Olive is one of the oldest plants cultivated by man in the world. The native home of the olive is considered to be Asia Minor, from where it spread to Europe and North African countries. The world area under this crop is 10 million hectares from which 853.1 thousand tons oil is produced annually. On average, an olive tree can live between 300 and 600 years.

The commercial and wild plantation is found in two belts around the world between 30-45 o North and South of the equator. Since Pakistan lies in between this belt, hence it is possible to grow olive in the country. The wild species of olive are found abundantly in different parts of the country particularly in the provinces of NWFP and Baluchistan which indicate that improved varieties can also be grown successfully. The survey of potential areas of Pakistan with suitable ecology for olive cultivation indicates that olive can successfully be gown in tribal areas in NWFP, Swat, Dir, Malakand, Loralai, Khuzar and Quetta with suitable management practices.

According to a research from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst olives contain Polyphenols, a natural chemical, that reduce oxidative stress in the brain. Olives are also nutritious and rich in mineral content like sodium, potassium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus and iodine. There are many more reasons to snack an olive regularly like it stimulate the digestive system, control blood pressure. Olives are good source of dietary fiber as an alternative to fruits and vegetables. According to an estimate, a cup of black olives contains 17 per cent of the daily allowance of fiber, which promotes digestive tract system in a healthier way. Olives contain Vitamin E, which in turn facilitate to reduce the degenerative diseases like Alzheimers, benign and malignant tumors, including less serious varicose veins and cavities, prevents blood clots that could lead to a myocardial infarction. It also provides good protection against anemia.

Accordingly, olive oil, a major component of olives, contains only 13 per cent saturated fat and more than 79 per cent unsaturated fat while butter is composed of 62 per cent saturated fat and 33 per cent unsaturated fat. It provides evidence that olive oil has no cholesterol, while a serving of butter has 33mg of cholesterol.

Hence, saturated fat known to raise bad cholesterol, these are long lasting and do not spoil quickly and harmful for the human body. Unsaturated fat have ability to lower cholesterol in the human body and cause no harm confirming the best alternate of butter for high cholestrolic patients. Similarly, olive oil is the best replacer of vegetable oil.

As the fat content in vegetable oil is a more crucial factor for the development of heart diseases while olive oil contains oleic acid that is monounsaturated fatty acids, and beneficial against cardiovascular ailments. Elevated levels of cholesterol associated with low-density lipoproteins (LDL) in the blood are an important risk factor for heart disease. The substitution of saturated fats with monounsaturated fat lowers blood LDL cholesterol, reduce the cardiovascular risks.

Olive oil also contains a chemical called oleocanthal, which acts as a painkiller. Research has found that oleocanthal reduce swelling by the same means that drugs like Ibuprofen do. Studies have shown that a diet supplemented with olive oil leads to a lower risk of colon cancer, almost as low a risk as a diet rich in fish oil. Whether applied topically or ingested, olive oil has been shown to protect skin from ultraviolet radiation, thus guarding against skin cancer and premature aging. Olive oils protective function also has a beneficial effect on ulcers and gastritis.

Olive oil activates the secretion of bile and pancreatic hormones much more naturally than prescribed drugs, thereby lowering the incidence of gallstone formation.

Hence, olives play an important role in our health that ensures its daily serving to improve the memory by 25 per cent.

The writer is an intern at the Pakistan Museum of Natural History, Islamabad.

She can be reached at

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