How Do Olives Fit in a Low-Carb Diet?

Olives and olive oil are good choices nutritionally for any diet

Small bowl of Castelvetrano olives
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Olives, technically are a fruit but are often categorized with vegetables. They are a flavorful addition to almost any diet and are good for you, too. Olives contain very little carbohydrates, and the number of carbohydrates does not vary much from species to species or from green olives to ripe olives.

Since olives right off the tree are too bitter to eat, they must be cured in some way to make them palatable.

With some exceptions, olives change from green to black as they ripen, although canned black olives were harvested when green, and then cured and exposed to oxygen to turn them black.

Many different varieties of olives are cultivated around the world. Some of the most popular olives include manzanilla or Spanish green olives, Kalamata or Greek black olives, Niçoise or French black olives, and Gaeta or Italian black olives. When most Americans think about olives, the first image that usually comes to mind is the manzanilla olive stuffed with a pimento garnishing a classic martini.

History of the Olive

The edible olive seems to have coexisted with humans for about 5,000 to 6,000 years, going back to the early Bronze Age from 3150 to 1200 BC. Its origin can be traced to the eastern Mediterranean area based on written tablets, olive pits, and wood fragments found in ancient tombs. Olive oil has long been considered sacred.

An olive branch is still considered a symbol of abundance, glory and peace.

Carbohydrate and Fiber Counts for Olives

There is a slight variation of carb and fiber counts among the various types of olives, but not a considerable difference.

Quantity of OlivesCarbs, fiber and calorie counts
1 oz. olives equal about 10 small, 5 large, 3 jumbo, or 1 ½ super-colossal olives1 gram net carbs, 1 gram fiber, 26 calories
100 grams (3.5 oz.) olives3 grams net carbs, 2 grams fiber, 81 calories

Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load for Olives

The glycemic index of a food is an indicator of how much and how fast a food raises your blood sugar. As with most non-starchy vegetables, there is no scientific study of the glycemic index of olives.

The glycemic load of a food is related to the glycemic index but takes serving size into account. A glycemic load of one is the equivalent of eating 1 gram of glucose. Since there is very little information on the glycemic index of olives, the glycemic load of olives is estimated.

Estimated glycemic load
1 oz olives:  0
100 grams olives:  1

Health Benefits of Olives

The health benefits of olives are not so much based on the vitamin and mineral content as it is the rich abundance of phytonutrients, particularly those which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. These powerful antioxidants include flavonoids, phenols, terpenes, and anthocyanidins. In addition, olive oil is widely-regarded as being beneficial for heart health.

Low-Carb Recipes with Olives

There are many recipes incorporating olives in the dish or highlighting olives as the star.

  • Low-carb taco salad, minus the high-carb items like a hard tortilla shell, it has all the great flavor and is a great meal for a hot summer evening
  • Tamale pie, a low-carb version of this classic comfort food
  • Top some ripe olives on a ​​low-carb pizza
  • An olive tapenade is easy to make and can be served in many ways. Try it with a cheese plate, or with fish.

Sources:

Vossen, Paul (2007). "Olive Oil: History, Production, and Characteristics of the World's Classic Oils". HortScience. 42 (5): 1093–1100.

Ben Othman N, Roblain D, Thonart P et al. Tunisian table olive phenolic compounds and their antioxidant capacity. J Food Sci. 2008 May;73(4):C235-40. 2008.

Leroux, MarcusFoster-Powell, Kaye, Holt, Susanna and Brand-Miller, Janette. "International table of glycemic index and glycemic load values: 2002." American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Vol. 76, No. 1, 5-56, (2002).

USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 21.

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