Is Olive a Fruit or Vegetable?

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Is the olive a fruit or a vegetable? Would you be surprised to know that olives are both a fruit and vegetable? They’re also delicious, nutritious, and packed with antioxidants. Olives are great because they’re versatile and healthy.

Learn more about how the olive can be classified as a fruit and a vegetable at the same time in this article. We’ll also discuss the many health benefits of olives. 

Is Olive a Fruit or Vegetable?

Fruit is defined as “the part of a plant that is developed from a flower, esp. when used as food”. 

A vegetable is defined as “any plant whose fruit, seeds, roots, tubers, bulbs, stems, leaves, or flower parts are used as food.”

Olives are botanically classified as a fruit because they’re developed from a flower and can be eaten. They’re a stone fruit like a peach with a seed pit in the middle. Olives are classified as a vegetable from a culinary standpoint because of their taste and how they’re used in cooking. 

Green Olives on the Olive Tree

Why Are Olives Fruit?

According to botanists, the olive is a fruit, and more specifically designated as a “Drupe fruit,” otherwise known as a “stone fruit.” Olives contain pits or stones, and these act as the seeds for the propagation of the Olea europaea tree. 

They resemble many sweeter fruits that have a pit in the center, such as peaches, apricots, or cherries. However, botany does not classify a fruit or vegetable according to taste.

A fruit classification is based on the reproductive body and process of the plant, which for the olive is actually a tree. The Encyclopedia Britannica defines fruit as “the fleshy or dry ripened ovary of a flowering plant, enclosing the seed or seeds.”

If you plant an olive pit in the ground, eventually a slow-growing olive tree will appear.

Why Are Olives Vegetables?

Olives are classified as vegetables in the culinary definition because they are used in side dishes to main entrées. Olives also have a salty taste and are not sweet like fruits.

Olives, whether green or black, are used in multiple culinary dishes. You may find them alone in a bowl as an appetizer or as part of a recipe for a main dinner or lunch dish. You’ll find olives on pizzas, in salads, in pasta, or vegetable side dishes.

There is no difference in an olive classification based on the color. Black olives are actually a more ripened version of a green olive. They both have the same nutritional value, but black olives have remained longer on the tree.

Multi-colored Olives

Health Benefits of Olives

Olives offer numerous health benefits. They are low in fat, contain lots of vitamins C, E, and fiber, and are low in calories containing only about 6 calories per olive.

This fruit is a basic ingredient in the very renowned “Mediterranean diet” and is a major export crop, together with olive oil pressed from the fruit. Olives are cultivated in Mediterranean countries, including Italy, Spain, Turkey, Greece, and Morocco.

Italy boasts a whopping 24% of its population over the age of 65 with the Mediterranean diet certainly making its contribution to that longevity!

The numerous vitamins and antioxidants present in olives provide equally numerous health benefits, and here are several of the most noteworthy.

1. Assist in Weight Management

With only 6 to 7 calories per olive, it will take more calories to digest one than what you gain when eating the olive.  If you’d like to eat less at lunch or dinner to control calorie intake, consider eating a few olives before dining.

Thanks to the monounsaturated fatty acids in olives, digestion is slowed, and the hormone cholecystokinin is stimulated, producing a sensation of fullness and satiety.

2. Fight Inflammatory Diseases

Oleocanthal, an anti-inflammatory compound, is present in olives. This compound aids in preventing the formation of inflammatory enzymes that can contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes or arthritis. This compound also acts as a natural painkiller by mimicking pharmaceuticals like ibuprofen.

3. Improve Cognitive Function

Olives contain natural chemicals known as polyphenols that work to reduce oxidative stress within the brain.

Research on mice in 2013 showed that supplementing the diet with olive polyphenols increased the levels of neurotrophins, brain-derived neurotrophic factors, and nerve growth factors. These play a crucial role in brain cell survival.

4. Improve Gut Health

Fresh olives are rich in probiotics and can help improve your gut health. The natural lactic acid fermentation process that occurs helps prevent harmful bacteria.

However, olives that are canned or in jars have been pasteurized, so they don’t contain probiotics.

Olives also contain high levels of fiber with approximately 1.5 grams every 10 olives. This fiber will nourish your microbiome (good gut bacteria) to protect your overall health.

5. Lower the Risk of Heart Disease

Olive oil contains a predominant fatty acid that accounts for 73% of the oil content known as oleic acid. 11% accounts for polyunsaturated omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and only 15% is saturated fat.

The monounsaturated fat in olives will increase good cholesterol levels in the blood. Research has demonstrated that monounsaturated fats helped lower blood cholesterol and consequently the risk of heart disease.

Olives as Snack and Olive Oil

6. Prevent Diabetes

Studies have found a link between the use and consumption of olive oil in the diet and the prevention of type 2 diabetes. Consuming olive oil is thought to assist in regulating the amount of glucose or sugar in the body.

7. Protect the Skin

Free radicals are known to contribute to aging and skin diseases. Olives are rich in antioxidants that prevent free radicals from forming, and together with vitamins A and E work against skin diseases, and harmful UV rays from exposition to sunlight.

Vitamin E also contributes to increased blood flow to the scalp and the forming of new blood capillaries. Vitamin A further aids in maintaining skin pH balance.

8. Protect Bones and Heal Wounds

Olives contain oleuropein which is unique to this fruit. You will not find it elsewhere. Oleuropein pairs with the compound hydroxytyrosol in olives to protect against bone loss.

This helps prevent osteoporosis and assists in the healing of skin lesions and wounds. These two super compounds also team up to encourage hormonal health.

9. Reduce the Risk of Cancer

The compound oleocanthal in olives and has been shown to have the capability to kill cancer cells. Research has also shown a correlation between the consummation of extra-virgin olive oil and the reduction of breast cancer and other cancer risks.

Introducing Olives into Your Diet

Whether you eat olives alone as a healthy snack or not, you can introduce them into a fresh garden or Greek salad or top off your homemade pizza with a few.

When making a tomato sauce for pasta, add a handful of chopped olives into your simmering sauce. Olives also add a twist to oven-baked fish or meat dishes.

Do keep an eye on the salt content in olives. You can rinse or replace olive brine partially with plain water.

Is Olive a Fruit or Vegetable? Final Thoughts

Olives are both a fruit and a vegetable depending on who you are asking. But no matter what, olives are a great addition to any diet. They are full of nutrients and benefits that help support our bodies and our immune system.

For more on fruits and vegetables, check these articles out: 

Fast Growing Trees and Plants

Photo of author

Written by:

Denise Davis
Denise Davis is an avid gardener, deeply rooted in growing organic veggies and crafting homemade fertilizers. She cherishes the earthy essence of composting and the continuous learning that gardening provides. Denise sees gardening as a holistic activity, offering physical and mental benefits alongside the joy of consuming what you cultivate. Her passion is to inspire others to embrace gardening as a rewarding, healthful lifestyle.

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