Green vs Black: Which Olives to Choose?

Green and black olives like any other food differ not only in color, otherwise we wouldn’t pay special attention to this. 

All olives are healthy, however black and green olives have different nutritional properties i.e. different amounts of macronutrients, minerals and vitamins in olives. And of course, black and green olives have different tastes, so it makes sense to dwell on this. 

Green olives Halkidiki
black_olives_kalamata

So, what is the difference? Green olives are olives that are harvested when they are just beginning to ripen, usually from late September to late October. Black olives are the fully ripe fruits of the olive tree. Yes, recently they were green. 

Actually the words “black olives” are not correct and have no more sense than “white wine”. In fact, the color of ripe olives ranges from light brown to deep purple. There are no completely black olives in nature and you will not find them on a single olive tree. The only exception is sun-dried olives from the Greek island of Thassos. 

Absolutely black olives are most likely green olives that have been colored (and poisoned) with iron gluconate E579. The most ingenious manufacturers do it to sell olives faster than they ripen and to sell more. They understand that the faster they harvest the less they lose. 

Let’s look at the main differences between black and green olives in several ways, such as their taste, nutritional value, health benefit and use in various dishes.  

Green and Black Olive Nutrition Facts

How do the content of minerals and vitamins in olives differ? Significantly. 

Green olives are higher in polyphenols – antioxidants that are great for fighting cancer cells. Antioxidants are also good at cleansing blood vessels and lowering the level of bad cholesterol in the blood.

However, green olives contain twice as much sodium as black olives. This is not good if you have high blood pressure. It should be remembered that the daily intake of this substance is 1500 mg and it is all contained in 100 g of green olives.

The difference in content of vitamin E in olives is significant. Green olives contain twice as much of it as black olives. Other vitamins in olives do not differ much. 

Black olives contain less polyphenols, but are very high in polyunsaturated fats. Also, black olives are rich in iron (6,28 mg / 100g) while the daily intake of iron is approximately 15 mg. 

In this table you’ll find green and black olive nutrition facts: 

Olive Nutrition Facts, per 100 g.Black OlivesGreen Olives
Protein0,84 g1,03 g
Fat10,9 g15,32 g
Carbohydrate6,04 g3,84 g
Fiber1,6 g3,3 g
Calcium88 mg52 mg
Iron6,28 mg0,49 mg
Magnesium4 mg11 mg
Potassium8 mg42 mg
Sodium735 mg1556 mg
Zinc0,22 mg0,04 mg
Copper0,25 mg0,12 mg
Vitamin C0,9 mg
Vitamin B60,01 mg0,03 mg
Vitamin A17 µg (micrograms)20 µg (micrograms)
Vitamin E1,65 mg3,81 mg
Vitamin K1,4 µg (micrograms)1,4 µg (micrograms)

Some more about vitamins in olives: Olives contain B vitamins: vitamin B1 (thiamine), vitamin B3 (niacin), vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) and vitamin B6. All vitamins of this group are vital for our body and most of them are found mainly in animal products. The content of these vitamins in olives is low, but regular consumption of olives will help to avoid their deficiency.

So which are healthier – green or black olives? Based on the above characteristics we can conclude that both types of olives are healthy. The only difference is what kind of effect should be expected from each variety.  

And What About Olive Taste? 

The taste of green and black olives is very different due to the difference in their texture and consistency. It is clear that it is rather difficult to describe the detailed differences, since there are hundreds of olive varieties in the world. 

Let’s just say that green olives are harder and have more natural bitterness, which is difficult to completely remove by soaking in a salt solution. Unlike black olives, green olives retain their natural flavor and harsh texture. 

Black olives taste softer, juicier and more oily. The taste of black olives changes depending on the processing method since they easily absorb the taste of the environment they are in. Usually it is salty, spicy or savoury.

The taste of food is the main criterion when we decide how to use it. The main but not the only. For example, it is believed that in a traditional Greek salad, there should be only Kalamata and other olives have no place there. 

When it comes to the flavor of olives, the soft and juicy black olives are very suitable for making pesto and all sorts of pâtés. 

Black olives, especially sun-dried olives, are commonly used for baking olive bread or pizza. Due to their ripe and rich flavor, black olives are the perfect accompaniment to soups and meat or vegetable stews. 

Green olives are good for light summer salads. Another common use is as an aperitif snack. Green olives go well with wine and it’s also worth trying them at Dirty Martini cocktail.   

Both black and green olives go well on their own without being involved in other dishes. Place them on a plate, drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice, and sprinkle with dried oregano: 

green olives Halkidiki and black olives Kalamata

Great snack for an aperitif before your barbecue, isn’t it? 

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