10 Benefits Of Olives, Nutrition, How To Eat, & Side Effects

Medically Reviewed by Monica Auslander Moreno, MS, RDN
By Ravi Teja Tadimalla, Professional Certificate In Food, Nutrition & Health

The benefits of olives are due to their rich antioxidant profile. What do antioxidants do? Well, they fight out oxidative stress and prevent the disruption of cell components like DNA, lipids, and protein, eventually thwarting cell damage. Oxidative stress-induced cell damage can, otherwise, cause diabetes, inflammation, or even cancer.

That said, consuming olives is the best way to keep oxidative stress at bay. But, what antioxidants do olives contain? This article looks at the nutritional breakdown of olives, their benefits, side effects, and the best ways to add them to your diet. Read on!

The Antioxidant Profile Of Olives

This deserves a special mention. Studies show how the polyphenols in olives have potent antioxidant properties (1). The most important antioxidant in olives is vitamin E, which can protect you and your family from cancer and bone diseases.

Other potent antioxidants in olives include the following:

  • Oleuropein, which is abundantly found in fresh and unripe olives.
  • This oleuropein is broken down into hydroxytyrosol when the olives ripen.
  • Tyrosol is another antioxidant that may help with heart health.
  • And while oleanolic acid may prevent liver damage and inflammation, quercetin helps lower blood pressure.

Why are we talking so much about antioxidants? Because the antioxidants in olives contribute to almost all of their benefits. They are nutrients that can dramatically improve your life and health if taken regularly.

Start including olives in your diet, and you will soon reap the following benefits.

What Are The Benefits Of Olives?

1. Olives Help Fight Cancer

Olives are quite popular in the Mediterranean region, and that may explain the low cancer rates there. The phenolic compounds in olives work best in treating and preventing several forms of cancer (2).

Olives also contain squalene and terpenoids, other compounds with anticancer properties.

2. Boost Heart Health

The oxidative stress we are talking about can harm your heart too. Excess of that stress oxidizes cholesterol, causing heart attacks. But thanks to the antioxidants in olives, this can stop.

Olives contain fat as well, but this is the good kind of fat. Oleic acid (a monounsaturated fatty acid) in olives reduces inflammation and cuts down the risk of heart disease.

Another important nutrient in olives is copper, the deficiency of which has been linked to heart disease (3). Americans don’t get enough copper, which could be another reason for the rise in cases of heart disease.

3. Fight Inflammation

The monounsaturated fats in olives, along with the vitamin E and polyphenols, help fight inflammation and the associated ailments.

They also contain another important compound called oleocanthal, which has terrific anti-inflammatory properties. This is another reason olives also work well in relieving pain in the body (although we suggest you talk to your doctor before using olives for this purpose).

Oleocanthal works by preventing the production of COX-1 and COX-2, enzymes that are known to cause inflammation (fun fact: this is how Tylenol works). More interestingly, this property of olives is similar to that of ibuprofen, a popular anti-inflammatory drug.

4. Prevent Osteoporosis


Studies show how olives and their polyphenols can help prevent bone loss in the elderly. The polyphenols work by increasing the number of osteoblasts (cells that secrete the matrix for bone formation), and this promotes bone health (4).

Hydroxytyrosol, the antioxidant in olives that we spoke about, also helps prevent bone loss. It plays a role in the formation and maintenance of bones as well, serving as an effective remedy for osteoporosis symptoms (5).

5. Improve Digestive Health

Olives have probiotic potential, which makes them all the more important for maintaining digestive health. Olives are a fermented food, which means they are rich in the gut-friendly bacteria Lactobacillus (6).

The phenolic compounds in olives can also halt the growth of H. pylori, a bacterium known to cause stomach inflammation. The phenols in olives tend to stay in the abdomen for a long time, often acting as the gut bacteria and improving digestive health.

6. Can Aid Weight Loss

As discussed, olives are rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, which can cut the risk of obesity. These fatty acids also increase the levels of good cholesterol – and this means your body is more efficient in performing activities, including burning calories.

Olives also boost blood circulation, which increases the effectiveness of your workouts. This ultimately leads to healthy weight maintenance. And thanks to their digestive benefits, olives ensure optimal nutrient absorption from the foods you eat – leaving behind just a few calories to get stored as fat.

Interestingly, the fat in olives can be satiating and can lead to reduced food intake. You may even snack on olives instead of crackers before a meal.

7. Olives Enhance Brain Health

The brain is largely made of fatty acids, so now we know how olives contribute here. The monounsaturated fatty acids in olives help preserve memory and even improve focus. The intake of olives was also found to prevent brain cell death (due to disease) and reduce memory loss.

And didn’t we speak of oleuropein, an important antioxidant in olives? Research shows how this compound reduces oxidative damage in the substantia nigra, a brain region that is most affected in diseases like Parkinson’s (7).

8. May Lower Blood Sugar Levels


Though there is very less information on this, some sources do suggest that olives may help lower blood sugar levels. Olives may change how the body makes and reacts to insulin, and this can help patients with high blood sugar levels.

9. Olives Can Improve Vision

Research is ongoing, but the antioxidants in olives sure prove a point. Oxidative stress can affect your vision too, and the antioxidants in olives can prevent this from happening.

