The Olive Wellness Institute is a science repository on the nutrition,
health and wellness benefits of olives and olive products, which is
all subject to extensive peer review.

Table Olives

What are table olives?

Table olives are olives which are intended to be consumed as food, rather than being used for oil production.1

The olive fruit is enjoyed as part of many cuisines worldwide, primarily in Mediterranean regions, but also all over the world.2 Table olives have a unique texture, aroma and complexity of flavor, varying from bitter to sweet.3 They contain a wide range of bioactive compounds – oleuropein being the most predominant.

There are many olive varieties, each possessing unique qualities, that determine the flavor and properties of the fruit.

How are table olives made?

Fresh olives are very sharp and bitter in flavor, and as a result, they are not commonly consumed as a fresh fruit. There are several different processing methods which make olives more palatable. These processes remove the bitter taste from the fresh olive, which is mainly caused by oleuropein:2,4

  • Oil curing: soaking olives in oil for several months
  • Water curing: rinsing and re-soaking in water over many months
  • Brine-curing: soaking in brine for up to 6 months
  • Dry curing: storing in salt for up to 6 months

Numerous factors can affect the composition of table olives, and affect the amount of phenolics that are found in the resultant cured fruit (e.g. olive cultivar, olive ripeness, processing method).

Health benefits of table olives

In general, the processing methods that are applied to make table olives palatable, reduces the levels of biophenols available in the olive.5 However, there is some research to show that certain olive cultivars and processing methods can maximise the resultant biophenols found in table olives.5,6

Interestingly, naturally fermented table olives also have some reported health benefits. A study showed that naturally fermented table olives from the Tras-os-Montes region (in Portugal) contained biophenols and also antimicrobial activity.7 Further research is needed in this area, to assess the role of naturally fermented olives on health.


  1. Olives WA. About table olives.
  2. University of California. Berkeley Wellness.
  3. Theoris I. Olives. 2009. CABI Publishing: Massachusetts, USA.
  4. Charoenprasert S, Mitchell A. Factors influencing phenolic compounds in table olives (Olea europaea). J Agric Food Chem. 2012;60:7081–95.
  5. Blekas G, Vassilakis C, Harizanis C, et al. Biophenols in table olives. J Agric Food Chem. 2002;50:8688–92.
  6. Romero C, Brenes M, Yousfi K, et al. Effect of cultivar and processing method on the content of polyphenols in table olives. J Agric Food Chem. 2004;52(3):479–84.
  7. Malheiro R, Mendes P, Fernandes F, et al. Bioactivity and phenolic composition from natural fermented table olives. Food Funct. 2014;5:3132–42.