Olives: Benefits, Nutritional Values, Risks & More

Parul Dube

July 7, 2023

In the realm of nutrition, there are certain superfoods that stand out due to their remarkable health benefits and versatility. One such extraordinary ingredient that has captivated palates and nourished civilizations for centuries is the humble olive. Beyond being a culinary delight, olives are bursting with an array of nutrients, making them an essential component of a wholesome diet.

With their rich history rooted in the Mediterranean region, olives have become synonymous with robust flavour and exceptional health advantages. From their distinctive taste to their potential to promote overall well-being, olives have piqued the interest of health enthusiasts, researchers, and food lovers alike. Olives can be used as a part of salads, sandwiches, and tapenades, among other dishes. They are popular on their own as a snack and a component in stews and other dishes. They have a chewy texture and a rich and salty flavour. 

In this article, we will embark on an enlightening journey to uncover the nutritional secrets held within the small but mighty olive.

Nutritional Values of Olives

There are many different types of olives. However, one can broadly divide them into two types. 

  • Green olives
  • Black olives

Green and black olives aren’t too different from each other. However, they have slightly different macronutrients, vitamins, and minerals values.

According to USDA, a 100 g serving of Black Olives contains

  • Calories: 116 kcals
  • Protein: 0.84 g
  • Total fat: 10.90 g
  • Carbohydrate: 6.04 g
  • Fibre: 1.60 g

Vitamins and Minerals

  • Vitamin C: 0.90 mg
  • Vitamin B3: 0.04 mg
  • Calcium: 88 mg
  • Iron: 6.28 mg
  • Magnesium: 4 mg
  • Potassium: 8 mg
  • Sodium: 735 mg
  • Zinc: 0.22 mg
  • Copper: 0.25 mg

According to USDA, a 100 g serving of Green Olives contains

  • Calories: 145 kcals
  • Protein: 1.03 g
  • Total fat: 15.32 g
  • Carbohydrate: 3.84 g
  • Fibre: 3.3 g

Vitamins and Minerals

  • Vitamin B3: 237 mg
  • Calcium: 52 mg
  • Iron: 0.49 mg
  • Magnesium: 11 mg
  • Potassium: 42 mg
  • Sodium: 1.57 mg mg
  • Copper: 0.12 mg
  • Phosphorus: 4 mg

Health Benefits of Olives

1. Weight Management

Olives are a source of healthy monounsaturated fats. These fats are more satiating compared to unhealthy saturated and trans fats. They contribute to a feeling of fullness and can help control appetite, which may lead to reduced calorie intake overall.

Secondly, olives are rich in dietary fibre. Fibre adds bulk to meals, promoting a sense of fullness and helping to regulate digestion. By slowing down the digestion process, fibre can also help stabilise blood sugar levels and prevent sudden spikes and crashes, which can lead to increased hunger and cravings.

Furthermore, the flavour and texture of olives can enhance the taste of meals, making them a satisfying addition to salads, sandwiches, and various dishes. By adding flavour and richness to meals, olives can help reduce the need for additional high-calorie condiments or flavour enhancers.

2. Anti-inflammatory Properties

Olives possess impressive anti-inflammatory properties due to their rich content of bioactive compounds, notably phenolic compounds like oleuropein, hydroxytyrosol, and tyrosol. These compounds act as potent antioxidants, combating oxidative stress and reducing the production of pro-inflammatory molecules and enzymes in the body. 

Moreover, the monounsaturated fatty acid content, particularly oleic acid, in olives has been scientifically proven to contribute to the anti-inflammatory potential of olives. Oleic acid has been shown to have beneficial effects on inflammation markers and may help lower the risk of chronic inflammatory conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer. 

3. Improves Cardiovascular Health

The monounsaturated fats, particularly oleic acid, found in olives have been widely recognised for their positive impact on cardiovascular health. According to research, these healthy fats help to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels while increasing HDL (good) cholesterol levels, promoting a healthier lipid profile and reducing the risk of heart disease.

As aforementioned, olives are rich in antioxidants, including phenolic compounds like hydroxytyrosol and oleuropein. These antioxidants play a crucial role in reducing oxidative stress and inflammation in the cardiovascular system, protecting against the development of atherosclerosis and related cardiovascular conditions. Studies indicate that they also help to enhance blood vessel function, improve blood flow, and reduce the formation of blood clots. 