10. Boost Skin And Hair Health

The fatty acids and antioxidants in olives nourish and hydrate both the skin and hair. Vitamin E is the most potent of all the antioxidants in olives, which protects the skin from ultraviolet radiation and even helps prevent wrinkles.

The oleic acid in olives further enhances skin appearance and improves hair health.

These are some ways olives can benefit you. But apart from the antioxidants we have seen, other important nutrients also contribute to their goodness. What are they?

What Is The Nutritional Profile Of Olives?

NutrientUnitValue per 100.0g1.0 tbsp 8.4g1.0 large 4.4g1.0 small 3.2g
Total lipid (fat)g10.680.900.470.34
Carbohydrate, by differenceg6.260.530.280.20
Fiber, total dietaryg3.
Sugars, totalg0.
Calcium, Camg88743
Iron, Femg3.300.280.150.11
Magnesium, Mgmg4000
Phosphorus, Pmg3000
Potassium, Kmg8100
Sodium, Namg735623224
Zinc, Znmg0.
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acidmg0.
Vitamin B-6mg0.0090.0010.0000.000
Folate, DFEµg0000
Vitamin B-12µg0.
Vitamin A, RAEµg20211
Vitamin A, IUIU403341813
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)mg1.650.140.070.05
Vitamin D (D2 + D3)µg0.
Vitamin DIU0000
Vitamin K (phylloquinone)µg1.
Fatty acids, total saturatedg1.4150.1190.0620.045
Fatty acids, total monounsaturatedg7.8880.6630.3470.252
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturatedg0.9110.0770.0400.029

There is very little difference between olives and olive oil. The usage depends on the medium. You can use olive oil in your cooking or add a few olives to your evening salad. But in case you are going for the oil, we recommend extra virgin olive oil – which has most of its polyphenols intact. Also called cold pressed olive oil, extra virgin olive oil is extracted from olives in a controlled temperature setting. The heat is minimal, which is why the oil retains most of its flavor and nutrients. Organic oils are those that are extracted without the use of chemicals. Most companies use these terms interchangeably, so we recommend you go for extra virgin olive oil.

And if you are going for imported olive oils (especially from China), please be wary. There are issues with some imported olive oils being a blend of soy oil or canola oil – which may not give you the required benefits.

How To Include Olives In Your Diet

There are different types of olives – stuffed olives, black ripe olives, Spanish green olives, queen olives, and natural and seasoned olives.

Including the goodness of olives in your diet is quite simple. You can simply cook your food using olive oil (extra virgin). Or add olives to your food (like the evening salad or snack).

But hold on. You don’t want to add too many olives to your diet. That’s not good either. Why? Let’s find out!

What Are The Side Effects Of Taking Too Many Olives?

  • Issues During Pregnancy And Breastfeeding
    There is not enough information regarding this. Hence, pregnant and breastfeeding women must stick to olives (or olive oil) in normal amounts and avoid excess.
  • Might Lower Blood Sugar Way Too Much
    Olives can lower blood sugar dramatically in people who already are taking blood sugar medications. Hence, consult a doctor before you take olives.
  • High Sodium
    Olives can contain high amounts of sodium. Hence, stocking on them may not be a good idea. Consume them within limits. Eating 5 to 6 olives per day would be a smart goal. If you have blood pressure issues, please stay away from olives and consult your doctor.
  • Drug Interactions
    Olives might interfere with blood sugar and blood pressure medications. If you are taking those medications, please consult your doctor before going for olives.

Olives’ benefits can be attributed to their antioxidant content. Olives can reduce cancer risk and boost cardiovascular, digestive, brain, eye, skin, and hair health. They also lower blood sugar levels, fight inflammation, and help reduce osteoporosis risk. You can directly add olives to your food or use olive oil for culinary purposes to reap the benefits. However, overconsumption might lower blood sugar levels way too much, and their high sodium content may also have negative effects. Olives may also interact with some medications. Hence, practice caution and consume them in moderation.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long do olives last?

If the container is unopened, they last for 1 to 2 years. If opened, they last for about 4 months (in the refrigerator). Do check the packaging, though. And check for visible mold.

Are olives paleo?

Yes, olives are Paleo. Though they are often processed to make them edible, they still are paleo-friendly.

What kind of olives are used in a martini?

The Spanish olives are usually used in a martini.

Which are healthier – green or black olives?

Both the types are equally healthy.

Are olives fattening?

Only if you take too many of them for too long – as they are high in sodium. Even otherwise, overconsuming calories from anything may lead to weight gain.


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  1. Antioxidant activity of olive polyphenols…”. US National Library of Medicine.
  2. A genomic explanation connecting…”. US National Library of Medicine.
  3. Transition metals and mitochondrial metabolism…”. US National Library of Medicine.
  4. Olives and bone: A green osteoporosis…”. US National Library of Medicine.
  5. Olive polyphenol hydroxy…”. US National Library of Medicine.
  6. Should I eat olives?”. TIME.
  7. Oleuropein, unexpected benefits!”. US National Library of Medicine.
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Ravi Teja Tadimalla is an editor and a published author. He has been in the digital media field for over... more

Monica Auslander Moreno

Monica Auslander Moreno is the lead dietitian for a group dietitian practice (Essence Nutrition) in Miami. Her practice provides both... more