Great Olive Acidity Debate: Are Olives Acidic or Alkaline?

Olives have been a topic of endless discussions and debates when it comes to their nutritional value and their effect on our body. Some people argue that olives are acidic, while others claim that they are alkaline. Additionally, there is a common belief that olives can trigger acid reflux. But are olives acidic or alkaline? To provide you with accurate information, I have conducted thorough research on the science behind olives. So, if you want to know everything there is to know about olive acidity, alkalinity, nutrition, and more, keep reading as I break it all down for you.

Acidity and Alkalinity Explained

Before we specifically tackle olives, let’s level-set on what acidity and alkalinity mean conceptually:

Defining pH

The level of acidity or alkalinity is measured by pH. The pH scale ranges from 0-14, with 0-6.9 being acidic, 7 neutral, and 7.1-14 alkaline.

The lower the pH reading, the more acidic something is. So a lemon with a pH of 2 is very acidic. A pH of 12 is highly alkaline. Pure water has a neutral pH around 7.

Acidity and Alkalinity Explained

Your Body’s pH Levels

It’s important to note your body tightly regulates its own pH balance between 7.35-7.45, regardless of the foods you eat. Your cells simply won’t function properly outside a narrow pH range.

So while some diets suggest “alkalizing your body,” that’s not really possible. Your blood will normalize itself.

Eating certain foods may influence metabolic processes that release more acidic or alkaline byproducts, but they won’t actually change your body’s pH.

Acid and Alkaline-Forming Foods

However, we do sometimes classify foods as either acid-forming or alkaline-forming:

  • Acid-forming foods release acidic byproducts when metabolized
  • Alkaline-forming foods leave behind alkaline byproducts instead

For example, meat, eggs, grains, fish, poultry, and alcohol tend to be more acid-forming, while fruits, vegetables, and plant proteins are generally more alkaline-forming.

Again – this doesn’t alter your body’s actual pH level. But some argue the byproducts of more alkaline foods may assist bodily functions.

Alright…So Are Olives Acidic or Alkaline?

Now that we understand pH, acidity, alkalinity and how foods are digested, let’s discuss olives specifically:

Spoiler alert: I’m going to say olives have qualities of both acidic and alkaline foods! Here’s why:

Green Olives are Acidic

When it comes to acidity as measured by pH, most green olives fall into the acidic range due to how they’re processed.

Specifically, commercially canned green olives typically have a pH of 3-4 before being packed in a vinegar brine solution. So that puts them solidly on the more acidic end of the scale.

Plus, green olive varieties like Manzanillo and Mission tend to be more acidic in mineral content as well, compared to black olives.

So with a low pH level and acidic profile, most standard green olives would be considered acidic. No debate there!

Black Olives Range from Acidic to Neutral

Commercially canned black olives are less acidic than their green counterparts, with pH levels ranging from around 6-7 before processing.

That means canned black olives land closer to neutral on the pH scale. Varieties like Kalamata, Nyon, and Thassos tend to have less acidic mineral contents too.

Of course, most commercial olives undergo a pickling or curing process that also introduces some level of acidity to them through ingredients like vinegar, lemon juice, and brine solutions.

So most packaged black olives remain mildly acidic with a pH of 6 or so, though less sharp than vibrant green olives.

Fresh, Unprocessed Olives are Alkaline

Now here’s where it gets interesting! Fresh, unprocessed olives actually have an alkaline pH level of 8.0 or higher depending on ripeness.

In their raw state either straight from the tree or within hours of harvesting, fresh uncured olives are less oxidized and acidic. So they haven’t built up higher levels of polyphenolic compounds yet.

Instead, fresh olives are rich in amino acids that increase alkalinity, especially glutamic acid. Their antioxidant content also helps fight inflammation.

So when it comes to “raw” olives, their mineral profile makes them slightly alkaline rather than acidic.

Of course, most commercial canned olives are heavily processed and no longer maintain that high, alkaline fresh olive pH after curing.

What Makes Olives Acidic During Processing?

You might be wondering what happens to olives during production that drops the pH and increases acidity levels. Mainly: oxidation and added ingredients.


First, fresh olives are highly susceptible to oxidation, which raises acidity. Think of what happens to an apple slice left out on the counter.

To prevent undesirable oxidation and premature spoilage, fresh olives need to undergo lactic acid fermentation, curing in a salt or acid solution like brine or lemon juice, or acidification using vinegar within hours of being picked.

