10 Incredible Health Benefits of Kalamata Olives

kalamata olives

A little-known fact is that olives, especially Kalamata olives, are one of the healthiest foods in the world. They contain high levels of powerful polyphenols, antioxidants, and healthy fats.

What are Kalamata Olives?

Kalamata olives (Olea europaea) are a special type of olive that is grown in the small town of Kalamata, located in southern Peloponnese, Greece.  A cherry-sized fruit, they have been grown in abundance on the local kalamon trees for centuries. Unlike other olive trees, the kalamon tree has large leaves that are twice the size of other varieties. The drupes appear almond-shaped and are typically brown, dark purple, or black with a meaty texture.

The fruit must be harvested when the olives are ripe and handpicked with care to avoid bruising the delicate fruit. The drupes need to go through a curing process before consumption. After harvest, they are usually preserved in vinegar or olive oil. Unlike most olives, the Kalamata olive is usually not pitted prior to sale.

Olive Description

Olives belong to a family of fruits called drupes. All drupes contain a pit or stone that is surrounded by a fleshy substance referred to as the pericarp. There are hundreds of varieties around the world. The Kalamata is considered a Mediterranean olive.

Types of Mediterranean Olives


  • Adriamitini
  • Amigdalolia
  • Chalkidiki
  • Kalamon
  • Koroneiki
  • Megaritiki
  • Mirtoia


  • Cipresino
  • Coratina
  • Frantoio
  • Grappoio
  • Intrana
  • Leccino
  • Lecin de Sevilla
  • Moraiolo
  • Pendolino
  • Santa Cateria
  • Taggiasca


  • Arbequina
  • Bical
  • Blanqueta
  • Cornicabra
  • Farga
  • Gordal Sevillana
  • Hojiblanca
  • Lemono
  • Manzanillo
  • Morrut
  • Nevadillo
  • Piqual

Curing Methods

The curing of the olive drupe is almost like fermentation. Without curing, the drupes are extremely bitter and inedible. Even after processing, the polyphenols and oleuropein give the fruit a telltale bitter taste.

  • Brine Curing: The drupes must be fermented in brine salt for up to a year. The longer they are fermented, the sweeter they taste. The brine helps to intensify the fruit’s natural flavors.
  • Water Curing: Water curing involves rinsing the drupes multiple times in water. Many processors also go on to cure the fruit in brine. Of all the curing processes, water curing tends to take the longest.
  • Dry Curing: The olives are packed in salt for one or two months. Dry cured olives often appear wrinkled. Some processors also place the olives into olive oil for further processing after dry curing. The oil helps to re-plump them and also softens them.
  •  Lye Curing: Lye curing is a common method used by commercial producers. The drupes are floated in a lye-solution for quick processing. Unfortunately, the lye alters the taste of the olives. Many consumers report a distasteful flavor that is very chemical.
  • Sun Curing: Sun curing on the branch of the tree or by laying the drupes in the sun is an ancient way of curing the fruits.

History of the Olive Tree

Olive trees are some of the oldest living trees in the world. The fruit of the trees have been harvested for 8,000 years around the Mediterranean. Some of the trees have been known to be alive for a millennium. In the Garden of Gethsemane (the name Gethsemane translates into “Olive Press” in Hebrew), which is located at the foot of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, the olive trees are known to be over 2,000 years old.

Where do Olive Trees Grow?

The trees flourish in warm subtropical areas that are hot and dry. They prefer to grow in rocky soil conditions. The trees have the capability of thriving and flourishing in locations where many other trees fail. The tree’s also boast a phenomenal drought tolerance. Nowadays, olive trees can be found around the world in the United States and Latin America.

