Black olives don’t contain any animal byproducts even during their production and are therefore considered vegan-friendly.
Olives are among the heart-healthy fruits that vegans eat as part of their plant-based diet. Thinking about hummus and pita bread paired with olives already makes me drool.
Black olives, especially the canned ones, are mostly colored artificially and may contain chemicals called ferrous gluconate and lye. These chemicals are vegan-friendly as they don’t involve any animal products. But purple or black olives are also naturally harvested from the shrub tree itself, which is vegan to its core.
If you’re one of the hungry vegans curious about black olives, I checked some stringent details about these fruits. Here’s what I found.
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What Are Olives?
Olives are small fruits native to Mediterranean Basin and cultivated in New Zealand, Australia, North and South America, and South Africa. The olive’s botanical name Olea Europaea means European Olive and is also known as little olive or dwarf olive.
The olive is the primary source of olive oil, which is a staple in Mediterranean cuisine and in other parts of the world. The olives’ origins, or Oliva in Latin, are dated back to the geologic epoch called Oligocene, about 20 to 40 million years ago.
The Spaniards introduced the olives to the Americas, and the first sprouts from Spain were planted in Lima in 1560 by Antonio de Rivera. Today, olives are widely cultivated in Chile, Argentina, and Peru and are harvested during winter and autumn.
Olives have many uses, and green or black olives belong to one of them.
- Olive Oil. This is extracted from olives and is used in different kinds of cooking. Olive Oil is highly recommended by many wellness professionals due to its health benefits. It’s also vegan-friendly.
- Table Olives. The International Olive Council (IOC) has three classifications for table olives according to the maturity of these small fruits before the harvest.
- Black Olives. When ripe, these can be brown, purple, or black.
- Green Olives. These are unripe but are already in full size for harvest.
- Semi-Ripe Olives. When olives are in their first ripening cycle, they change in color from green to shades of red and brown.
- Olive Wood. Because of the olive tree’s unique grain patterns, slow growth, small size, and commercial importance, its wood is pricey. Its durability and high combustion temperature make it great for making carved wooden bowls, kitchen utensils, fine furniture, cutting boards, and decorative products.
- Ornamental Purposes. The olive trees have gorgeous ornamental features that are used in many modern landscapes.
Black Olives Are Vegan-Friendly
Black olives can be either artificially darkened or naturally harvested from the olive tree. Both are vegan-friendly and don’t involve any animal byproducts. Ripe or black olives are harvested from mid-November to the last week of January or early February.
During these months, the olives are already ripe, which gives the colors purple, brown, or black. Fresh olives are relatively bitter due to their oleuropein content, a bitter phenolic compound. It’s also found in the leaves of the olive tree, as well as in argan oil.
To make green or black olives edible, they must be cured and undergo a fermentation process to remove the oleuropein compound. Curing and fermentation will neutralize the taste, which makes it ready for consumption.
Food manufacturers use lye and brine or salt packing to cure fresh olives. Using lye for curing may take a few days to complete, while brine or salt packing takes a few months.
Lye and brine or salt are all vegan-friendly, thus making black olives suitable for those who are following a vegan diet.
Lye is either potassium hydroxide (KOH) or sodium hydroxide (NaOH), and both are vegan-friendly. It’s an alkaline compound commonly used in making soaps and in fermented food like canned black olives.
Brine, on the other hand, naturally occurs in salt lakes and seawater underground. It’s where salt is sourced from, which is used in the curing and fermentation of black olives. Brine is a salt and water solution which is also used in making pickles, fermented meats, and more.
Most canned black olives are chemically processed to achieve their black appearance, which may involve ferrous gluconate. It’s a black compound commonly used for iron supplements. This makes canned black olives improve their dark appearance.
Ferrous gluconate is vegan-friendly, which makes black olives suitable for vegans.
