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Are Olives Good for Diabetics?

Olives, scientifically known as Olea europaea, are small, oval-shaped fruits primarily cultivated in regions of southern Europe adjacent to the Mediterranean Sea, including countries like Spain, Italy, Morocco, Turkey, Greece, and California. These fruits thrive in locales characterized by warm climates, dry summers, and cool winters, conditions conducive to fruit-bearing [1].

The Mediterranean diet has gained significant popularity in recent times, contributing to a surge in the demand for olive oil. This oil is prized for its abundant content of monounsaturated fat, oleic acid, oleuropein, and other compounds that have demonstrated positive impacts on diabetes and cardiovascular well-being [2][3].

Furthermore, olives are low in calories and carbohydrates and have a low glycemic index, making them the ideal snack for people living with diabetes. It can also be enjoyed on its own, a culinary tradition frequently observed in Spanish Tapas establishments.

Nutrition value of Olives

The nutrition value of green olives per 100g is as follows:

 Green Olives (per 100g)Black Olives (per 100g)
Energy145 kcal116 kcal
Protein1.03 g0.84 g
Total fat15.3 g10.9 g
Carbohydrate3.84 g6.04 g
Of which sugars0.54 g0
Fibre3.3 g1.6 g
Sodium1560 mg735 mg
Table 1: Nutrition values of olives per 100g [4] 

Glycemic Index of Olives

Olives are categorized as a low-GI (Glycemic Index) food due to their high fat and low carbohydrate content. This makes them an excellent choice for individuals living with diabetes.

Carbohydrate Content of Olives

As indicated in Table 1, olives are generally considered a low-carbohydrate food. Typically, people do not consume 100 grams of olives in a single serving.

Fat Content of Olives:

While approximately 15% of olives consist of fat, this fat is predominantly composed of healthy monounsaturated fatty acids, particularly oleic acid. These fats contain antioxidant compounds [5][6].

Vitamin and Mineral Content of Olives:

Olives are also a rich source of various nutrients, including:

  • Iron: Iron is crucial for the production of haemoglobin, which transports oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body [7].
  • Vitamin E: Vitamin E primarily functions as an antioxidant, enhancing the immune system and promoting blood vessel dilation while preventing clot formation.
  • Calcium: Calcium plays a significant role in bone metabolism, and research suggests that higher calcium intake may have a potentially positive impact on reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes [8].

Is Olive Oil good for people with diabetes?

As most people with type 2 diabetes stem from unhealthy eating habits, obesity, insulin resistance, and unhealthy diet, a healthful eating pattern has been introduced as a key component of type 2 diabetes management.

1. Delay the Initiation of Oral Diabetes Medications:

Research demonstrates that incorporating extra virgin olive oil into a Mediterranean diet can lead to a postponed commencement of diabetes medications compared to individuals solely following a Mediterranean diet [9].

2. Enhance Blood Sugar Management:

Scientific studies indicate that groups incorporating olive oil into their diets experience a more significant reduction in HbA1c levels compared to those who do not [2].

3. Prevent Cardiovascular Disease:

Cardiovascular diseases such as myocardial infarction, angina, heart failure, and stroke affect a substantial proportion of individuals with type 2 diabetes, contributing significantly to mortality rates [10]. Hence, safeguarding cardiovascular health is imperative in this population.

Extra virgin olive oil, with its antioxidant properties, can potentially reduce the risk of cardiovascular events like myocardial infarction and stroke [11,12].

4. Guard Against Cognitive Impairment:

People with poorly managed type 2 diabetes face an elevated risk of cognitive impairment and progression to dementia [13]. Research suggests that regular consumption of extra virgin olive oil may have a neuroprotective effect and could potentially prevent the development of dementia, particularly Alzheimer’s disease.

This effect may be attributed to the presence of secoiridoid oleuropein, although further studies are necessary to validate this [14].

FAQ

Green olives and black olives, which are better?

Green olives contain twice the amount of salt compared to black olives. Therefore, if you are trying to cut down on salt, black olives might be a better choice.

However, black olives have slightly more carbohydrate content per 100g compared to green olives, and hence, it is important to pay attention to portion size.

Canned/pickled olives and fresh olives, which are better?

Fresh olives are essentially bitter to the point that most people will not want to eat further after the first bite. This is because they contain oleuropein, which protects them from being eaten by animals.

Hence, to make olives edible, olives are usually processed by using brine, dry salt, water, or lye treatments.

Do olives contain a lot of salt?

Olives contain a lot of salt due to the curing process to make them edible. Green olives contain more salt content when compared to black olives.

Are olives good for gestational diabetes?

Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that occurs when a woman who has never been diagnosed with diabetes develops diabetes during pregnancy. This commonly occurs in the second or third trimester. Gestational diabetes develops as your body is not able to produce enough insulin to meet the body’s requirements, and hence, a change in diet or medications is required.

Most women with gestational diabetes are advised to reduce the amount of carbohydrate intake. Olives are a good snack for women with gestational diabetes as it is low in calorie and carbohydrate content.

Olives are also rich in iron, which is crucial in pregnant women.

How can I incorporate olives into my diet?

There are many ways of incorporating olives into your diet, especially if you are not a fan of eating olives on their own.

