Olives are a staple of the Mediterranean diet, which is a heart-healthy diet originating in the Mediterranean. I remember the awe I felt when I visited Israel a few years ago and saw an olive tree. The tree has so much meaning for us as Christians. The oldest olive tree in the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed just before his death is said to be around 900 years old. The tree that’s thought to be the oldest olive tree in the world is the Al Badawi tree, between 4,000 and 5,000 years old, in the village of Al Walaja, Bethlehem.
As you know, olive oil is obtained by grinding olives and extracting the oil by mechanical or chemical means. For the purpose of this post, I will stick to the health properties of the olive fruit which comes from the olive tree.
I love olives but I don’t eat a lot of them. I like them in salads and I especially love the spicy, salty flavor they impart to a tuna sandwich, but after reading about the health benefits of olives I realize that while olives have many important nutrients, they can make you pack on the pounds if you eat them too often (you’ll see why) and they may also contain too much sodium for some of us.
- monosaturated fats and powerful antioxidants which help to decrease cholesterol and high blood pressure.
- Vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, iron, copper
- anti-inflammatory properties helpful in fighting off cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes.
- Lactobacillus, a gut friendly bacteria that can help treat or prevent digestive issues.
With all these benefits, it makes good sense to enjoy more of this heart-healthy fruit, but the high concentration of monosaturated fats may jeopardize your weight loss efforts. Also, if you are on a low-sodium diet, you may need to limit your intake of black olives especially, as they are high in sodium.
Here’s an easy recipe using two ingredients that I love: olives and cheese. You may serve this dish as a spicy, mouth-watering appetizer for your guests or as a simple afternoon snack.
Marinated Olives and Feta Cheese
- 1 cup olives (I prefer black olives)
- 3 oz feta cheese cubed
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- Add all ingredients to a small bowl and mix well to combine. Allow olives to marinade at least 20 minutes before serving.