Bring on the Greek salads and dirty martinis.

Olives are one of the staples of the Mediterranean Diet, which is well-known for improving cholesterol levels and lowering the risk of heart disease and diabetes, says Montserrat Fitó, MD, PhD, coordinator of the Cardiovascular Risk and Nutrition Research Group at the Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute in Barcelona, Spain. But what exactly is it about those salty, plump morsels that makes them such an important part of the top-rated diet of the year (as ranked by U.S. News & World Report)? Read on to find out exactly why you should be including more olives in your diet.

Remember, if you don’t like the taste of olives, you can reap many of their benefits through olive oil—just be sure to use it at low to medium heat. There are also companies like Olyxir, which makes teas and chocolates from olive leaves, meaning you get all the antioxidants and vitamins with none of the olive taste. If you do like olives, in addition to popping them straight, try making a tapenade, serving them over fish or chicken, or in a salad with radicchio.

1 Antioxidants

Olives, whether they be black, green, or stuffed with blue cheese, are loaded with Vitamin E and polyphenols, both of which are powerful antioxidants. To break that down a little, antioxidants are potent compounds that fight free radicals in the body, which can help protect cells and prevent cardiovascular diseases and cancer. Antioxidants also help protect your immune system, helping you avoid getting sick and keep you healthy as you age. Vitamin E is fat soluble, meaning that it’s better absorbed into your bloodstream when combined with fat—just like in that perfect little olive package that nature cleverly designed.

2 Healthy Fats

Olives are packed with monounsaturated fats, which qualify as healthy fats that can reduce the risk of heart disease and potentially decrease inflammation in the body. It is these fats that are extracted to make olive oil, which we all know and love as one of the healthiest ways to dress up a salad or a bowl of pasta.

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3 Iron

This is specific to black olives, including Kalamatas. Those dark little fruits (yes, olives are technically fruit!) contain a good dose of iron, which is an essential nutrient and helps carry oxygen to the blood. Iron deficiency is quite common among women and could be the reason why you are fatigued, lightheaded, or have cold hands and feet. Just 100 grams of olives provides about 16 percent of the recommended daily amount for women ages 19 to 40.

4 Fiber

The benefit of eating the whole olive and not just the oil is that you get an added dose of dietary fiber, which helps keep you full and your digestive system operating smoothly. It’s not a huge amount, but we’ll take any excuse to sprinkle a few of those savory bursts of flavor onto our plates any day.

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