Olive Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Olives, annotated

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman 

Olives technically are a fruit but are often categorized with vegetables. They are a flavorful addition to savory dishes. Since olives right off the tree are too bitter to eat, they must be cured to make them palatable. With some exceptions, olives change from green to black as they ripen, although canned black olives can be harvested when green and then cured and exposed to oxygen to turn them black.

Olives (and their oil) are rich in healthy monounsaturated fats and also in antioxidants. And as a fermented food, they contain probiotics too.

Olive Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition facts are provided by the USDA for 10 small green olives (29g).

  • Calories: 42
  • Fat: 4.4g
  • Sodium: 451mg
  • Carbohydrates: 1.1g
  • Fiber: 1g
  • Sugars: 0.2g
  • Protein: 0.3g

Carbs

There is a slight variation in carb counts among the various types of olives, but not a considerable difference. For example, a serving of 10 small black olives has 2 grams of carbohydrate (1 gram of fiber), whereas 10 small green olives are reported to contain just 1.1 grams.

The glycemic index of a food is an indicator of how much and how fast a food raises your blood sugar. As with most non-starchy vegetables, there is no scientific study of the glycemic index of olives, but it is assumed to be low because of the low amount of sugar and starch in olives.

Fat

Unusually for a fruit, olives are high in fat—but it is mostly healthy monounsaturated fat. This type of fat can help lower LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels and heart disease risk, and this is why olive oil is regarded as being beneficial for heart health.

Protein

Olives have just a small amount of protein, so look to other foods as a source of this macronutrient.

Vitamins and Minerals

Olives contain vitamin E and copper, as well as small amounts of B vitamins, calcium, and iron.

Health Benefits

The health benefits of olives are mostly based on their abundance of phytonutrients, particularly those which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, such as oleupurin. These powerful antioxidants include flavonoids, phenols, terpenes, and anthocyanidins.

Support Heart Health

Consumption of the monounsaturated fat in olives and olive oil, particularly oleic acid, is associated with lower mortality from any cause, as well as lower cardiovascular mortality, cardiovascular events, and stroke.

Provide Probiotic Effects

Because olives are pickled in order to make them tastier to eat, they have some of the probiotic qualities of other fermented foods. So eating olives could help keep the body's "good" bacteria healthy.

Boost Brain Health

Olives are a good source of vitamin E, which is important for brain functioning. Diets high in olive oil have also been associated with reduced rates of Alzheimer's disease.

Aid in Blood Sugar Control

Research shows that consuming foods high in monounsaturated fats and antioxidants, which are both abundant in olives, may help prevent and manage type 2 diabetes.

Allergies

Allergy to both olive pollen and the proteins found in the fruit and its oil are possible and can cause respiratory reactions, skin reactions such as hives, and food allergy symptoms. However, allergy to olive oil is very rare, even if someone is allergic to olive pollen or olive fruit, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.

Adverse Effects

Because of the way they are processed, olives tend to contain a lot of sodium. Since high salt intake can be harmful if you have certain medical conditions, you may need to use caution when consuming olives.

Processing and canning also introduce a carcinogenic substance called acrylamide into some olives, particularly California black olives. Researchers are investigating ways to treat olives that will not cause acrylamide to form.

Varieties

Many different varieties of olives are cultivated around the world. Some of the most popular include manzanilla or Spanish green olives, Kalamata or Greek black olives, Niçoise or French black olives, and Gaeta or Italian black olives. You'll also find olive products stuffed with pimento peppers, cheese, and garlic on your supermarket shelves.

When They're Best

Olives are usually harvested in fall and winter, but since they are brined before eating, they are available year-round.

Storage and Food Safety

Unopened jars or cans of olives will keep in your pantry for about a year. Once opened, store olives in the refrigerator in their brine (transfer canned olives to a glass or plastic container for refrigeration). They will keep for a few months.

How to Prepare

You can snack on olives as is, use them to garnish a drink, toss them on top of your salad or pizza, or blend them into a tapenade. There are also many recipes that incorporate olives or highlight olives as the star. Olives and olive oil are staples of the Mediterranean diet.

Recipes 

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Article Sources
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