Exposing the olives to air and processing methods like these kickstart oxidation processes that allow polyphenolic compounds naturally present in the olives to build up. Those compounds are highly acidic, hence the dropping pH.

So canned olives contain much higher phenolic levels than fresh. And acidic ingredients like vinegar or lemon further increase pickled olive acidity during production.

Ingredients in Brined or Marinated Olives

The other factor lowering the pH of commercial olives is added ingredients. To preserve flavor, texture and shelf life, most prepared olives get:

  • A brining solution
  • Acidic ingredients like vinegar or lemon juice
  • Salts
  • Herbs and spices
  • Preservatives

These can all introduce acidic components that help drop the overall pH compared to fresh olives.

So in the end, you have an olive that started alkaline when first picked but degraded into something more acidic thanks to oxidation and processing – making up the jars of olives you buy at the grocery store!

Are Olives Acid-Forming or Alkaline-Forming?

This next aspect causes even more debate around olive acidity! Are olives acid-forming or alkaline-forming during digestion?

While pickled olives are clearly acidic going by pH levels, some argue the metabolites left behind once consumed actually leave alkaline byproducts. Confusing, right??

Here’s a breakdown of both schools of thought:

Theory 1: Olives are Acid-Forming

On one side, some scientists claim olives are acidifying based on the composition of nutrients they contain:

  • High sodium content – sodium chloride is metabolized into hydrochloric acid post-digestion
  • Abundant phenolic compounds – break down to release acidic metabolites
  • Lack of protein and amino acids – no counterbalancing alkaline effect

Per this theory, while olives contain other minerals like iron, copper and calcium, the chloride, polyphenolic compounds, and lack of protein mean its byproducts post-digestion will be net acidic.

So someone following an alkaline diet would consider olives an acid-forming food to reduce or avoid.

Theory 2: Olives are Alkaline-Forming

However, another camp believes olives actually yield alkaline byproducts after digestion despite having an acidic pH before eating them.

The idea is that while olives contain high levels of phenolic acids, chlorides, and vitamin C pre-consumption, metabolites post-digestion tell a different story.

One main argument is olives are high in glutamic acid, an amino acid that tends to yield alkaline metabolites. They also cause significant bicarbonate production during digestion which has an alkalizing effect.

So despite an acidic pH and briny packaging solution, some argue olive byproducts once processed by your body leave behind alkalizing components.

This theory also believes the antioxidants in olives combat inflammation, thereby assisting with acidosis symptoms.

Which Acidity Theory is Correct?

With convincing arguments on both sides, which claim around olive acidity is correct ultimately?

The primary active ingredients in olives are:

  • Polyphenolic compounds
  • Sodium
  • Amino acids
  • Antioxidants

And research shows that once metabolized, these components can produce both acidic and alkaline metabolites.

Since byproducts appear mixed AND your body maintains pH homeostasis regardless, my conclusion is:

Olives exhibit both acidic and alkaline qualities

Your body will work to neutralize anything too far one way or another during digestion.

So while pickled olives start acidic, their impact once consumed isn’t clear cut. Which is why this remains an ongoing debate!

Wait...So Do Olives Trigger Acid Reflux Symptoms?

Wait…So Do Olives Trigger Acid Reflux Symptoms?

If olives show both acidic and alkaline characteristics, what does that mean for acid reflux and digestive issues? Can you eat them with reflux concerns?

Here’s a quick overview:

  • Acid reflux occurs when stomach acid flows back up the esophagus. Common symptoms include heartburn, indigestion, bloating, coughing, asthma, sore throat, and regurgitation.
  • Diet can impact the frequency and severity of acid reflux attacks. Highly acidic foods typically aggravate symptoms. But response varies person to person.
  • Most nutrition experts consider olives a moderately acidic food since commercially prepared olive pH hovers around 5. They have some acid-forming potential, though possibly alkaline-forming effects too.
  • Anecdotal evidence shows most people with acid reflux handle olives well in small servings along with other foods. Consuming them alone in large amounts on an empty stomach may trigger symptoms for some.
  • So while olives are acidic, overall they are low on the “reflux-aggravating” scale for most people. Those with chronic gastrointestinal issues still report being able to enjoy olives in balance with anti-reflux nutrition principles overall.

So what does this mean in plain terms?