4. Strengthens Bones

Olives are a good source of essential minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus, which are vital for maintaining strong and healthy bones. Calcium, in particular, is well-known for its role in bone formation and density. Furthermore, research links the monounsaturated fats present in olives, such as oleic acid, to improved bone health. These fats may aid in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin D, which is crucial for calcium metabolism and bone mineralisation. 

The phenolic compounds in olives including hydroxytyrosol and oleuropein, which possess potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, have been associated with bone health benefits. According to studies, they can help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in bone tissue, contribute to overall bone strength and reduce the risk of bone-related conditions such as osteoporosis. Studies indicate that an olive-rich diet can be associated with reducing fracture rates. In addition, olives dramatically improve grip power, joint discomfort, and early rigidity in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. 

5. Antibacterial Properties

Phenolic compounds, like hydroxytyrosol and oleuropein, are known for their potent antimicrobial activity. They have been shown in scientific studies to inhibit the growth and proliferation of a wide range of bacteria. These compounds disrupt the integrity of bacterial cell membranes, interfere with essential cellular processes, and inhibit bacterial adhesion and colonisation, making them effective in combating bacterial infections.

Furthermore, olives contain essential oils that possess antimicrobial properties. These oils, derived from the fruit and leaves of the olive tree, contain compounds such as terpenes, flavonoids, and phenols that exhibit antibacterial activity. They can inhibit the growth of various bacteria, including pathogens responsible for foodborne illnesses.

6. Improves Brain Health

Olives are a rich source of monounsaturated fats, particularly oleic acid. Research associates these healthy fats with improved cognitive function and a reduced risk of cognitive decline. They help maintain the integrity of cell membranes in the brain and support optimal brain function.

Moreover, olives contain powerful antioxidants, such as phenolic compounds and vitamin E, which play a crucial role in protecting brain cells from oxidative stress and inflammation. Oxidative stress and inflammation are key factors in age-related cognitive decline and neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. The antioxidant properties of olives help combat these harmful processes and promote brain health.

Additionally, studies prove that polyphenols in olives, including hydroxytyrosol and tyrosol, have neuroprotective effects. These compounds have demonstrated the ability to reduce inflammation, enhance cognitive performance, and improve memory. 

7. Helps with Depression

Monounsaturated fats in olives improve mood and mental well-being. These fats are essential for the proper functioning of brain cells and the maintenance of a healthy nervous system. As per recent research, they also play a role in supporting the production and balance of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, which are involved in regulating mood and emotions. 

Furthermore, antioxidants found in olives help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the brain, which are associated with mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety. By mitigating these harmful processes, olives contribute to a healthier brain environment and may support better mental health outcomes.

8. Fights Cancer

Olives have emerged as a fascinating natural resource in the fight against cancer, with their abundance of bioactive compounds and unique phytochemical composition. These compounds, including phenolic compounds like oleuropein and hydroxytyrosol, possess potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, helping to counteract oxidative stress and chronic inflammation, which are associated with cancer development. Furthermore, studies have indicated that olives can inhibit cancer cell proliferation, induce programmed cell death, and impede tumour angiogenesis. 

While further research is needed, incorporating olives into a balanced diet holds promise for their potential as a valuable tool in cancer prevention and management.


Olives offer numerous health benefits, including weight management support due to their satiating monounsaturated fats and fibre content. They also possess anti-inflammatory properties, thanks to their antioxidants and monounsaturated fats, which may help lower the risk of chronic inflammatory conditions. Olives promote cardiovascular health by improving lipid profiles, reducing oxidative stress, and enhancing blood vessel function. They strengthen bones through essential minerals and phenolic compounds that reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in bone tissue. Olives exhibit antibacterial properties through phenolic compounds and essential oils, inhibiting bacterial growth. Additionally, olives support brain health by providing monounsaturated fats, antioxidants, and neuroprotective polyphenols. They may contribute to improved mood, and mental well-being, and may have potential anti-cancer effects.

