The New Topping In Town

  • Alka Gurha
  • India
  • Dec 07, 2012

Most of us have tasted olives in Italian dishes – like pizzas and pastas. The super-markets are flooded with different varieties of preserved olives. If eaten straight off the trees, olives have a sharp bitter taste – hence they are eaten after curing and processing. Most of the world’s olives are grown in areas around the Mediterranean Sea.

Green or Black?

The colour of the olive corresponds to the ripeness of the fruit when picked. Most olives start out green, and darken to black as they mature.  Normally, green olives are denser and firmer than black olives. Black olives are usually used for the extraction of olive oil, because as the olives ripen the oil content in them increases. The taste and texture of any olive depends on the method and duration of the curation of olives.

Olives are cured or pickled using various methods – oil-cured, water-cured, lye-cured, brine-cured and dry-cured. Some olives are naturally fermented. Each process takes a different time, and has a different effect on the flavour. When olives are preserved in brine solution, they grow softer over time. It is important to note that sometimes canned black olives are often green olives cured with lye, and exposed to oxygen. The black colour in these olives comes from oxidation.

The green olives (that we buy) in a jar are marinated in water–  with a bit of vinegar and brine salt, to kill the bitterness. 

Nutrition facts

The nutritional make-up of black and green olives is nearly identical. 100 grams of olives contain about 100 calories, 3 grams of fibre, and 2 milligrams of Vitamin-E. Olives are packed with monounsaturated fat and several other minerals – like calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron and copper. They’re also rich in anti-inflammatory chemicals, called polyphenols and flavonoids. 

Health  Benefits

The health benefits of the olive are pretty much identical to its oil. They protect the heart against disease. Antioxidants eradicate the free radicals that are responsible for oxidizing cholesterol. The polyphenols and flavonoids in olives are said to help in lowering the inflammation caused by arthritis. Researchers say that olives can help reduce the intensity and frequency of hot flashes – experienced by menopausal women. 

Since olive oil is extracted from pressed olives, olives are rich in monounsaturated fat. Hypertensive people should also keep in mind that cured olives contain high sodium, which can have an adverse effect on their blood pressure. In a supermarket, while choosing olives for health benefits, always opt for those that have been traditionally cured, as opposed to lye-processed. Other than that, olives are packets of nutrition and taste. So go ahead and sprinkle them on your favorite pizza – or add them in your pastas and salads.


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