Olive Lore

Olives and their nutrients and health benefits

Olives has been praised by humans for thousands of years, and not without reason. The small green fruit is said to be sacred, an edible of gods.

It’s not hard to understand why this fruit has been praised to this extend; the bi-products of it include a range of commercial sought-for commodities such as food, cosmetics, medicine and lumber. In many countries, olives play a major cultural and economical factor.

What exactly what is it that makes the olive such an incredible gift to mankind? Read on to discover the truth about olives and their nutrients.


What are olives?

First things first, let’s clarify what we are dealing with here. Olives belong to a group of fruits known as drupes, a family of fruits with a stone or pit covered by a fleshy outer. Other drupes include cherries, plums and apricots.

Unlike most other fruits in the drupe family, however, olives contain a dense concentration of oleuropein, an extremely bitter component that makes it as good as impossible to eat right off the tree. This fact, however, also come with a positive side as bird too will keep their beaks to themselves. Should you want to try and eat an olive right off the tree, it is not harmful to your health in any way.

Olives are low in sugar. In fact, an average olive fruit contain as little as 2.5 – 5% sugar compared to other drupes.

Let’s have a look at some typical physical properties of an olive fruit.

Size and weight

Olives come in different sizes, with the common nominator of being suitable for table consumption. This is just one reason why they have become such distinct table snack in many Mediterranean countries where they are typically served as an appetizer prior to a meal or as snacks to accompany a beverage.An average olive, depending on variety of course, will have a weight of approx. 4-6 g.


Olives are spherical in shape by default, although they too come in elongated shapes. Most fruits shape this way due to the plasmodesmata (PD) in plant cell walls, which link the cytoplasm, plasma membranes and endoplasmic reticulum, allowing a cell-to-cell cytoplasmic trafficking.


Behind the elastic outer skin of the olive is a hard pit, or stone, which covers the seed. The olive pit is known for its exceptional antioxidant and polyphenol properties, but more about that in another post. When talking about the physical properties of an olive and pit, we refer to a flesh/pit ratio. The flesh/pit ratio is a mean to measure density of flesh and the potential oil outcome and thus commercial value of the fruit. A good flesh/pit ration would be about 4:1.7.


The skin of an olive is somewhat elastic and hard, yet smooth on the surface. The texture of the skin makes it resistant to wind blows and exposition to brine, which is the typical way of processing olives to make them eatable. 


Olive color is typically classified as either green or black. Green olives are olives that are picked during the ripening process, when the fruits start to change hue from leafy green to a more yellowish green color. Black olives are fully ripened olives.

Nutritional Values in Olives

Before you can truly grasp why olives are considered a superfood, you need to know which nutrients and compounds it contains.

Note: We have excluded vitamins, minerals and various acids that are not present.

The full table can be visited here

Anyway, let’s have a look.

Macronutrients and micronutrients of olives per 100 g (average)
145 kcal / 607 KJ
1.03 g
6.04 g
10.9 g
Fiber, total dietary
1.6 g
Calcium, Ca
88 mg
Iron, Fe
6.28 mg
Magnesium, Mg
4 mg
Phosphorus, P
3 mg
Potassium, K
8 mg
Sodium, Na
735 mg
Zinc, Zn
0.22 mg
Copper, Cu
0.251 mg
Manganese, Mn
0.02 mg
Selenium, Se
0.9 µg
Vitamin C
0.9 mg
0.003 mg
0.037 mg
Pantothenic acid
0.015 mg
Vitamin B-6 mg
0.009 mg
Choline, total
10.3 mg
Vitamin A, RAE
17 µg
Carotene, beta
198 µg
Vitamin A, IU
330 IU
Lutein + zeaxanthin
510 µg
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)
1.65 mg
Vitamin K (phylloquinone)
1.4 µg
Fatty acids, total saturated
2.28 g
SFA 16:0
1.73 g
SFA 17:0
0.15 g
SFA 18:0
0.318 g
SFA 20:0
0.055 g
SFA 22:0
0.015 g
SFA 24:0
0.011 g
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated
7.65 g
MUFA 16:1
0.15 g
MUFA 18:1
7.47 g
MUFA 20:1
0.032 g
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated
0.629 g
PUFA 18:2
0.629 g
0.026 g
0.031 g
0.05 g
0.032 g
0.012 g
0.029 g
0.023 g
0.038 g
0.067 g
0.023 g
0.043 g
Aspartic acid
0.092 g
Glutamic acid
0.093 g
0.049 g
0.04 g
0.031 g

Main Health Benefits in Olives

So what can you really conclude from looking at the table above? Probably not much. That’s why we conducted a list of some of the nutrients that olives are particularly rich in, and how they benefit your health.

Vitamin E health benefits

Vitamin E is a fat which role is to act as an antioxidant, repairing cells and cleaning up loose harmful electrons, so called “free radicals”. It is important to understand that vitamin E isn’t just one molecule, but two classes (tocopherols and tocotrienols) of molecules with almost identical structures and antioxidant compounds, which comprise a total of eight substances.

1. Protects your skin

Your skin is almost on a daily basis exposed to a number damaging such as UVA, UVB, IR and blue light. In addition to these, air pollution and other bacteria sets in your skin. Vitamin E and polyphenols help protect against this oxidative stress that is created in your skin.

2. Alleviates menstrual cramps

Menstrual cramps – also known by its medical term dysmenorrhea – is a common condition for many women world wide and happens because of the changes caused by production of arachidonic acid and enzyme lysis. Vitamin E inhibits the release of arachidonic acid and reduces the enzyme lysis.

3. May prevent certain types of cancers

As vitamin E is contain antioxidant properties the serve to protect and repair damaged cells, multiple medical trials have suggested that vitamin E has a positive effect on many different types of cancers.

4. Increases amount of red blood cells


Where does the olive tree have its origin?

The very first varieties of olives was most likely called ‘acebuche’ (lat. Olea oleaster). To find the origin of the wild olive tree we have to travel back as far as to approx. the 11th or 12th millennium BC. Fossils of olive leafs has been discovered in multiple locations such as Africa, Spain and Italy, so we can be somewhat certain that can go this far back.

The origin of the wild olive tree is believed to have been in Anatolia, also known as Asia Minor, more precisely, on the border of the Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian coasts. There are other theories that suggest that the olive tree has its origin on the island of Crete, Greece. But in reality, this information doesn’t serve much purpose, as we are somewhat in the same region. Moreover, what’s really interesting historically wise is the spread of the olive tree.

Most theories point towards a spread via Anatolia to current day Greece via Turkey and Cyprus. And this theory makes it plausible that Crete was one of the first areas that olive trees occurred in the Neolithic period.

The spread is said to have been thanks to the trade of the Phoenicians who brought it to the kingdoms of ancient Greece. Drawings on sunk vessels and numerous legends tell of the idle Phoenicians and their journeys carrying olives to the Greek colonies. From here, around 3,000 BC, in the Minoan civilization, the domesticated cultivation of the olive tree truly began and took off. Olives and especially olive oil was a sought-for trading item.