Olive Oil: An Overview

 Olive oil is primarily produced by pressing whole olives and extracting the oil from their flesh. Olive oil has been a staple in Mediterranean cuisine for thousands of years and is highly regarded for its flavour, versatility, and numerous health benefits.

There are different varieties and grades of olive oil, which vary in terms of processing methods, acidity levels, and flavour profiles. The most commonly available types include extra virgin olive oil, virgin olive oil, and regular or “light” olive oil.

Read More: Olive Oil – Benefits, Uses, Nutrition, Types and Ways to Use

Olive oil is commonly used for cooking, salad dressings, and marinades, thanks to its distinct flavour and versatility. It can also be used as a finishing oil or for dipping bread. When selecting olive oil, it is generally recommended to opt for extra virgin olive oil for its superior quality and health benefits.

Differences Between Olives and Olive Oil

Considerations Olives Olive Oil
Calorie ContentWhole olives contain fewer amounts of fat and calories. Olive oil is entirely fat. A tablespoon of olive oil has 120 calories.
Sodium ContentRaw olives generally often contain a lot of sodium. Olives have to be cured or pickled before one can eat them.Olive oil is nearly sodium-free. 
Polyphenol ContentOlives are fermented naturally, which means they are a source of good bacteria. Usually, one plucks green olives before they mature and have greater polyphenol content. The curing process destroys many polyphenols found in olives, primarily maintained in extra virgin olive oil. However, black olives mature on the tree and thus have greater oil content.
Fibre ContentWhole olives contain fibre.Olive oil doesn’t have any dietary fibre.

Recipes Using Olives and Olive Oil

There are tons of recipes with olive oil. Italian and Pan-European cuisine utilises olive oil to its utmost. However, the same isn’t true for olives. Raw and processed olives aren’t the most excellent tasters out there. Worry not, here are two of our favourite recipes using olives!

1. Olive Salad 

Olives: Benefits, Risks & More- HealthifyMe

Preparation time: 15 minutes 

Serves: 1


  • Green olives: 50 g
  • Lemon (seedless, finely chopped): 5 g
  • Lemon Juice: 30 ml
  • Shallots (finely chopped): 10 g
  • Black Pepper: 2 g
  • Olive oil: 10 ml
  • Mint (chopped): 10 g
  • Parsley (chopped): 10 g


  1. Crush the olives using the side of a knife. Add them to a bowl. 
  2. Add chopped lemons and shallots to a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Season and mix. 
  3. Allow 5 minutes for the flavours to combine and the shallots to pickle slightly.
  4. Heat the oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. 
  5. Olive oil and shallots should be warmed thoroughly and slightly softened for 4 minutes.
  6. Now add them to the mixture. 
  7. You can also spice it up with a squeeze of lemon juice or salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Enjoy!

2. Green Olive Herb Pasta 

Olives: Benefits, Risks & More- HealthifyMe

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Serves: 1


  • Whole wheat Pasta- 220 g
  • Extra-virgin olive oil: 10 ml
  • Garlic (smashed): 2 cloves
  • Parsley (finely chopped): 10 g
  • Olives: 50 g
  • Red Pepper Flakes: 3 g
  • Basil Leaves: 10 g
  • Lemon juice: 5 ml
  • Lemon Zest
  • Salt


  1. Add the pasta to a big pot of boiling water with salt. 
  2. In another heavy bottom pot, warm the oil to medium heat. Add the garlic and parsley and simmer for approximately 5 minutes. 
  3. Keep stirring regularly and saute the chopped garlic till they are slightly brown.
  4. Add the olives and red pepper flakes.
  5. Transfer the pasta to the sauce in the saucepan and stir it. 
  6. Add extra pasta liquid if necessary and cook. 
  7. Serve with basil, lemon zest, and lemon juice on top of the spaghetti. Salt to taste if necessary.
  8. Sprinkle some oil over the spaghetti and enjoy.

Possible Risks and Precautions

Olives also have some side effects if you consume more than required. Although these can be mitigated by proper use alongside a balanced diet, knowing them is vital. 

Olives are generally very healthy and do not pose risks to your health. However, improper consumption can potentially lead to health issues.

