The fruit of the olive tree and the source of olive oil, olives have been eaten by humankind for millennia. When most people say “olives”, they are referring to olea europaea, otherwise known as the European olive however, olives grow throughout the Mediterranean as well as California, Africa and the Middle East and hundreds of different cultivars of olives exist. Some olives are green when picked but become black during the curing process while other olives turn black on the tree when they become mature. Are olives Paleo?
Nutritional Value of Olives
The following is the nutritional content of 100 g olives, canned (small to extra-large):
- Calories: 115
- Total fat: 11 g
- Saturated fat: 1.4 g
- Polyunsaturated fat: .9 g
- Monounsaturated fat: 7.9 g
- Cholesterol: 0 mg
- Sodium: 872 mg
- Potassium: 8 mg
- Carbohydrates: 23 g
- Sugar: 0 g
- Protein: 1 g
- Iron: 3.3 mg
- Copper: .3 mg
- Calcium: 88 mg
- Vitamin A: 403 IU
- Vitamin E: 1.7 mg
Health Benefits of Olives
Olives are a source of iron, copper, calcium, vitamin A and vitamin E. In addition to providing these vitamins and minerals, the health benefits of olives comes from an abundance of oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFA) and phytonutrients that act as antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties. Both the oleic acid and phytonutrients in olives are associated with a decreased risk for heart disease, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s disease and improved symptoms from allergy-related inflammation and rheumatoid arthritis. Although the majority of the fat in olives is in the form of healthy monounsaturated fat, olives also contain some anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids.
Are there any downsides to eating olives?
Olives are too bitter to eat fresh off the tree so they are “cured” to make them palatable. There are four types of curing; water-curing, brine-curing, lye-curing and dry-curing (for oil-cured olives) and all methods involve the addition of a lot of salt. However if you’re not medically salt restricted for a specific condition and you’re following a Paleo diet free of processed foods, you might even benefit from added salt and should have no problem enjoying olives as a part of your diet. Water-curing involves soaking the olives in water for a number of weeks and brine-curing involves placing them in a salty brine and allowing them to ferment for several months. Dry-cured olives sit in salt until they are ready to be added to oil. Lye-curing involves soaking olives in strong alkali solutions containing either sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide. The lye is fully washed off before the olives go to market. Although lye-curing may sound scary, it’s a popular and convenient method of curing olives at home. (Just make sure to fully wash off the lye before you eat your olives or they will taste really bad!) Large black olives, known as Lindsey olives are lye cured. If you simply want to avoid lye, all olives processed in Greece are brine-cured using natural compounds like wine and salt due to local laws.
Where to Buy Olives
Canned and jarred olives are available in most large and small groceries. By purchasing olives in glass jars, you’ll be able to avoid BPA, (unfortunately, BPA may still be in the lid liner.) Many markets now have olive bars that sell a variety of olive types. If organic or specialty olives are not available in your market or you can find them online.
Should I Eat Olives And Are They Paleo?
Olives, like other Paleo foods such as coconut oil, are “processed” to a certain extent before they are in edible form but, let’s be clear here – processing does not automatically rule out Paleo-friendliness! If processing is minimal and does not detract from a foods’ original integrity, (and perhaps adds to it!) that food can be a welcome addition to any Paleo diet. Olives are most certainly Paleo-friendly. They are healthy and flavorful and add interest and dimension to meals and snacks.
How to Use Olives
Below is a paleo friendly recipe for chicken flavored with lemons and olives:
- 1 tsp. thyme
- 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
- 8 whole chicken thighs (with bones and skins)
- 1/2 lb. black olives, cut in half and pitted
- 1/4 cup butter (or other paleo-friendly fat)
- 3 cloves garlic, finely minced (or pressed)
- 3 cups of onions, thinly sliced
- 2 whole lemons, sliced
- 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Heat oven to 350F (175 C)
- Melt butter (or fat) in pan and then brown chicken
- Remove chicken from pan
- Cook onions for 3 minutes in hot pan
- Add garlic, salt and pepper, and cook for one minute
- Add chicken stock, lemon juice, and thyme to pan
- Add chicken to pan, skin side up and summer on low heat for 20 minutes, covering the pan
- Uncover the pan and add olives and lemon slices, cooking for another 20 minutes
- Serve chicken with sauce and lemon slices