Olive leaves represent a waste from the olive oil industry which can be reused as source of polyphenols. The most representative phenolic compound of olive leaves is the secoiridoid oleuropein, followed by verbascoside, apigenin-7-O-glucoside, luteolin-7-O-glucoside, and simple phenols. The attention towards these compounds derives above all from the large number of studies demonstrating their beneficial effect on health, in fact olive leaves have been widely used in folk medicine in the Mediterranean regions. Moreover, the growing demand from consumers to replace the synthetic antioxidants, led researchers to conduct studies on the addition of plant bioactives in foods to improve their shelf-life and/or to obtain functional products. The current study overviews the findings on the addition of polyphenol-rich olive leaf extract (OLE) to foods. In particular, the effect of OLE addition on the antioxidant, microbiological and nutritional properties of different foods is examined. Most studies have highlighted the antioxidant effect of OLE in different food matrices, such as oils, meat, baked goods, vegetables, and dairy products. Furthermore, the antimicrobial activity of OLE has been observed in meat and vegetable foods, highlighting the potential of OLE as a replacer of synthetic preservatives. Finally, several authors studied the effect of OLE addition with the aim of improving the nutritional properties of vegetable products, tea, milk, meat and biscuits. Advantages and drawbacks of the different use of OLE were reported and discussed. © 2020 Society of Chemical Industry.
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