Here are some common potential risks associated with the consumption of olives:

1. Weight Gain

Preserved olives contain lots of sodium. A continued diet with excess sodium may cause bloating. Additionally, high sodium levels can cause severe health issues in the body. Olives also contain lots of fats in them. Although these are good fats and good cholesterol, they might be responsible for causing unwanted weight gain if consumed excessively.

2. Allergies

Allergies to olives are generally rare. However, olive trees contain lots of pollen which can sometimes stick to the surface of olives and cause allergic issues. Moreover, they can worsen any preexisting allergies in people. However, you can avoid this by taking processed olives. 

Some common symptoms are:

  • Fatigue
  • Dry mouth
  • Rough throat
  • Itchiness

3. Low-quality Cholesterol

Olives contain low-quality HDL (also known as good cholesterol). However, the amount of HDL in the body isn’t crucial. Instead, it’s how efficiently the HDL works in the body. Its role is to carry the cholesterol from the body to the liver. Therefore, low-quality HDL cannot function efficiently. As a result, olives may negatively affect cholesterol functioning if you consume too many. 

4. Contains Heavy Elements

There is a slight possibility that olives contain trace amounts of boron, sulfur, tin, and lithium. Consuming an excessive amount of heavy metals can be detrimental to your health and raise your chance of developing cancer. The level of these metals in olives, on the other hand, is often much below the fatal limit. As a result, this fruit is harmless. However, excessive consumption over the years may have adverse effects.

5. Contains Acrylamide

According to several studies, acrylamide may increase the risk of cancer. In addition, when olives are over-processed, they store some chemicals. As a result, certain olive varieties, particularly mature California black olives have elevated levels of acrylamide due to processing.


Olives are generally healthy, but excessive consumption may have some side effects. These risks include weight gain due to their sodium and fat content, allergies caused by pollen on the surface of olives, potentially negative effects on cholesterol functioning, trace amounts of heavy elements that can be harmful in large quantities, and elevated levels of acrylamide in over-processed olives, which may increase the risk of cancer. However, these risks can be mitigated by consuming olives in moderation and opting for processed varieties. 

HealthifyMe Suggestion

As always, moderation is key. Olives and olive oil may be good for you but that is when you consume them in appropriate amounts. Eating 5-10 olives a day as a snack or adding them to your food is great, but overconsumption could cause bloating and gastritis. The same holds true for olive oil. In its cold-pressed form, it is widely recognized as incredibly healthy but at the end of the day, it still remains fat and needs to be used sparingly.


Olives give a savoury note to meals and snacks. They contain healthy fats. Additionally, they are associated with various health advantages, including improved heart health. This fruit is quite simple to integrate into your routine. It complements a healthy, whole-food-based diet well. Finally, high-quality extra virgin olive oil may improve your heart, brain, and joint health due to its potent antioxidants.

Generations have benefited from olives and olive oil. However, olives are high in dietary fibre, essential for optimal gut health. Additionally, they include minerals that the body needs for proper functioning, such as iron and copper. However, as with any other food, moderation should be practised as excess consumption can cause health issues. 

Disclaimer: The purpose of this article is just to disperse knowledge and raise awareness. It does not intend to replace medical advice from professionals. For further information please contact our certified nutritionists Here

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. Is it good to eat olives every day?

A. If you do not have hypertension or any other adverse medical conditions, a few olives 3-4 times a week is fine to consume.

Q. Do olives have any health benefits?

A. Yes, olives have many health benefits. They contain antioxidants that regulate your cholesterol. They aid metabolism by speeding up your digestion. Olives also contain vitamin E and good fats. In addition, these fight against obesity and diabetes. They can even help fight osteoporosis and cancer

Q. Are olives good for your skin?

A. Olive oil is rich in antioxidants. It prevents oxidative stress caused by excess free radicals. In addition, antioxidants inhibit ageing. Olives contain oleic acid, which improves skin health. The antibacterial properties of olive oil destroy bacteria from the skin and prevent acne.

Q. Do olives reduce belly fat?

A. Olives can be part of a balanced diet for weight management. Including olives or olive oil as part of a well-rounded diet can contribute to a feeling of fullness and satiety, which may help with overall calorie control. To effectively reduce belly fat, it’s important to focus on overall calorie intake and energy balance. Additionally, engaging in regular physical activity, such as aerobic exercises and strength training, can help burn calories, improve metabolism, and promote overall weight loss.

