called oleuropein and hydroxytyrosol. The oleuropein is what gives the olives their bitter flavor and it produces hydroxytyrosol during its curing process. Along with fighting off chronic inflammation, these polyphenols have both been found to benefit heart health and protect cells from cancer damage.
The oleuropein has another perk up its sleeve: On top of the heart and anti-cancer properties, a study found it may help guard our brains against developing the plaque that causes Alzheimer’s disease. Their findings also showed it could prevent cell loss associated with Parkinson’s disease.
Although you might be tempted to snack on a ton of these olives to get all those benefits, it’s important to remember they also come with a hefty amount of sodium. There’s 230 milligrams in about three to five olives (depending on the brand you buy). Luckily, eating about that many will keep you well under the daily recommended amount of salt while still providing plenty of heart, anti-cancer, and brain-boosting health perks!
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