Olives are a popular and delicious fruit commonly enjoyed in Mediterranean cuisine. These savory fruits are often cured and eaten whole as a snack or used to make olive oil, tapenade, or garnish pizzas and salads. There are two main varieties of olives namely green and black olives. Green olives are unripe and have a firm texture and bitter taste, while black olives are ripe and softer with a less bitter flavor. Olives are high in healthy fats, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals
Now the question is – can eating olives really help with weight loss? To find out, we examined scientific research on olives and weight management. Some studies suggest that olive oil can increase feelings of fullness and help regulate appetite hormones. Other research indicates olives may help stimulate fat burning and boost metabolism. Let’s closely review the existing evidence below on the potential weight loss benefits of adding olives to the diet.
Types Of Olives
There are over 200 varieties of olives, but they are broadly categorized into two main types namely green and black olives.
1. Green Olives are unripe and typically pale green or greenish-yellow in color. They have a crisp, crunchy texture and a bitter, sharp taste. Green olives are frequently soaked in a saltwater brine solution for curing and then fermented or preserved in vinegar or lye. Popular varieties of green olives include Lucques, Picholine, and Castelvetrano.
2. Black Olives are fully mature olives that range in color from purple to black. They are picked when completely ripe and processed to remove their inherent bitterness. This makes them milder and less crunchy compared to green olives. Common varieties of black olives include Kalamata, Nyons, and Gaeta.
So in summary, green olives are more bitter and used for producing olive oil, while black olives are softer, less bitter, and typically eaten whole.
Potential Weight Loss Benefits Of Olives
Here are some of the top ways that olives may help support a healthy weight:
1. Low Calorie Density
One of the biggest benefits of olives is they are low in calorie density. Calorie density measures the number of calories in a food relative to its weight or volume. Foods with a calorie density below 4 calories per gram are considered low density. Whole olives have a very low calorie density, ranging from around 1-1.5 calories per gram depending on the variety. Eating more low calorie density foods can help you feel satiated while consuming fewer overall calories.
2. Healthy Fats
Olives shine in their content of healthy fats, particularly oleic acid, the primary monounsaturated fat. Replacing carbs or other types of fat with monounsaturated fats may support weight loss and improve heart health. One study found that consuming a Mediterranean diet high in monounsaturated fat from olives and olive oil resulted in more weight loss compared to a low fat diet over 4 years.
3. Enhanced Satiety
Some studies indicate that olive oil, a key component of olives, may increase feelings of fullness. This is partly attributed to oleic acid, which may stimulate the release of satiety hormones like GLP-1. The increased feelings of fullness from the consumption of olive oil could lead to lower overall calorie intake, therefore supporting weight loss efforts. The healthy fats in olive oil may also help slow digestion and control blood sugar, further aiding appetite regulation and weight management.
One study in 11 men found that a breakfast enriched with olives increased satiety and led to an overall 9% decrease in calorie intake compared to control breakfasts. More research specifically on olives is warranted.
4. Potential Fat Burning
Early animal research indicates olives may have a role in activating brown adipose tissue, a type of fat that may help stimulate fat burning. One study showed that giving obese rats an olive pulp extract for 30 days increased the activity of fat-burning enzymes like carnitine palmitoyltransferase. However, human data is lacking, and more studies are needed on the effects of olives on metabolism and body composition.
How Many Olives Should I Eat A Day For Weight Loss?
When trying to lose weight, olives can be a smart addition to your diet. You may incorporate olives into a healthy weight loss plan in the following ways.
- Enjoy them in moderation. Limit your portions to 2-3 ounces (about 16-24 small olives) per day due to their high sodium content.
- Pair them with other low calorie density foods as part of a balanced, nutrient-dense diet.
- Practice portion control, as the calories can add up if you consume too many.
- Select olives packed in water or olive oil rather than salt brines to reduce sodium intake.
Calorie And Nutrient Profile Of Olives
The number of calories in olives can range from around 35-50 calories per ounce depending on the variety. This makes them a low calorie density food, which will be discussed more shortly.
In addition to being low in calories, olives provide a wide range of important nutrients. Just a 1.2 ounce (34 gram) serving of green or black olives contains:
- Healthy Monounsaturated Fats: Green olives provide 4g of monounsaturated fat per serving, while black olives contain 2g. This beneficial type of fat containing oleic acid may help promote weight loss.
- Fiber: Olives supply 3-4% of the Daily Value of fiber per serving. This fiber content can help support feelings of satiety and fullness.
- Antioxidants: Olives are rich sources of polyphenol antioxidants that fight inflammation. These antioxidants help counter free radicals and oxidative stress.
- Vitamin E: A serving of black olives provides 12% DV of vitamin E, which is a fat-soluble antioxidant vitamin. Vitamin E helps protect cell membranes from damage.
- Iron: Black olives provide 4% DV of iron in just 34 grams. This mineral is important for oxygen transport and energy production.
- Sodium: Olives are naturally high in sodium, providing 11-23% DV per serving. While olives are nutritious, it’s important to monitor sodium intake from them.
So in moderation, olives provide valuable healthy fats, fiber, antioxidants, and micronutrients.
Olives may aid weight loss and fat burning thanks to their low calorie density, healthy fats, and ability to increase satiety, olives may have a beneficial role in supporting weight loss. However, human research specifically on olives is limited at this time. Enjoy olives in moderation along with an overall healthy diet and active lifestyle for the best potential results. More human studies on olives are warranted to fully understand their efficacy for weight management.