Q. What are the side effects of eating olives?

A. While olives are generally safe to consume, potential side effects may include allergic reactions in rare cases. Some individuals may be allergic to olives or experience symptoms such as itching, hives, swelling, or difficulty breathing. Additionally, olives that are brined or cured can be high in sodium, which may not be suitable for individuals with certain health conditions like high blood pressure. It’s important to consume olives in moderation and consult with a healthcare professional if you have any concerns or specific dietary restrictions.

Q. Are olives high in salt?

A. Olives contain a heavy amount of sodium. A single olive has more than 100 mg of sodium. Therefore, a 100-gram serving of green olives provides 1.557 g of sodium. This amount is around 60% of your daily recommended value.

Q. Are green olives healthier than black olives?

A. Both green and black olives are very nutritious but the green ones have a higher sodium content. So You can base your decision on that fact since both kinds have different nutrients that they are rich in making them a healthy snacking choice.

Q. When is the best time to eat olives?

A. One can eat olives at any time of the day. However, they are rich in healthy fats. Therefore one can eat them before bedtime if one wishes to have a healthy nighttime snack. In addition, they balance blood sugar, help you feel fuller, and aid in a good night’s sleep.

Q. Are olives good for hair growth?

A. Olives include fatty acids that aid in the healing of damaged hair shafts. Additionally, regular use of black olives for hair might assist in retaining the natural colour of your scalp.

Q. Are olives good for your liver?

A. Olives can be beneficial for liver health when consumed as part of a balanced diet. They contain compounds like oleic acid and antioxidants, which have been associated with potential liver-protective effects. The monounsaturated fats in olives can help reduce the risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a common liver condition. Additionally, the antioxidants in olives, such as polyphenols, may help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the liver, promoting overall liver health.

Q. Are olives OK for high blood pressure?

A. Olives, in moderation, can be suitable for individuals with high blood pressure. However, it’s important to note that olives, particularly those that are brined or cured, can be relatively high in sodium, which may contribute to increased blood pressure levels. Individuals with high blood pressure should monitor their sodium intake and consider opting for low-sodium or fresh olives whenever possible. It’s always best to consult with a healthcare professional for personalised dietary recommendations based on individual health conditions.

Q. How many olives should I eat a day?

A. Have about 5-6 olives a day if eating them daily, and if consuming them 3 or less times a week you can eat about 15.

Reference Links 

  1. Molecular mechanisms of inflammation. Anti-inflammatory benefits of virgin olive oil and the phenolic compound oleocanthal:
  1. Monounsaturated Fatty Acids and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease: Synopsis of the Evidence Available from Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses:
  1. A review on management of cardiovascular diseases by olive polyphenols:
  1. Fatty acid is a potential agent for bone tissue induction: In vitro and in vivo approach:
  1. Olive polyphenol hydroxytyrosol prevents bone loss:
  1. The effect of olive oil on osteoporosis prevention:
  1. Effects of Hydroxytyrosol on Human Health:
  1. Dietary fatty acids intake: possible role in cognitive decline and dementia:
  1. Potential Role of Olive Oil Phenolic Compounds in the Prevention of Neurodegenerative Diseases:
  1. Neurotransmitters Regulation and Food Intake: The Role of Dietary Sources in Neurotransmission:
  1. Relationship between Antioxidant and Anticancer Activity of Trihydroxyflavones:

About the Author

Parul holds a Masters of Medical Science in Public Health Nutrition from the University of Glasgow, Scotland, and has worked across the globe from the U.K to New Zealand (NZ) gaining her License with the Health Professionals Council (HPC, UK) and the NZ Nutrition Council. From being a Gold medalist in Clinical Nutrition to being awarded an internship with World Health Organisation (WHO, Cairo, Egypt) and Contracts with CDC Parul has had a wide spectrum of work experiences. She is very passionate about Nutrition and Fitness and holds strong to her guiding mantras ‘ Move more’ and ‘Eat Food that your grandmother can recognize’!

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