You might want to consider:

  • Slicing them and adding them to your salads
  • Adding them to your pizza
  • Having them with cheese, fruit, and a glass of wine

Final Thoughts

Olives are a fundamental component of the dietary tradition in many Mediterranean regions, primarily owing to their remarkable health advantages. The American Diabetes Society promotes the Mediterranean diet as a recommendation due to its emphasis on substantial olive oil consumption, along with the inclusion of fruits, vegetables, and nuts.

Individuals managing type 2 diabetes and experiencing inadequate blood sugar control are at a heightened risk of developing both cognitive decline and cardiovascular disease. Notably, olive oil appears to offer protective benefits in these cases. Hence, it is advisable for individuals with type 2 diabetes to integrate olive oil into their daily dietary regimen.

References

  1. Olives. Agricultural Marketing Resource Center. (n.d.). https://www.agmrc.org/commodities-products/fruits/olives#:~:text=Olives%20originated%20in%20the%20region,Greece%20being%20the%20largest%20producers.
  2. Schwingshackl, L., Lampousi, A.-M., Portillo, M. P., Romaguera, D., Hoffmann, G., & Boeing, H. (2017). Olive oil in the prevention and management of type 2 diabetes mellitus: A systematic review and meta-analysis of Cohort Studies and Intervention Trials. Nutrition & Diabetes, 7(4). https://doi.org/10.1038/nutd.2017.12
  3. Buckland G, Mayén AL, Agudo A, Travier N, Navarro C, Huerta JM, Chirlaque MD, Barricarte A, Ardanaz E, Moreno-Iribas C, Marin P, Quirós JR, Redondo ML, Amiano P, Dorronsoro M, Arriola L, Molina E, Sanchez MJ, Gonzalez CA. Olive oil intake and mortality within the Spanish population (EPIC-Spain). Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Jul;96(1):142-9. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.111.024216. Epub 2012 May 30. PMID: 22648725.
  4. Olives – Food data Central Search Results. Food Data Central. (n.d.).
  5. Sarapis K, George ES, Marx W, Mayr HL, Willcox J, Esmaili T, Powell KL, Folasire OS, Lohning AE, Garg M, Thomas CJ, Itsiopoulos C, Moschonis G. Extra virgin olive oil high in polyphenols improves antioxidant status in adults: a double-blind, randomized, controlled, cross-over study (OLIVAUS). Eur J Nutr. 2022 Mar;61(2):1073-1086. doi: 10.1007/s00394-021-02712-y. Epub 2021 Oct 30. PMID: 34716791
  6. Tripoli E, Giammanco M, Tabacchi G, Di Majo D, Giammanco S, La Guardia M. The phenolic compounds of olive oil: structure, biological activity and beneficial effects on human health. Nutr Res Rev. 2005 Jun;18(1):98-112. doi: 10.1079/NRR200495. PMID: 19079898.
  7. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Office of dietary supplements – iron. NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iron-Consumer/#:~:text=Iron%20is%20a%20mineral%20that,iron%20to%20make%20some%20hormones.
  8. Pittas, A. G., Dawson-Hughes, B., Li, T., Van Dam, R. M., Willett, W. C., Manson, J. E., & Hu, F. B. (2006a). Vitamin D and calcium intake in relation to type 2 diabetes in women. Diabetes Care, 29(3), 650–656. https://doi.org/10.2337/diacare.29.03.06.dc05-1961
  9. Basterra-Gortari, F. J., Ruiz-Canela, M., Martínez-González, M. A., Babio, N., Sorlí, J. V., Fito, M., Ros, E., Gómez-Gracia, E., Fiol, M., Lapetra, J., Estruch, R., Serra-Majem, L., Pinto, X., González, J. I., Bulló, M., Castañer, O., Alonso-Gómez, Á., Forga, L., & Arós, F. (2019). Effects of a Mediterranean eating plan on the need for glucose-lowering medications in participants with type 2 diabetes: A subgroup analysis of the predimed trial. Diabetes Care, 42(8), 1390–1397. https://doi.org/10.2337/dc18-2475
  10. Einarson, T.R., Acs, A., Ludwig, C. et al. Prevalence of cardiovascular disease in type 2 diabetes: a systematic literature review of scientific evidence from across the world in 2007–2017. Cardiovasc Diabetol 17, 83 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12933-018-0728-6
  11. Schwingshackl L, Hoffmann G. Monounsaturated fatty acids, olive oil and health status: a systematic review and meta-analysis of cohort studies. Lipids Health Dis. 2014 Oct 1;13:154. doi: 10.1186/1476-511X-13-154. PMID: 25274026; PMCID: PMC4198773.
  12. Nocella, C., Cammisotto, V., Fianchini, L., D’Amico, A., Novo, M., Castellani, V., Stefanini, L., Violi, F., & Carnevale, R. (2017). Extra virgin olive oil and cardiovascular diseases: Benefits for human health. Endocrine, Metabolic & Immune Disorders – Drug Targets, 18(1), 4–13. https://doi.org/10.2174/1871530317666171114121533
  13. Dove, A, Shang, Y, Xu, W, et al. The impact of diabetes on cognitive impairment and its progression to dementia. Alzheimer’s Dement. 2021; 17: 1769–1778. https://doi.org/10.1002/alz.12482
  14. Klimova B, Novotný M, Kuca K, Valis M. Effect Of An Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Intake On The Delay Of Cognitive Decline: Role Of Secoiridoid Oleuropein? Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2019 Oct 29;15:3033-3040. doi: 10.2147/NDT.S218238. PMID: 31754302; PMCID: PMC6825477.

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