Skip to Content

Can you drink olive juice from the jar?


Olives are one of the most versatile fruits around. They can be eaten whole, chopped up in salads, blended into spreads like tapenade, or used to make olive oil. But what about the brine that olives are packed in – can you drink the olive juice straight from the jar? Let’s take a closer look at what olive juice is and whether it’s safe and tasty to drink on its own.

What is Olive Juice?

Olive juice, also known as olive brine, is the liquid that olives are cured and stored in. This juice is what gives many olives their unique salty, tangy flavor. The main components of olive juice are:

  • Water – The base liquid that the olives are packed in.
  • Salt – Usually around 8-10% of the solution. Salt cures the olives and acts as a preservative.
  • Acetic acid – Adds tangy, vinegar-like flavor. Acetic acid is a natural preservative.
  • Lactic acid – Created by lactic acid bacteria during curing. Adds depth of flavor.
  • Phenolic compounds – Antioxidants that give some olive juices a bitter, pungent taste.
  • Flavors like garlic, peppers, herbs, spices – Sometimes added for more complex flavors.

The exact ingredients and proportions vary between brands and types of olives. But the main purpose of olive juice is to cure olives while preserving their texture and taste.

Is it Safe to Drink Olive Juice?

For the most part, yes – drinking small amounts of olive juice straight from the jar is perfectly safe. Here are some things to consider:

  • Acidity – Olive juice has an average pH around 4.2, giving it a high acidity similar to vinegar or lemon juice. This can cause heartburn if you drink too much.
  • Salt content – The high sodium levels (often over 500mg per serving) can exacerbate conditions like high blood pressure.
  • Foodborne illness – Olives and olive juice are packed in factories under strict sanitation codes. However, they aren’t fully sterile and risk of food poisoning exists if containers are damaged.
  • Allergies – Some people may be allergic to olives or components of the juice like garlic, spices, and preservatives.

As long as you don’t have allergies and drink in moderation, olive juice should not pose any major health risks. The main thing is controlling the portion size since it is high in sodium. Let’s look at some general serving size guidelines.

How Much Olive Juice is Safe to Drink?

Here are some general recommendations for how much olive juice is safe to consume:

Serving Size Sodium (mg)
1-2 ounces 230-460mg
1/4 cup 500-600mg
1/2 cup 1000-1200mg

The American Heart Association recommends limiting sodium intake to 1500mg per day at most. Given the high salt content of olive juice, drinking more than 1/4 cup at a time could put you over that recommended limit.

It’s also not recommended to drink more than 2 ounces (1/4 cup) of olive juice in one sitting if you have conditions like high blood pressure or heart disease. The high sodium load can exacerbate these conditions.

Some olive juices also have added ingredients like garlic, hot peppers, and herbs. Consuming large amounts could potentially cause gastrointestinal upset in some people.

Moderation and portion control are key when drinking olive juice straight. But what are the benefits if you enjoy it responsibly?

Potential Benefits of Drinking Olive Juice

Here are some of the touted benefits of drinking olive juice in moderation:

  • Unique flavors – Olive juice has a distinct, potent taste that adds flavor complexity.
  • Source of antioxidants – Compounds like hydroxytyrosol have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
  • Added nutrients – Olives and olive juice contain small amounts of vitamins, minerals, and plant compounds.
  • Prebiotic effects – The acids and compounds in olive juice may benefit gut microbiota.
  • Low calorie – Straight olive juice only has around 20 calories per ounce.

However, keep in mind that many of these benefits require drinking larger servings of olive juice than recommended. Adding a splash to a salad dressing or soup can provide flavor and antioxidants without excess sodium.

Some preliminary research shows olive juice could offer health benefits related to blood pressure, cholesterol, and antioxidant status. But most studies have used concentrated olive juice extracts, not straight olive brine.

Much more research is needed to determine if drinking the juice regularly promotes meaningful health benefits. With moderation, it can add unique flavor and some plant compounds. But chugging it daily is not necessary for good health.

Taste Considerations

Even though it’s technically safe to drink straight from the jar, you also have to consider the taste. Olive juice is salty, tangy, and can be very bitter and strong-tasting. Here are some factors that affect the flavor:

  • Olive variety – Green olives tend to produce a bitter, pungent juice. Ripe black olives make a mellower, more subtly flavored brine.
  • Curing method – Quick-cured olives make a milder juice. Longer curing increases bitterness and pungency.
  • Additives – Garlic, pepper, vinegar, and herbs can all infuse the olive juice with other potent flavors.
  • Age and storage – The older and longer olive juice is stored, the more the flavors can intensify.

Certain types of olive juice will be more palatable on their own than others. If you find the taste overpowering straight from the jar, here are some ways to moderate the flavor:

  • Dilute with water or club soda to reduce saltiness.
  • Mix with oil and vinegar to make a salad dressing.
  • Add to a Bloody Mary cocktail for a briny twist.
  • Use as a salty, tangy addition to marinades and sauces.
  • Combine with mayo or hummus to spread on sandwiches.

Blending olive juice with other ingredients can give you the benefits of its unique flavor without having to drink it plain.

Should You Drink Olive Juice for Health?

Based on the available research, drinking olive juice does not seem necessary or beneficial for health. While it does contain some antioxidants, vitamins, and potential prebiotics, you can get those from eating whole olives, olive oil, and other nutritious foods.

Here is a summary of the pros and cons of regularly drinking olive juice for health:

Pros Cons
Unique source of antioxidants like hydroxytyrosol High sodium content can increase blood pressure
Added flavor and variety to your diet High acidity can cause digestive issues
Prebiotic effect may benefit gut microbiome Bitter taste is unpalatable for some people
Low calorie way to add flavor Limited research on health benefits in humans

While moderate intake is likely safe, drinking olive juice daily or in large amounts may do more harm than good for your health. The high sodium outweighs any potential benefits for most people.

Talk to your doctor before drinking olive juice frequently if you have conditions like high blood pressure, kidney problems, or heart disease. They can advise you if the sodium level fits your individual health needs.

The Bottom Line

Here’s the final takeaway on whether you can safely drink olive juice straight from the jar:

  • Technically yes – olive juice is safe to consume in moderation.
  • Limit to 2 ounces (1/4 cup) per sitting due to high sodium.
  • Choose milder, less bitter olive juice varieties for better flavor.
  • Dilute or mix with other ingredients to improve palatability.
  • Don’t drink daily or in excess thinking it’s good for health.
  • Talk to your doctor if you have a condition that requires watching sodium.

While drinking some olive juice can add a unique briny flavor to foods and drinks, it’s not a health tonic. Use portion control and think of it more as an occasional culinary ingredient rather than a daily health supplement if you want to safely enjoy that salty olive jar goodness.