10 Health Benefits of Kalamata Olives


  1. Nutritional Value: Kalamata olives are often referred to as Greek olives. Many people might think that the bite-sized fruits are not healthy because they are typically very high in sodium, but they are an ideal source of vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin A, vitamin K, B vitamins, magnesium, potassium and phosphorous.
  2. Olive Antioxidants: According to researchers at the Department of Pharmacological Sciences at the University of Milan in Milan, Italy, the phenols found in the drupes may be the reason that Mediterraneans have lower incidences of heart disease and some cancers. Phenolics are powerful antioxidants that protect the body from free radicals.
  3. Anti-inflammatory: Oleocanthal is one of the phenolic compounds of the olive and boasts powerful anti-inflammatory abilities.
  4. Fiber: Six olives features half the fiber content as one full-size orange.
  5. Calories: Only three to five olives contains about 45 calories. It is estimated that about 80 to 90 percent of the calories in olives comes from fat. They also contain varying levels of called linoleic acid, and a very small amount of alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid.
  6. Monounsaturated Healthy Fat: Four tablespoons of olives contains 2.7 grams of monounsaturated fats and 0.3 grams of polyunsaturated fats. These good and healthy fats have been found to significantly lower cholesterol, which reduces the risk of a heart attack or stroke.
  7. Gallic Acid: Gallic acid is a form of phenolic acid and also offers antioxidant benefits. It also helps improve insulin sensitivity and has impressive anti-viral properties. In recent years, researchers at the  Department of Biology, Sciences & Research Branch at the Islamic Azad University in Tehran, Iran have been studying its possible benefit as an Alzheimer’s treatment.
  8. Hydroxytyrosol: Hydroxytyrosol is a potent polyphenol. It helps improve the vascular system and also protects the body’s LDL cholesterol from oxidation.
  9. Oleanolic Acid: Oleanolic acid has strong anti-tumor properties. It is also anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory substance.
  10. Iron: Olives are an iron-rich food. One olive provides about 2 to 3 percent of your daily dietary intake requirements. Iron increases oxygen in the blood and helps alleviate anemia.

 Beneficial Phytonutrient Content

Olives contain massive amounts of beneficial phytonutrient content. Some of them are actually only found in olives. Here is a list of the key phytonutrients organized by their chemical makeup.


  • apigenin
  • luteolin


  • cyanidins
  • peonidins


  • quercetin
  • Kaempferol
  • syringic acid

Hydroxyphenylacetic acids

  • homovanillic acid
  • homveratric acid

Simple Phenols

  • tyrosol
  • hydroxytyrosol

Hydroxycinnamic acids

  • caffeic acid
  • cinnamic acid
  • ferulic acid
  • coumaric acid

Terpenes (including secoiridoids and triterpenes)

  • oleuropein
  • demethyloleuropein
  • erythrodiol
  • uvaol
  • oleanolic acid
  • elenoic acid
  • ligstroside

Health Considerations

Kalamata olives are high in sodium which can increase salt intake. Excessive salt causes increased blood pressure and other health issues.

Purchasing Kalamata Olives

They are usually sold in jars and cans all over the world. However, some stores do sell them in bulk. In such locations, they are available in large barrels or bins. In many parts of the world, the bins are known as ‘olive bars’.

Usually, the Kalamata olives are sold with their pits intact but sometimes you can find them pitted. Remember, if you should purchase olives with pits, do not eat the pits. They are easily removed with a small knife.

Ideally, all olives that you purchase should be a certified organically grown food. You should always avoid fruit that has been treated with often harmful pesticides.


Don’t be fooled with the label if it says ‘handpicked’. Many olives are labeled as handpicked but they are not. Instead, they are harvested using a mechanically hand-held pneumatic rake. However, because the rake is handheld, the commercial packagers can label the product as handpicked even though it is a clear misinterpretation of handpicking. Some olives that do not state they are handpicked are handpicked. Labels can be very confusing so it’s best to not get too particular about the specifics.

Storage of the Kalamata Olives

After opening a can of olives, you should place it into a refrigerator-safe container and store it for no more than one or two weeks. Jars can be stored directly in the refrigerator and will last for one or two months after opening. You should always check the label for an expiration date to determine if the product is safe for consumption.

How to Pit an Olive

Kalamata olives usually have pits when purchased. It is easy to remove the pit Simply use the broadside of the knife to press the olive flat. This will create a crack in the flesh of the olive and the pit can be quickly and efficiently popped from the flesh.

Olives are a remarkable food but the Kalamata variety stands out as truly superb. It is a tasty treat that can be snacked on straight from the can or jar if you are seeking a healthy snack. You can also dice them up to add to salads or a pizza. The purplish olives can also be used in variety of recipes. You can also use them as valued addition to dips, tapenade, or for bruschetta.





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