Olives in Pregnancy:  A Dietitian’s Complete Guide to Health Benefits (And a Couple of Potential Risks)

Are you concerned about the safety of olives in pregnancy? My name is Kayley and I am a registered dietitian specializing in women’s health. 

You deserve to have the most up-to-date, comprehensive knowledge to be able to make informed choices about nutrition during pregnancy, so I’m going to walk you through everything you need to know about eating olives during pregnancy.

This guide will include how to minimize your health risks and maximize the potential health benefits of olives, especially when you are expecting a little one. 

Plus, we’ll answer some frequently asked questions. 

Let’s dive in!

What Are Olives?

Olives are small fruits with a hard, inedible stone in the center. They grow on trees and can be found throughout the Mediterranean region and in California.

There are naturally bitter, so olive fruits are typically either cured and marinated for eating or pressed to make oil. All you olive connoisseurs may know that not all olives taste the same. The flavor of olives varies depending on the variety, country, ripeness, and how it is marinated (1). 

What Is the Difference Between Green and Black Olives?

Green olives are an unripe fruit whereas black olives are the ripened version of the fruit. They are often found canned, stuffed, and/or marinated at most grocery stores. Keep reading for more information about which types of olives are safe in pregnancy.

What Is The Nutritional Value of Olives?

You may be wondering: “Are olives even healthy?” They can be! 

Olives are not only a delicious addition to your diet, but also contain an impressive nutrition profile. A 100 gram serving of canned olives contains (2): 

  • 6 grams carbohydrates
  • 8 grams of monounsaturated fat
  • 6 mg iron
  • 735 mg sodium
  • 330 IU vitamin A
  • 10 mg choline

Why Am I Craving Olives During Pregnancy? 

Cravings are common and normal for women during pregnancy, with salty foods being one of the most commonly reported cravings. 

We don’t know why some women experience strong cravings during pregnancy, but it is likely a side effect of the hormonal changes that your body is experiencing.

There is a myth that craving salty foods means that you are having a boy. However, there isn’t any research to suggest that your longing for olives or other salty foods can help predict the gender of your baby. 

Health Benefits Of Olives During Pregnancy

If you’re craving olives, you’re in luck. These little fruits offer several health benefits. Let’s take a look at how olives can support your body during pregnancy. 

Rich in Healthy Fats

Olives are a great source of fat. Fat is a type of macronutrient that helps promote hormone health and body temperature regulation. Fats also help you stay full longer and make meals more satisfying. 

Olives are rich in a type of healthy fat known as monounsaturated fat (3). Monounsaturated fats are plant-based nutrients that can help improve heart health. 

The fat found in olives can help lower your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, which may reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke (4). 

Contains Antioxidants

Olives are a great source of antioxidants, which can help protect against oxidative stress and DNA damage from everyday stressors on our bodies. Antioxidants also help fight against inflammation.

The specific antioxidants found in olives are: (5)

  • Beta carotene
  • Vitamin E
  • Lutein 
  • Zeaxanthin 

Helps with Electrolyte Balance

Olives are high in sodium, which is a mineral and an electrolyte that helps with muscle contractions, nerve function, and fluid balance (6). 

Most Americans get plenty of sodium from food. In fact, sodium gets a bad rap because excessive sodium intake has been associated with high blood pressure.

Unfortunately, nausea and vomiting are common during pregnancy. When you vomit, you are losing fluids and electrolytes. 

Drinking plain water can help replace the fluid loss, but sometimes adding extra minerals, such as sodium, can help replace what was lost when you were sick.

If you are regularly vomiting, olives may be a great addition to your diet to replace some of this lost sodium. 

While they offer several benefits, there are also a few things you need to know to make sure that eating olives in pregnancy with a safe option for you. 

Potential Risks of Olives During Pregnancy

High in Sodium

One potential consideration before cracking open that can of olives is the sodium content.

Olives are high in sodium. While this can be helpful for people experiencing frequent nausea and vomiting, high intakes of sodium may also increase fluid retention. 