California black olives that are sold in cans are artificially darkened or blackened through repeated soaking in lye. This saturated exposure makes the olive’s skin and flesh turn into dark or black color, mimicking the naturally ripened olives.
How Healthy Are Black Olives?
Black olives or olives in their simplest form are relatively healthy. They’re beneficial to human health and have been proven to be effective in reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases and other adverse health issues.
The olives’ healthy fats are extracted to make olive oil, which I also discussed in this topic. Olive oil is highly recommended by many wellness therapists due to its natural healthy compounds found in olive fruits.
In a nutshell, olives are packed with vitamins and minerals that benefit your overall health. However, excessive consumption of some olive varieties, such as California black olives, may increase cancer risk.
California black olives have high amounts of acrylamide. It’s an organic compound found in starchy food products such as plant-based foods, fries, cereals, cookies, and more.
In a study by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), acrylamide may increase the risk of developing cancer in humans. The evidence is still inconsistent to this date, but it has happened in animals in separate research.
Additionally, acrylamide may also affect the human nervous system as well as in pre and post-natal development. Male reproduction may also be affected by excessive consumption of acrylamide.
On the plus side, olives are packed with health benefits. Here’s what you can get from 100 g of canned olives.
- Calories. 115
- Protein. 0.8 g
- Water. 80%
- Sugar. 0 g
- Carbs. 6.3 g
- Fat. 10.7 g
- Fiber. 3.2 g
Olives are also a great source of vitamins and minerals such as vitamin E, copper, iron, sodium, and calcium. Black olives are specifically rich in iron, which is great for your red blood cells in oxygen transmission.
Olives have antioxidant properties that help reduce the risk of several chronic diseases, such as cancer and heart illness. They’re also packed with oleic acid, which is linked to heart-healthy benefits. This helps neutralize your cholesterol levels and prevents your LDL cholesterol from oxidation.
Other studies have also associated olives with healthy bones, preventing and lowering the risk of osteoporosis.
Best Black Olives Brands
If you love black olives the way I do, I have several brands that I highly recommend. I’ve also tried some of these at home, and I can say they’re just the best in any type of cooking or dish.
These are also bestsellers, and you can find them at your local supermarkets or even a Walmart, Target, or Amazon.
- Early California
- Pearls Olives To Go
- Mario Camacho Foods
- Marmarabirlik Exclusive
- Essential Living Foods
- Roland Foods
- Lindsay Black Olive
- Organic Black Kalamata Olives
- Sunfood Superfoods
- Great Value
- Santa Barbara
Pro Tip: When choosing black olives brands, always check the ingredients on the labels. There are brands that use animal byproducts, which are not suitable for vegans.
Black Olive Varieties
There are almost 20 varieties of olives, including black olives, and if you’re curious about my favorite black olive varieties, I listed them below. This will help you find the best ones in the market if you’re still new to black olives.
Here’s my list of the best black olive varieties that I think are worth your time and budget.
If you’re also interested in green olive varieties, you can also find the best ones in your local grocers or supermarkets or online.
Ways To Eat Black Olives
While olives are bitter when fresh or raw, they shed their oleuropein content when they’re cured and fermented only then that they’re ready for consumption, which is great for several vegan cooking.
And if you ask about my favorite dish with black olives, check what I listed below.
- Vegan pizza topping with fresh herbs
- Salad condiment
- Olive salsa
- Vegan cheese paired with dried fruit
Or, you can eat them plain. it’s perfect for snacks too.
The Bottom Line
Black olives are vegan-friendly even after they are processed using chemicals like lye, brine or salt packing, and ferrous gluconate. These chemical compounds are naturally produced without the use of any animal byproducts.
Olives are relatively healthy regardless of color, whether during the harvest or when processed. Black olives, specifically, are rich in iron, which is very helpful for your red blood cells to regulate enough oxygen.
Lastly, black olives are perfect for any cooking, vegan or not. They’re easy to find and have multiple varieties and brands to choose from.