Can I drink olive brine?

Olive brine, also known as olive juice, is the salty liquid that olives are packed in. Some people enjoy drinking olive brine straight from the jar, while others use it to make dirty martinis. But is it safe to drink olive brine? Here’s a comprehensive look at the pros and cons of drinking olive brine.

What is Olive Brine?

Olive brine is the solution that olives are cured and packed in. It’s made by soaking olives in water mixed with salt, vinegar, and other curing ingredients. The main components of olive brine are:

  • Water – Provides moisture for curing.
  • Salt – Draws moisture from the olives to cure them.
  • Vinegar – Adds acidity to control bacterial growth.
  • Lactic acid – Adds acidity and flavor.
  • Citric acid – Boosts acidity for preservation.
  • Herbs and spices – Flavor the brine such as oregano, bay leaves, chilies, garlic, etc.

The exact ingredients and proportions vary between olive brine producers. But the basic curing process concentrates these ingredients into a strong, salty, tangy liquid.

Nutritional Contents of Olive Brine

Olive brine is mostly made up of water and sodium from salt. A 1 cup (237 ml) serving of olive brine contains (1):

Nutrient Amount
Water 230 g
Energy 46 kcal
Sodium 7788 mg
Carbs 2.4 g
Sugars 0.7 g
Added sugars 0 g
Protein 1.4 g
Vitamin C 1.5 mg
Calcium 251 mg
Iron 1.6 mg
Potassium 77 mg

As you can see, olive brine is high in sodium, providing over 300% of the recommended daily intake in just 1 cup. It provides small amounts of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants from the olives.

Health Benefits of Olive Brine

Drinking olive brine may offer some potential health benefits:


Olives contain polyphenol antioxidants, which may help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in the body (2). The brining process allows these antioxidants to leach into the surrounding liquid. So drinking olive brine provides antioxidant compounds like hydroxytyrosol and oleuropein.


Olive brine contains active probiotic bacteria like Lactobacillus species. During fermentation, these beneficial microbes produce compounds that enhance flavor and preservation (3). Consuming olive brine introduces gut-healthy probiotic bacteria.

Vitamins and Minerals

Olive brine contains small amounts of vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, calcium, and iron. Although not a significant source, it provides extra micronutrients.

Anti-Cancer Activity

Test tube and animal studies show olive polyphenols have anti-cancer effects against breast, liver, colon and other cancers (4). More research is needed, but drinking olive brine may inhibit cancer cell growth.

So in theory, olive brine provides protective compounds from olives that may promote good health. However, research has not confirmed its effects in humans yet.

Downsides of Drinking Olive Brine

Despite some potential upsides, drinking olive brine regularly also has risks:

High Sodium

The main concern with olive brine is its extremely high sodium content. Consuming too much sodium from any source increases blood pressure, heart disease and stroke risk (5). Just 1 cup of olive brine contains over 300% of the recommended daily sodium limit. Drinking it often adds excessive amounts of salt to your diet.

High Acidity

Olive brine has an acidic pH around 4-5 to prevent microbial growth. But this high acidity can erode tooth enamel and aggravate digestive issues like gastric reflux or ulcers when consumed regularly (6).

Unlisted Ingredients

Commercial olive brines may contain other ingredients like preservatives, flavorings, colors, and sulfites that are not listed. People with sensitivities should be cautious drinking unknown liquids from jars.

Blood Pressure Medication Interactions

The sodium in olive brine can interact with blood pressure medications, potentially making them less effective (7). People on sodium-restricted diets or medications should avoid drinking olive brine.

Alcohol Content

Some olive brines contain trace amounts of alcohol from fermentation. This could be concerning for people avoiding alcohol for religious, health, or addiction reasons. Check the label or ask the manufacturer about alcohol content.

Overall, the sodium and acidity make drinking olive brine regularly risky business for most people. Moderation is key to gain benefits while avoiding downsides.

How Much Olive Brine is Safe to Drink?

There are no official guidelines for safe olive brine consumption. To minimize risk, here are some general recommendations:

  • Limit to 2-3 tablespoons (30-45ml) daily at most
  • Dilute with water or use in recipes to decrease sodium
  • Avoid drinking straight from the jar
  • Don’t drink if you have high blood pressure, kidney issues or reflux
  • Rinse mouth with plain water after to protect teeth
  • Check with your doctor before consuming regularly

Drinking small diluted amounts occasionally is likely fine for most healthy people. But ingesting large amounts of undiluted olive brine often is risky due to the high sodium and acidity. Be cautious and listen to your body’s response.

Ways to Use Olive Brine

Instead of drinking olive brine straight, here are some safer ways to use it:

In Cocktails

Add a splash of olive brine to cocktails in place of plain olive garnish. It adds a tangy, salty kick to drinks like martinis or bloody marys.

In Vinaigrettes

Whisk olive brine into oil and vinegar dressing recipes. It provides a bold, briny flavor to balance against sweetness.

For Marinades

Use a small amount of olive brine to impart a savory umami note in meat or vegetable marinades.

In Cooking Liquid

Replace some water or stock with olive brine when cooking grains, beans or veggies. It infuses a rich, olive essence.

For Pickling

Incorporate a tablespoon or two of olive brine when pickling vegetables. It boosts flavor complexity.

By using olive brine as an ingredient instead of drinking it straight, you can add delicious flavor while controlling the amount of sodium.

The Bottom Line

Here is a summary of the key points about drinking olive brine:

  • Olive brine provides polyphenol antioxidants, probiotics, and micronutrients.
  • However, it is very high in sodium and acidity.
  • Limit intake to around 2-3 tablespoons diluted in water or recipes.
  • Avoid drinking straight from the jar, especially if you have medical conditions.
  • To be safe, check with your doctor before drinking regularly.
  • Use olive brine as an ingredient in cocktails, dressings, marinades and cooking rather than drinking.

Moderation is key if you want to drink olive brine. In excessive amounts, the risks likely outweigh the benefits for most people. Try using it to flavor foods instead of as a beverage. And when in doubt, check with your doctor about how olive brine fits into your diet and medical history.


1. USDA FoodData Central. Brine-cured green olives.

2. Cicerale, S., Lucas, L. & Keast, R. Antimicrobial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phenolic activities in extra virgin olive oil. Curr Opin Biotechnol 23, 129–135 (2012).

3. Meziani, S., Chihib, N. E., Bouras, A. D., Nedjar-Arroume, N., & Hornez, J. P. (2018). Autochthonous lactic acid bacteria isolated from naturally-fermented Algerian green olives: Selection of strains of technological interest. Food microbiology, 76, 40–48.

4. Giacosa, A., Barale, R., Bavaresco, L. et al. Mediterranean way of drinking and longevity. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 57, 635–644 (2017).

5. Aburto, N.J., Ziolkovska, A., Hooper, L. et al. Effect of lower sodium intake on health: systematic review and meta-analyses. BMJ 346, f1326 (2013).

6. Jahnen, A., Imfeld, T., & Klingler, M. (2021). Prevention of dental erosion. Quintessence international (Berlin, Germany : 1985), 52(3), 248–259.

7. Weinberger M. H., Miller J. Z., Luft F. C., Grim C. E., Fineberg N. S. (1986). Definitions and characteristics of sodium sensitivity and blood pressure resistance. Hypertension 8, II127–II134.

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