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Olives are popular as both a snack and an ingredient in salads, sandwiches, and stews. They have a chewy texture and a rich, salty taste.
People have cultivated olive trees for more than 7,000 years, and they have long associated its fruit with health benefits.
There are hundreds of olive species, and these fruits and their oil form an integral part of the Mediterranean diet, which may help people prevent disease and live longer.
In this article, learn about the possible health benefits of olives as well as their nutritional content and how to use them.
Olives and olive oil have a long history of reported health benefits, and there is a growing body of scientific evidence to back up these claims.
Olive oil, which manufacturers make by crushing olive fruits and then separating the oil from the pulp, plays a key role in the Mediterranean diet.
Research shows that following the diet can help people live longer. One study of almost 26,000 women found that the Mediterranean diet could cut the risk of developing cardiovascular disease by up to 28% compared with a control diet.
The Mediterranean diet involves a daily intake of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts. People who follow the diet eat fish and lean meat in moderation but limit red and processed meats to 2–3 portions per month.
The diet also emphasizes swapping unhealthful fats, such as the trans fats and saturated fats that are present in butter and margarine, with healthful fats, such as the polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats that are in olives and olive oil.
Olives are a good source of oleate, which is a monounsaturated fatty acid. A 2016 study found that eating more monosaturated fat reduced the risk of premature death due to disease compared with eating more carbohydrates.
The American Heart Foundation also state that monounsaturated fats can have a beneficial effect on heart health when a person consumes them in moderation.
Virgin olive oil is also high in a type of antioxidant called polyphenols, which can help prevent diseases relating to the heart and blood vessels.
Some people believe that these antioxidants can slow the progression of neurodegenerative diseases and even cancer. However, more studies are necessary to confirm these claims.
It is worth noting that food producers usually preserve olives in brine, which has a high salt content. Over time, excess levels of salt in the body can lead to high blood pressure, heart attacks, and stroke, so people should eat olives in moderation.
The nutritional content of 100 grams (g) of ripe, canned black olives is as follows:
- energy: 116 calories
- protein: 0.84 g
- total fat: 10.90 g
- carbohydrate: 6.04 g
- fiber: 1.60 g
- calcium: 88 milligrams (mg)
- iron: 6.28 mg
- magnesium: 4 mg
- potassium: 8 mg
- sodium: 735 mg
- zinc: 0.22 mg
- copper: 0.25 mg
- vitamin C: 0.90 mg
- niacin: 0.04 mg
- vitamin B-6: 0.01 mg
- vitamin A: 17 micrograms (µg)
- vitamin E: 1.65 mg
- vitamin K: 1.4 µg
The nutritional content of 100 g of canned or bottled green olives is as follows:
- energy: 145 calories
- protein: 1.03 g
- total fat: 15.32 g
- carbohydrate: 3.84 g
- fiber: 3.30 g
- calcium: 52 mg
- iron: 0.49 mg
- magnesium: 11 mg
- potassium: 42 mg
- sodium: 1,556 mg
- zinc: 0.04 mg
- copper: 0.12 mg
- niacin: 0.24 mg
- vitamin B-6: 0.03 mg
- folate: 3 µg
- vitamin A: 20 µg
- vitamin E: 3.81 mg
- vitamin K: 1.4 µg
A tablespoon of standard olive oil contains the following nutrients, among others:
- energy: 119 calories
- total fat: 13.5 g (including 9.85 g monounsaturated fatty acids, 1.42 g polyunsaturated fatty acids, and 1.86 g saturated fatty acids)
- iron: 0.08 mg
- vitamin E: 1.94 mg
- vitamin K: 8.13 µg
People can add olives and extra virgin olive oil to all manner of foods, including salad, raw or roasted vegetables, and whole-grain pasta.
Mild-flavored variants of extra virgin olive oil can replace butter or other oils in baking. People can also cook with olive oil.
While olives and olive oil contain plenty of useful nutrients, people should consume them in moderation as part of a balanced diet. Olive oil is high in fat, and the preservation process means that olives are often high in salt.
Generations of people have enjoyed olives and olive oil for their health-promoting qualities.
Olives are low in cholesterol and a good source of dietary fiber, which the body needs for good gut health. They are also high in minerals that the body requires to function, such as iron and copper.
However, it is best to consume olives in moderation, as producers usually preserve them in brine that is high in salt.
Olive oil is an integral part of the Mediterranean diet, which can help people maintain a healthy weight, prevent heart disease, and live longer. The diet includes foods that contain high levels of monounsaturated fats, which are healthful fats that can benefit heart health.
Olives are available for purchase in grocery stores, at food markets, and online.