Whether served as a tasty appetizer for a black-tie affair or an energetic tailgating party, stuffed olives are versatile party foods. Garlic-stuffed olives seem like a sinful indulgence, but these tiny hors d’oeuvres offer surprising health benefits. Olives and garlic contain antioxidants, natural disease-fighting chemicals that may protect against several chronic diseases.
Olives are higher in fat than most plant foods, with 7 grams of fat per one-half-cup serving. Most of these fats are unsaturated fats, healthy fats that may reduce cholesterol levels in the blood. It's not all good news for these tasty appetizers, however. Canned olives can be very high in sodium. A high-sodium diet is a risk factor for high blood pressure, and you should consume no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day. One-half cup of canned olives has 590 milligrams of sodium, or 25 percent of your daily maximum. When you stop at the olive tray, keep your serving size small.
Health Benefits of Olives
Olives have beneficial antioxidants that may protect against cancer and heart disease. A study published in the “European Journal of Cancer Prevention” identified several anti-cancer compounds in olives. Another study published in the “International Journal of Vitamin and Nutrition Research” found that the antioxidants in olives decreased levels of LDL, or bad cholesterol, in the blood. Olive oil is the primary source of fat for people of the Mediterranean region, which includes Italy, Greece and Spain. The traditional diets of these cultures inspired the Mediterranean diet, an eating plan associated with a reduced risk of heart disease.
First cultivated 5,000 years ago in the Middle East, garlic adds a strong burst of flavor to your stuffed olives. One clove of minced garlic contains 5 calories and no fat or sodium. Garlic contains allicin, the sulfur compound responsible for its strong odor. Allicin is an antioxidant, but its role in disease prevention is not yet understood.
Health Benefits of Garlic
Vitamin and health food stores sell garlic as a heart-health supplement, but research shows mixed results. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality reviewed 45 trial studies on garlic and cholesterol. In 37 studies, garlic significantly reduced cholesterol levels. This seems promising, but the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database cautions against jumping to conclusions. Many of these studies were preliminary research, and higher-quality studies have not shown a correlation between garlic intake and cholesterol. The NMCD currently rates garlic as “possibly effective" for high blood pressure, certain cancers and fungal infections.
- Fruits and Veggies More Matters: Olives
- USDA: Olives, Pickled, Canned, Bottled, Green
- European Journal of Cancer Prevention: Olives and Olive Oil in Cancer Prevention
- International Journal of Vitamin and Nutrition Research: Antioxidant Activity of Olive Polyphenols in Humans: A Review.
- Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition: Biological Properties of Olive Oil Phytochemicals
- Fruits and Veggies More Matters: Garlic
- MedlinePlus: Garlic
- American Cancer Society: Garlic
- Mayo Clinic: Sodium: How to Tame Your Salt Habit Now
- Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality: Garlic Effects
Jennifer Dlugos is a Boston-based writer with more than 10 years of experience in the health-care and wellness industries. She is also an award-winning filmmaker and screenwriter who teaches screenwriting and film production classes throughout New England. Dlugos holds a master's degree in dietetics.