Who doesn’t love olives? They are so yummy and versatile in terms of diet and recipes they can be included in. But did you know? Olives pack a wallop of nutrition!

Known for making food taste awesome, coupled with the beneficial olive oil they make, olives are bursting with rich phytonutrients and are known for their high vitamin E content. Olives also feature all sorts of cancer-fighting antioxidants and cardiovascular benefits. But that’s not all… they offer a whole lot more!

Benefits of Olives Nutrition

Rich in Antioxidants

Olives are a high-antioxidant food that mainly provide polyphenols, which are antioxidants that have proven anticancer, antidiabetic, anti-aging and neuro-protective effects. Additionally, they help boost blood levels of Glutathione, which is one of the body’s most important antioxidant nutrients (due to its ability to recycle antioxidants).

Although each form of olive has varying levels of antioxidants, they’re present in all of them. The benefits from antioxidants like those found in olives transcend almost all body systems and can be a major factor in disease prevention and treatment!

Lower Cholesterol and High Blood Pressure

Because olives are a good source of “good fats,” they don’t damage arteries the way other fats do. Studies have proven that olives have the ability to lower blood pressure and help control and lower cholesterol as well. The hypotensive (lowering blood pressure) effects of olives are due to the Oleic Acid they contain.

Studies have shown significant decreases in blood pressure and overall cardiovascular inflammation after consumption of olives, olive oil and other food items in the Mediterranean diet.

Olives Are a Natural Pain Reliever

Inflammation is at the root of disease, pain and injury in the body. Olives, believe it or not, act as a type of natural pain reliever, much like Ibuprofen! They inhibit the growth of enzymes that create inflammation and thus relieve pain.

Inflammation also plays a large role in cardiovascular disease, which is another reason olives are heart-healthy.

Olives Help Treat and Prevent Cancer

The Mediterranean region has substantially lower levels of cancer than European and American countries. The phenolic compounds in olives have shown anti-tumor capabilities particularly in the breast, colon and stomach. There is promising evidence that olives are some of the best cancer-fighting foods around.

Olives Help Boost Heart Health

Olives offer our bodies healthy fats, as well as a great supply of copper and Vitamin E. All of these are essential for optimum heart health. A diet containing olives can not only treat symptoms of heart disease, but it has also been proven to significantly reduce the risk of heart-related complications, even in individuals with genetic predisposition to high blood pressure and heart problems! Olives nutrition can also prevent coronary heart disease.

Olives Work as a Natural Probiotic

Studies show the phenolic compounds in olives can increase the number of good Bifidobacteria, which produce vitamins and antibacterial chemicals in the body. Thus, olives improve gut health and enhance microbiome function.

Lower Risk for Diabetes and Obesity

Because olives are high in monounsaturated fats, they greatly reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes and obesity when substituted for foods containing other, more harmful fats. The antioxidants in olives also help inhibit the damage from diabetes-related oxidative stress, which makes olives an effective treatment for hyperglycemia and diabetic complications.

Natural Infection Fighter

Many studies show how effective olives are in fighting off certain microbial, viral and fungal infections. Olive fruit and olive leaf extract have been used in this capacity in folk medicine and just recently have been proven in studies. When tested, olive extract inhibited the growth of a number of viral, fungal and bacterial infections, including MRSA

Olives Help Prevent Osteoporosis

Olive polyphenols are beneficial in preventing bone loss. Many studies have shown the effectiveness of these compounds in the formation and maintenance of bone. Thanks to the phytonutrients that olives nutrition provides, olives should be added to any osteoporosis diet treatment.

Olives vs. Olive Oil

The distinction between the fruit and the oil lies in preparation and processing. There are pros and cons to both, but when consumed in recommended servings, they’re both incredibly beneficial to your health.

Olive Nutrition

25 percent fat
Higher sodium: Olives are cured or pickled in salt
Olives have fiber, vitamin E, vitamin A, and are good sources of copper and calcium
Beneficial polyphenol content is lower than olive oil but polyphenols are still highly present in fruits harvested early and those that were irrigated properly

Olive Oil

Almost 100 percent fat
Lower sodium: almost zero sodium
Beneficial polyphenols are preserved in extra virgin olive oil

Olives Nutrition Facts

Olives are a low-calorie snack option and absolutely delicious when added to salads, pastas, pizza and many other dishes. Although there are many varieties of olives, most have a similar nutritional makeup.

An average olive weighs approximately four grams, so the following nutritional information applies to a serving of about 40 olives. Most people are not going to eat 40 olives at one time, so keep that in mind!