Olives probably won’t severely worsen reflux symptoms for most people with acid sensitivity – especially in small amounts with meals. But observe how your own body responds. And as always, consult your doctor about diet management with digestive diseases.

Nutritional Pros and Cons of Olives

Beyond acid/alkaline debates, what are general nutritional pros and cons of eating olives? Let’s summarize key benefits and downsides:


  • High antioxidants – Phytonutrient polyphenols may help combat inflammation and disease
  • Healthy fat profile – Provides mostly monounsaturated “good” fats; minimal saturated/trans fats
  • Supports heart health – Shown to improve blood pressure and cholesterol markers
  • Anti-inflammatory effects – Nutrient profile may lower systemic inflammation tied to illness
  • Antimicrobial qualities – Compounds in olives exhibit antibacterial effects, especially against H. pylori
  • Aids digestion – Stimulates production of gastric juices; helps move food through intestines
  • Vitamin & mineral content – Good source of vitamin E, iron, copper, calcium and phytonutrients


  • High sodium – Most prepared olives contain considerable levels of sodium chloride
  • Gastro issues – Can irritate digestive systems for those prone to reflux, ulcers, IBS, etc.
  • Allergies or sensitivity – Some people experience negative or allergic reactions
  • Phytic acid content – May impact nutrient absorption and digestion
  • Histamine content – Can trigger headaches, itching, rashes for those with histamine intolerance
  • Oxalate content – May be problematic for those prone to kidney stones

So in moderation, most people can safely enjoy olives as part of an overall balanced diet. But beware downsides for those with special gastrointestinal, histamine or oxalate concerns.

Olive Variety Acidity Differences

Not all olives are created equal! Their processing methods, ripening stages, and types significantly impact factors like acidity.

Let’s look at pH differences among popular olive varieties:

Green Olives

Most green olives commercially packed in brine have a relatively low pH around 4. However, some specific varieties include:

  • Manzanillo – pH of 3.6
  • Mission – pH of 3.5
  • Sicilian – pH around 4
  • Lucque – pH of 4-4.5

So Spanish Manzanillo and Mission green olives tend to be the most acidic. While Sicilian and French Lucques rate slightly less sharp.

Black Olives

Meanwhile, black olives packaged commercially in oil or brine are less acidic, averaging around a pH of 6:

  • Kalamata – pH of 6
  • Nyon – pH around 6
  • Thassos – pH of 6
  • Oil-cured – pH of 6-6.5
  • Greek Conservolea – pH of 5-6

So most black olive varieties land pH neutral, except Greek Conservolea olives that become more acidic during their extended brining.

Other Olive Types

Looking beyond basic green and black olives:

  • Dry-cured – More alkaline at pH 7+ since they lack acidic brining
  • Unripe green – Very bitter and acidic
  • Overripe black – More alkaline as acids convert to sugars
  • Tree-ripened – Most alkaline around pH 8

In the end, olive variety, harvest timing, and curing method all hugely impact acidity!


What is the pH level of olives?

Olives have a pH level of 8.0 when fresh and 6.5 when pickled, once digested. 

Are black olives less acidic than green olives?

Yes, black olives are less acidic than green olives, with a pH level of 6-7, which is closer to neutral. Green olives, on the other hand, are more acidic, with a pH level of 3-4. 

Are olives alkaline-forming?

Yes, olives are considered to be slightly acidic, but they are also high in glutamic acid and low in methionine, which makes them alkaline-forming. 

Can olives trigger acid reflux symptoms?

Just because a food is acidic, it doesn’t mean it will definitely trigger acid reflux symptoms. Everyone’s symptom triggers are different, and some may be able to tolerate olives better than others. 

Is olive oil acidic?

As cooking oils are not water-soluble, measuring olive oil’s acidity using the pH scale is impossible, as that only applies to aqueous solutions. However, it is possible to measure the fatty oleic acid level, and extra virgin olive oil should contain 0.8% or under and virgin 2% or under. This means that olive oil is a weak acid.

Last Words

Olives can be both acidic and alkaline, depending on their type and ripeness. Black olives are less acidic than green olives, and olives are considered to be slightly acidic but also alkaline-forming. Olives are a low-FODMAP food and are not a common food allergen. understanding diet weeds involves recognizing individual variations in symptom triggers; for instance, while some may find olives tolerable, others might struggle due to the weak acidity of olive oil, where the fatty oleic acid level plays a crucial role.

Eliana Brown

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