Are Olives Keto-Friendly?

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In this article we will explore the nutritional profile of the popular olive. We will also delve into the science and evaluate the compatibility of this food for those adhering to a keto-friendly diet. 

Varieties of this product will be considered as well as alternatives with the hope that your knowledge will be enriched so you can make an informed decision. 

 

What are olives?

Olives are a variety of fruit native to Mediterranean countries, with Spain and Italy leading as the  world’s top producers. These fruits, together with their oil derivative, are a major staple of the Mediterranean diet.

Have you ever wondered why some are black and some are green? It really is simple actually, the green variants are harvested when unripe and the black ones are left to fully ripen on the tree. 

They need to go through some robust processing to render them edible. This is due to a bitter tasting compound named oleuropein. One such process is to soak the fruits in lye to leach this compound out. They then require further processing, such as pickling in brine, before they reach the supermarket shelves. This by no means is the only way to process this product, but it is certainly popular.

In terms of texture, they are soft and fleshy with a pungent and salty flavor due to the brine.

 

Olive nutrition facts

When it comes to nutritionally profiling olives, the first thing we need to know is that there are a large number of cultivars out there and thereby variability in nutritional parameters is to be expected. Moreover, studies have shown how different methods of preparation result in unique changes to dietary factors. 

However, in general, it seems that they are a good source of provitamin A and Vitamin E as well as bioactive compounds such as polyphenols. 

Let’s explore the macronutrients in these fruits.

We will use a 100 g serving of a typical canned and pickled in brine variety, color green.

  • Calories: 145 kcal
  • Fat: 15.3 g
  • Net carbs (total carbs - fiber): 0.5 g
  • Total carbs: 3.8 g
  • Fiber: 3.3 g
  • Protein: 1 g

There is one caveat and that is that the store-bought variety is almost always soaked in brine, meaning they have a high salt content. 

Just 100 g gives you 3.9 g of salt. This is a very significant amount of salt considering the international recommendations on salt intake vary from 5 to 6 g per day.

 

JUMPSTART YOUR KETO GOALS

 

Can you eat olives on a keto diet?

You most certainly can! As we explored earlier when delineating the nutritional factors of these fruits, they are mostly water, negligible amounts of protein and carbohydrates, and a more generous dose of fat.

 

How many olives can you eat on the keto diet?

A 100 g serving is very low in carbs and high in healthy fats, making it great for keto. However, due to high salt content, it is advisable to limit your intake to 10-15 olives per day; or better yet, every 2 or more days.

Luckily, olives aren’t usually eaten in large quantities on their own. 100 grams is about 37 olives, which is more than you would naturally eat as a snack. So, stick to eating between 10 and 15 to avoid eating too much salt. 

An average green olive weighs 2.7 g. This will give you between 0.15 and 0.22 g of carbs and 4.1 and 6.2 g of fat. In terms of salt, 10 fruits will have between 1.05 and 1.58 g of salt. This is an affordable cost if eating a well balanced and healthy diet.

 

What kind of olives can you have on keto?

All natural varieties are compliant as all are high-fat, low protein and very low carb. 

When it comes to stuffed and flavored varieties, then it really depends on what you are buying. Be prudent and read nutrition labels carefully so as to distinguish between the varieties that can be eaten and those that are to be avoided.

Are kalamata olives keto-friendly?

Yes, but you should be aware that they tend to weigh more than the typical green type. A kalamata can weigh about 5 g, almost twice as much as a green variety, which weighs about 2.7 g. Still, 1 kalamata olive only has about 0.2 net carbs, so they are ok for keto. 

 

BUILD YOUR KETO DIET PLAN

 

What can you eat them with?

Some people enjoy them on their own, especially those who have an affinity for salty foods. It is common to find them in a bowl on a table at a meal together with other starters. This is especially true of the stuffed and flavored varieties. 

They can also be incorporated into salads or as a topping for keto-friendly pizza.  

 

Keto-friendly alternatives to olives

Well, since these are essentially pickled products in most cases, let’s consider other pickled goods and another type of substitute:

  • Sauerkraut: this has an impressive 2.51 g of fat per 100 g serving, a rarity for a vegetable, and only costs you 1.36 g of carbs per said serving. This is certainly an acceptable alternative.
  • Capers are another good option, they are very low in carbs and fat and have some protein. Net carbs per 100 g comes to 1.7 g and in terms of texture and taste they share the fleshy feel of olives as well as their saltiness. 
  • Blue cheese, a rather surprising substitute, is naturally very low in carbs and high in fat with moderate protein, the perfect balance for a keto diet. Only 2.3 g of net carbs per 100 g of product.

 

FAQ about olives on a keto diet

Below are some frequently asked questions around the consumption of these fruits on a keto diet; dig in and enjoy.

Here again, cultivar type and processing method do play a role in modulating certain nutritional characteristics, but generally speaking, they are both acceptable on a keto diet. 

If you want to narrow it down, a review study showed that green olives range between 6-24 g of fat per 100 g and contain on average 9.9 g of the healthy monounsaturated fatty acid, oleic acid. In contrast, the black variety contains on average 18-28 g of fat per 100 g and 13.7 g of oleic acid on average.

This data suggests the fatty acid nutritional profile of the black fruits tends to be higher on average, so they should be favored if you are trying to eat more fat. 

In terms of carbs for green and black olives, you need to check the label because it will depend greatly on the brand and the type of processing and brine they use.

They are keto-compliant as they contain almost no carbohydrates, small amounts of quality proteins, and a lot of fat, especially the heart-healthy monounsaturated fat oleic acid.

In terms of macronutrients, regular dill pickles are mostly water with very small amounts of fat and protein and 1.41 g of net carbohydrates per 100 g on average. So while they have a bit more net carbs than olives, both are good choices for keto.

But it depends on the type. Bread and butter pickles or sweet pickles are loaded with sugar, averaging at 20.2 g of carbs per 100 g. 

So in conclusion, enjoy olives with dill unsweetened pickles for a low-carb snack, but stay away from sweet pickles, they are a no-no.

You can get dried olive snacks in a pouch which come in small pouches so practical to take with you to work or on the go. They also go well with cheese. 

Another option would be to blend them with a keto-compatible mayonnaise to make a delicious olive dip.

Finally, you can try and blend them with a can of tuna which makes for a delicious dip.  

The Manzanilla variety stuffed with pimentos is certainly compatible on a keto-conscious diet, with only 0.3 g of carbohydrate per 100 g on average. More specifically, this variety is available under the Great Value brand in Walmart for a very low price and has 0 g of carbs per 100 g.

Another variety is garlic stuffed by Casa Imports Inc., these however carry 7.1 g of carbs per 100 g serving so are not exactly keto-friendly. You could get away with eating them in smaller quantities.

Always check the label to see the carb count, as it can vary widely between types and brands.

Yes, this is a good combination, as these two go together nicely. Feta has little carbs, 3.9 g per 100 g, so totally compatible with a ketogenic lifestyle. However, feta is also very salty, so your best bet is to add these delicious ingredients to a salad so that you don’t eat too much.

 

More ketogenic fat sources

  • Avocado
  • Olive oil
  • Sesame oil