100 grams of green olives, canned or pickled have (in recommended daily values):

145 calories
3.8 grams carbohydrates
1 gram protein
15.3 grams fat
3.3 grams fiber
1,556 milligrams sodium (65 percent)
3.8 milligrams vitamin E (19 percent)
393 IU vitamin A (8 percent)
0.1 milligram copper (6 percent)
52 milligrams calcium (5 percent)
0.5 milligram iron (3 percent)
11 milligrams magnesium (3 percent)

Fats in Olives

Although the fat content in olives is also high, it’s primarily “good fat,” which is much easier for the body to burn than bad, saturated fats. Olives provide Monounsaturated fatty acids, and more specifically Oleic Acid, which is linked with a number of health benefits like lowering inflammation and helping fight heart disease. The fats found in olives and the Mediterranean diet are a great substitute for harmful fats.

Known mostly for their oil, olives are enjoyed all over the world. Native to the Mediterranean regions of Asia, Europe and Africa, olives come in many sizes and varieties, and offer a number of great health benefits.

Olives are a main component in the nutritious Mediterranean diet, which puts good fats at the forefront and encourages olive oil as the primary source of dietary fat. The diet doesn’t encourage reducing fats, but rather replacing unhealthy fats with healthy ones like monounsaturated fats, which are found in olives.

Sodium Concerns

When eaten in correct, smaller serving sizes, olives are very healthy. It’s important to keep an eye on sodium content whenever possible, as some olives are cured differently than others, which is where the sodium can add up. It’s always a good idea to rinse your olives in fresh clean water to rid some of the excess salt or brine they might be packed in.

Is an Olive a Fruit or a Vegetable?

If someone asked whether olives are a fruit or vegetable, most people probably wouldn’t know. Olives seem like they are in a category all their own, but technically, they are considered a fruit called a Drupe (or stone fruit). Drupes are characterized by a hard center pit (or stone) that holds a seed, surrounded by fleshy fruit. Their high fat content makes them a strange fruit, but they’re closely related to peaches, mangoes and even almonds. Sounds crazy, right? But it’s true!

Here are some more interesting facts about olives:

  • The olive tree grows short and stout and usually peaks at 25 to 50 feet tall.
  • Olives have been harvested anywhere between 6,000 and 8,000 years ago in the Eastern Mediterranean region.
  • The olive branch has long been a symbol for peace and victory. The olive took years to cultivate, with growers waiting decades for fruit to harvest. Because of the time and patience needed, it was assumed those who chose to grow olives planned to live a long, peaceful life.
  • In early Christian art, the olive branch appears with a dove to symbolize peace and the Holy Spirit in the Gospels.
  • In Ancient Greece mythology, Athena competed with Poseidon to rule Athens. Athena won after planting the first olive tree because the court of gods and goddesses decided that was the better gift.
  • Olives are harvested from October to January.
  • Olive fruits cannot be eaten off the tree, as they’re hard and bitter.
  • Olives not being used for oil are hand-harvested to prevent bruising.

Purchasing and Preparing Olives

Many grocery stores now offer olive options beyond what you can find in traditional jars and cans. Olive bars, which feature a number of different varieties, are available to let you experiment with different types without buying an entire container.

Some olives are pitted, while others are stuffed with peppers, garlic or cheeses. Some popular olives include kalamata olives, which are cured in a red-wine vinegar brine. Green olives are harvested early and therefore have the highest polyphenol content. They’re used in martinis and come in many tasty, stuffed varieties.

Olive fruit with the highest phenolic content include Cornicabra, Coratina, Moraiolo and Koroneiki. Black olives, which have the highest oil content but the lowest phenolic levels, typically come in cans and are a popular toppings for pizzas and dips.

Olive Classifications

Green olives: Harvested in October at the earliest stages of maturity.

“Pink” olives: Slightly riper, these have a rose or brown color and are harvested in November prior to reaching full maturity.

Black olives: Harvested in December at full maturity, they’re smooth with a black skin and deep reddish-black hue.

“Wrinkled black” olives: Not to be confused with dry-cured olives, these are fully ripened fruits harvested in January.

Olives can be enjoyed on their own or paired with meats and cheeses for a great appetizer. Olives can be ground into spreads or used as a condiment. They can also be added as a zesty ingredient to many dishes. The best part about olives is that they’re very easy to incorporate, as they pair well with many flavors and textures.

Olive Issues To Consider:

Olive allergies do exist, but are very rare (not to be confused with olive tree allergies!). If you’re concerned, try olives in moderation for the first time. In addition, some olives contain heavy metals, but levels are generally below legal limits and are therefore safe.

Acrylamide is present in some canned, black olives (some with higher levels than others). Large amounts of acrylamide are linked to higher risk of cancer and should be limited or avoided whenever possible.

Always try to buy “real” olives, meaning the high quality olives harvested in jars with brine. Usually if it’s from the Mediterranean they’re the real deal. Look for the “organic” label if available.

If the information is available, keep an eye on sodium levels, as some olives have higher sodium levels due to processing.


It’s always great when a food that is good for you tastes great, and olives are on the top of the list! Enjoy!


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