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Olive trees: a gift to the environment

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By A. Jafri
Tue, 11, 21

Every year World Olive Tree Day is observed on 26th November. This week You! takes a look at all the reasons why we are fortunate to have this beloved tree…

Olive trees: a gift to the environment

health

The olive tree is one of the most beloved trees in the history of mankind. People considered it sacred since Ancient Greek times. It has always been a symbol of longevity, peace, harmony, growth, rebirth, and friendship. It has also inspired various artists, poets, and writers all around the world. The Olive trees benefit the environment in many ways. They contribute to the preservation of natural resources and biodiversity. The trees act as agents in combating global warming and desertification. Evidence shows that olive growing increases atmospheric carbon dioxide fixation in the soil. Grown in 56 countries, the olive tree boosts sustainable cultivation. It also expands the agricultural area globally.

Not only the tree itself, but its fruit and the oil are very nutritious and healthy. Olive oil is famous for its antioxidant properties and therapeutical values and the olives are healthy, delicious and fun to eat.

Benefits of olives & olive oil

A nutritious addition: The typical olive contains between 11 and 15 per cent fat. The rest of the olive is mostly made up of fibre and water. Even though they contain fat, olives can be an ideal snack in a calorie-controlled diet. A serving of 10 average-sized black olives contains only 59 calories. That's fewer calories than a banana! Whereas, the olive oil is rich in monounsaturated oleic acid. This fatty acid is believed to have many beneficial effects and is a healthy choice for cooking.

Has antioxidant properties: In addition to vitamin E, olives contain many less well-known antioxidants, such as oleuropin, hydroxytyrosol, tyrosol, oleonalic acid, and quercetin. These antioxidants work together to combat the damaging effects of free radicals in the body. Some research suggests that free radicals contribute to the development of serious illnesses, such as heart disease and cancer. Therefore, consuming foods that are high in antioxidants, like olives, may help to protect your health.

Helps keep heart healthy: Olives are chock-full of monounsaturated fatty acids, a type of fat linked with lowering LDL (bad cholesterol) while maintaining HDL (good cholesterol). The powerful antioxidant properties of olive polyphenols can also protect against oxidative stress and chronic inflammation, a key initiating factor of heart disease.

Plus, long-term evidence suggests that people who consume extra-virgin olive oil daily are at a lower risk of heart attack, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular mortality than those who don’t. Moreover, several large studies demonstrate that people who consume olive oil have a much lower risk of stroke, the second biggest killer in developed countries.

Improves bone health: Polyphenols can also improve bone mineral density by reducing degeneration. Human studies revealed that daily consumption of olive oil could prevent the decline in bone mineral density and improve bone turnover markers. As a result, olives, olive oil and its polyphenols are potential dietary interventions to prevent osteoporosis, especially among the elderly. This may be a reason why Mediterranean diets have been linked to a lower risk of fractures in older adults.

Helps prevent inflammation: As mentioned earlier, olives can help with inflammation. The polyphenols found in olives can help reduce chronic inflammation by stopping organ tissue damage before it starts. Olives contain anti-inflammatory compounds called oleocanthal which prevent the formation of inflammatory enzymes that could lead to diseases like arthritis and type 2 diabetes. Inflammation is understood to be the root cause of diseases, including and eliminating inflammatory foods and replacing them with anti-inflammatory foods is a key first step for anyone on a health journey!

Helps with cancer prevention: Cancer is one of the most common causes of death in the world. People in Mediterranean countries have a lower risk of some cancers, and many researchers believe that olive oil may be the reason. Both olives and olive oil contain substantial amounts of other compounds deemed to be anticancer agents (e.g., squalene and terpenoids) as well as the peroxidation-resistant lipid oleic acid. The antioxidants in olive oil can reduce oxidative damage due to free radicals, which is believed to be a leading driver of cancer.

May improve brain health: Since olives help reduce oxidative stress caused by inflammation, they also protect the tissues of vital organs (i.e., your brain!) from harmful and potentially irreversible damage. Another benefit: Olives contain vitamin E, an antioxidant linked to improved cognition and reduced risk of cognitive decline. Diets that rely on olive oil as a primary fat source are also associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer's disease.

Olive trees: a gift to the environment

World Olive Tree Day

World Olive Tree Day was proclaimed at the 40th session of the UNESCO General Conference in 2019 and takes place on 26 November every year.

The olive tree, specifically the olive branch, holds an important place in the minds of men and women. Since ancient times, it has symbolised peace, wisdom and harmony and as such is important not just to the countries where these noble trees grow, but to people and communities around the world.

Conserving and cultivating the olive tree is a growing imperative as the world combats and adapts to climate change. The protection of cultural and natural heritage, including landscapes is important and marking World Olive Tree Day reinforces environmental sustainability efforts. The aim of World Olive Tree Day is to encourage the protection of the olive tree and the values it embodies, in order to appreciate its important social, cultural, economic and environmental significance to humanity. There is much to learn, share and celebrate on this Day.