Holding onto extra fluid can be uncomfortable for many women, and for some, the increased sodium may increase their risk of high blood pressure (7). 

Risk for Foodborne Illness

Olives that have not been stored at the proper temperature can increase your risk of illness, which can be especially dangerous during pregnancy. However, there are some ways that you can reduce your risk of getting sick from olives:

  • Use it prior to the expiration date.
  • When you purchase olives, have them back in the refrigerator within 2 hours of opening.
  • Avoid getting olives from the deli. Foods purchased over a deli counter are more likely to have listeria. Instead, opt for canned or jarred olives from the store.  

Now that we’ve talked about the benefits and risks of eating olives in pregnancy, let’s answer some frequently asked questions.

Can You Eat Olives During the First Trimester of Pregnancy?

Olives are generally safe during your first trimester of pregnancy as long as you follow safe food handling practices, such as washing your hands before handling, eating by the expiration date, and keeping refrigerated after opening. 

It is also usually safe to eat olives during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy as long as you follow these food practices to reduce your risk of foodborne illness.

Can You Eat Marinated Olives During Pregnancy?

Marinated olives that are sold in a sealed jar or can are safe during pregnancy. 

However, homemade marinated olives are not recommended during pregnancy due to an increased with of improper preservation and storage. This includes olives that are purchased from a deli counter or local vendor (8). 

Can You Eat Kalamata Olives During Pregnancy? 

Kalamata olives are a dark brown-purple olive variety grown in southern Greece. Kalamata olives are generally safe during pregnancy (9). 

Can You Eat Canned Olives During Pregnancy?

Store-bought canned olives are generally safe during pregnancy. However, olives that were preserved at home have a higher risk of foodborne illness, especially botulism. 

Home kitchens are less controlled than factor environments, which increases the chances of error with preservation. (10)

Can Pregnant Women Eat Stuffed Olives?

Much like soft cheeses or deli meat, stuffed olives are not recommended during pregnancy due to the increased risk of bacterial growth. Consider choosing a variety of your favorite canned olives to eat instead. 

Is Olive Leaf Extract Safe During Pregnancy?

There are many claims that olive leaf extract may help lower cholesterol, improve blood pressure, and lower blood sugars. This supplement can be found as a capsule or liquid at most health food stores. 

We know that olives in pregnancy are generally safe to eat as an oil or whole food. However, there have not been any studies on the effects of olive leaf extract in pregnant women, so we do not know if it is safe. Therefore, it is not recommended to take olive leaf extract during pregnancy. 

Talk to your doctor before starting any supplements or extracts, especially during pregnancy. 

Is Olive Oil Good In Pregnancy?

Olive oil is a great fat option during pregnancy. It contains the same benefits as eating olives, including promoting heart health, hormone health, and fullness at meals. Olive oil is also versatile, so it may be easier to incorporate olive oil into your diet on a regular basis compared to whole olives.

What Is The Difference Between Olive Oil And Extra Virgin Olive Oil?

Olive oil and extra virgin olive oil are both made from the fruit of olive trees. Extra virgin olive oil is made of pressed oils and does not go through any heat or chemical treatment. They have similar nutrient profiles but may have some slight variations in flavor.

Is Extra Virgin Olive Oil Good For Pregnancy?

Extra virgin olive oil is a great option for pregnancy for healthy fats. In fact, there is some research to indicate that it may help lower triglycerides and reduce inflammation in pregnant women with gestational diabetes (11). 

Final Thoughts: Are Olives Safe During Pregnancy?

In this post we have covered the health benefits of olives in pregnancy, potential risks, and answered several frequently asked questions.

Canned and jarred olives that are sold on the shelf at stores are generally considered safe during pregnancy. Olives that are purchased from a deli or local vendor are at higher risk for contamination due to their preparation methods. 

Want to learn more about pregnancy nutrition? Check out our blog posts on the safety of miso soup during pregnancy, the health benefits of coconut water during pregnancy, or my top pregnancy breakfast ideas to feel more confident about what to eat when you’re expecting. 

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