Olives are a beloved ingredient used in many cuisines around the world. Most olives are cured or pickled in a brine solution before being eaten. But some people wonder – is eating olives soaked in brine actually healthy for you? Let’s take a closer look at the nutritional profile of olives in brine and the potential health benefits and downsides.
Nutritional Profile of Olives in Brine
Olives naturally contain a variety of beneficial nutrients including:
- Monounsaturated fatty acids like oleic acid
- Vitamin E
- Phytonutrients like polyphenols
- Vitamin A
However, when olives are cured in a brine solution, the nutritional profile changes slightly. Here is a comparison of the nutrition facts for 100g of raw olives vs. 100g of brined green olives:
|Olives in Brine
As you can see, the brining process increases the calories, fat and sodium content in olives. However, olives cured in brine still retain most of their beneficial mono and polyunsaturated fats, vitamin E, antioxidants and phytonutrients.
Potential Health Benefits
Here are some of the evidence-based health benefits associated with eating olives in brine:
1. Heart Healthy Fats
Both raw and brined olives contain mostly monounsaturated fatty acids like oleic acid. This type of fat has been linked to reduced inflammation, lower LDL cholesterol, better blood pressure and a lower risk of heart disease.
2. Cancer Fighting Antioxidants
Olives are a great source of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients like oleanolic acid, hydroxytyrosol, tyrosol, and oleuropein. These compounds have been studied for their potential protective effects against cancer, viral infections, osteoporosis and brain disorders.
3. Improved Bone Health
The vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, iron, copper and other trace minerals in olives may help reduce loss of bone mass and lower the risk of conditions like osteoporosis and osteoarthritis.
4. Digestive Health
The fiber content of olives may help promote good digestion and regularity. Studies suggest olives and olive oil could be beneficial for individuals with ulcers, gastritis or constipation.
5. Anti-Inflammatory Effects
Chronic inflammation is at the root of many diseases. Compounds found in olives may help regulate inflammatory processes in the body and reduce systemic inflammation.
Potential Health Risks
While olives soaked in brine provide some nutritional and health benefits, there are also a few potential downsides to consider:
The curing process leads to a major increase in sodium content. A 100g serving of olives in brine can contain over 700mg of sodium, compared to 5mg in raw olives. Consuming high sodium foods regularly may increase blood pressure in salt-sensitive individuals.
Some people may experience unpleasant digestive symptoms after eating a lot of olives in brine. The high fat and salt content can provoke diarrhea, bloating, cramping or irritation when consumed in excess.
The acidic brining liquid used to cure olives could potentially leach minerals like calcium from bones and teeth if consumed in high amounts. This may be a concern for those already at risk of osteoporosis.
Olives cured in brine are higher in calories and fat compared to raw olives. Eating large servings could lead to unwanted weight gain if it puts you into a calorie surplus.
Some people may be allergic to olives or specific compounds found in olives. Symptoms of an olive allergy can include itchy mouth, rash, swelling, cramping, diarrhea or anaphylaxis.
Tips for Choosing Healthy Olives in Brine
To maximize the benefits of olives cured in brine while minimizing any potential risks, here are some selection tips:
- Look for olives with reduced sodium, if possible.
- Read ingredients lists and choose olives without artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.
- Select olives packed in brine rather than olive oil for a healthier fat profile.
- Enjoy brined olives as part of a Mediterranean diet rich in vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts and whole grains.
- Eat olives in moderation along with a variety of other healthy foods.
- Rinse canned olives with water before serving to remove some excess sodium.
- Pair olives with spices, herbs and flavors like garlic, rosemary, red chili and lemon to enhance taste.
Overall, olives cured in brine can be a nutritious addition to an eating pattern that follows dietary recommendations for heart health. Olives provide beneficial monounsaturated fats, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory compounds and nutrients like vitamin E. However, it is best to enjoy brined olives in moderation and balance their high sodium content with other low-sodium foods. Selecting reduced sodium olives, rinsing before use, and watching portion sizes can help mitigate potential risks of excess salt, calories or irritation. Incorporating brined olives into a diet focused on whole foods like vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, legumes, nuts and healthy fats can allow you to take advantage of their unique nutritional profile while minimizing any downsides.