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Olives, some people love them, others cannot even look at them. Over the years, I have learned to appreciate olives and have developed an acquired taste for them.
Popular in the Mediterranean diet, olives offer some amazing and unique health benefits. But did you know that there are several hundreds of different types of olives, each with their own characteristics, texture and benefits?
Native to Greece, Kalamata olives are perhaps one of the most popular varieties. And while they may not be for everyone, I personally love eating kalamata olives as a little snack every now and then.
So let’s have a closer look at what Kalamata olives are all about and what health benefits they can offer us.
What Are Kalamata Olives?
Also spelled Calamata and often referred to as “Greek olives”, kalamata olives originate from a Greek city that goes by the same name.
Kalamata olives have been grown and eaten since many centuries in the Kalamata region, the second largest city of the Greek peninsula of Peloponnese. To this day, this variety of olives is still widely grown in Greece.
You may also see them marketed as Kalamon olives, named after the variety of olive tree the fruit comes from.
Due to a specific European law, kalamata olives that are not grown in the Kalamata region cannot be marketed as Kalamata olives. Instead, they are sold as kalamon olives.
Ripe kalamata olives are deep purple in color and cannot be picked when they are still green. They are also bigger in size and have a more rectangular shape than normal green and black olives.
They have a somewhat salty and tangy taste and a smooth and pleasing texture. Kalamata olives are typically more expensive than regular olives due to the traditional way of growing and preparing them and because of their health benefits and distinct taste.
Because the kalamata olive, or any type of olive for that matter, has a pit inside, it is officially classified as a fruit.
Looking for a more fruity kind of olive? Perhaps try Castelvetrano olives, one of the more popular varieties due to their mild, almost sweet, flavors.
The Processing of Kalamata Olives
While you can certainly eat fresh kalamata olives, they do taste very bitter. This is why kalamata olives typically go through a preparation process before they are being sold.
The easiest way to prepare kalamata olives for consumption is by soaking them in weak brine or water for around a week. The olives are then packaged in a mix of brine, wine vinegar and olive oil.
Slices of lemon on top can also be added for flavoring. The olives are often slit to decrease the processing time.
A more comprehensive way of preparing kalamata olives is by slitting them and then storing them in stronger brine for two or three months. This will take away a lot of the bitterness of the fruit.
Even after this preparation process, kalamata olives still contain high levels of polyphenol (see further below). They will also still taste somewhat bitter but much less than before the preservation process.
How to Consume Kalamata Olives?
I love eating them just on their own, as a little afternoon snack, or as an appetizer before dinner. They also work really well in different types of salads, on pizzas, casseroles, pasta dishes, and also on a mix platter with cheese and fruits.
Especially with salads, there is so much you can do with olives. It’s a matter of trying to mix up the ingredients and find the best flavors.
Health Benefits of Kalamata Olives
Kalamata olives, and olives in general, are a unique fruit. Unlike most other (sweet) fruit, olives aren’t particularly high in vitamins and minerals, but they do contain a high percentage of fat. The good kind of fat, that is.
Monounsaturated fats help to reduce cholesterol levels in your body. As such, they are crucial in lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Let’s first have a more detailed look at the nutritional profile of kalamata olives. As you can notice in the table below, vitamins and minerals are somewhat lacking. But that’s fine, because kalamata olives offer health benefits in a different way.
Having said that, kalamata olives do contain reasonable amounts of dietary fiber, calcium, iron and vitamins A and C.
Also take note of the high sodium content. This is mainly because of the preservation process. If your diet is already high in sodium, it’s best to limit your consumption of kalamata olives.
Please note though that sodium is not a bad nutrient. In fact, sodium is an essential nutrient critical for our health. But too much sodium can cause health problems, such as cardiovascular disease.
|Kalamata Olives Nutritional Profile (35 pitted olives – 100 g)|
|Fat||22.4 g (34% DV)|
|– Monounsaturated||16.4 g|
|– Polyunsaturated||2.1 g|
|– Saturated||3.1 g|
|Dietary fiber||2.8 g|
|Sodium||630 mg (26% DV)|
|Vitamin A||7% DV|
|Vitamin C||1.4% DV|
The high levels of polyphenol in Kalamata olives make them such a much desired health food in the Mediterranean diet.
Polyphenols are micronutrients or chemicals with antioxidant activity. They occur naturally in plants, vegetables and fruits, and in products manufactured from these fruits.
Grapes, apples and berries for example typically have high levels of polyphenols. This is also why some say a glass of red wine is good for you because it is made with grapes, and grapes contain polyphenols.
It is commonly understood that dietary polyphenols play an important role in human health and disease.
Research has shown that polyphenols help prevent and reduce the progression of diabetes, cancer and neurodegenerative and cardiovascular diseases. In addition, polyphenols can also function as a prebiotic which promotes gut health.
People in the Mediterranean have been eating kalamata olives since many centuries and have enjoyed their health benefits.
Numerous studies have confirmed the unique health benefits of kalamata olives, mainly because of the high healthy fat content and high levels of polyphenols.
Not everyone loves the taste of olives, but they work really well in salads as long as you find the right balance between ingredients. So please go ahead, and add kalamata olives to your diet. I’ve been eating them regularly for many years now and love them!