Loving the BITE: Olive Tapenade

If you’re like me, you may love to eat drupes and not even know it.  There’s a new one, right?  Drupes are actually just “fruits” that have a pit or a stone at their core, surrounded by a fleshy, edible portion.  They include foods such as the mango, cherry, peach, plum, apricot, nectarine, and this week’s key ingredient, olives.

One hallmark of the Mediterranean diet is its use of olive oil and olives.  Another hallmark is its association with wellness and reduction in diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

For cyclists, a Mediterranean Diet high in foods such as olives can reduce the inflammation and oxidative stress that may plague our bodies and drag us down at a cellular level.  Really, does anyone needs more reason to eat more olives?

Recipe of the week:Olive Tapenade

Ingredients:

  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 cup Kalamata olives, pitted (or a combination of olive varieties)
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Fresh ground pepper, to taste

Instructions: (prep: 5 minutes, cook: 12 minutes)

Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until everything is finely chopped. Place the garlic cloves into a blender or food processor; pulse to mince. Add the olives, capers, parsley, lemon juice, and olive oil Blend until everything is finely chopped. Season to taste fresh ground pepper.

Comments:

At a glance, the Mediterranean diet is high in monounsaturated fats (olives, nuts, avocados, etc), fish, and fresh whole foods with minimal processed foods, transfats, and saturated fats.  Olives, in particular, provide wonderful health benefits and flavor.  When you add olives to your diet, you:

  • Increase Cancer-prevention: One phytonutrient in olives, Hydroxytyrosol, is linked to cancer prevention.  It may also serve to reduce bone loss as we age since it increases the deposition of calcium in the bones.  This is likely one reason the Mediterranean diet is associated with a reduction in osteoporosis.
  • Reduce inflammation: Olives, olive oil, and olive leaves have traditionally been used to reduce inflammation from allergies and other inflammatory processes.  How?  Research points to specific olive extracts that act like anti-histamines in the cells…these extracts reduce the inflammatory histamine process that produces allergy symptoms in the cells and tissues.
  • Increase healthy fats in your diet: Approximately 80-85% of olive calories come from fat.  If this alarms you, don’t worry – olives’ fats are very good for you.  In fact, ~75% of the fat is from oleic acid, which is associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease including reduced LDL, LDL:HDL ratio, and blood pressure.
  • Reduce oxidative stress: Olives have a HUGE phytonutrient content with many, many antioxidants.  And, it’s not just the level of antioxidants, but the variety.  They include vitamin E, selenium, zinc, oleuropein, and anthocyanidins to name a few.  What’s more, the nutrients in olives can increase our own production of a super-antioxidant, glutathione.  In combination, all of olives’ antioxidants work in our bodies to scavenge free radicals which damage our cells, oxidize “bad” cholesterol and allow it to enter the artery wall, and promote deterioration and aging.  As we push ourselves as athletes, we can actually increase some build-up of free radicals in our bodies.  But never fear, a diet rich in antioxidant foods, such as olives, will counter-act them and go beyond to improve our health.

Whether you prefer green, black, Kalamata or another variety, eat ‘em up because each is a good choice.  Different colors, ripening times, and regional variations indicate different, but not less or more, antioxidants and nutrients.  This week, while loving the bike, love yourself enough to proactively improve your health with whole foods like olives.  It’s one drupe that will fight for you!

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