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Are Olive Pits Poisonous?

It’s time to separate myth from fact when it comes to olive pits: Find out the hard truth about olive pits and their safety.

Sometimes, nothing sounds more heavenly than lying in front of your favorite Netflix show with a jar of delicious, salty olives. Whether you like black olives or green olives, it’s hard not to treat any type of olive as a snack!

But, during your distracted eating, you might swallow an olive pit. So, you begin to freak out and wonder: are olive pits poisonous?

Olive pits aren’t poisonous because they don’t contain any chemicals that might cause health issues to humans or animals. Birds and wildlife have been feeding on whole olives from trees for centuries, and there were no reports of them falling ill.

If you have more questions about eating olive pits, this guide should answer most of them!

What Makes Other Fruit Pits Toxic—And How Are Olives Pits Different?

People often compare olive stones to other fruit pits like apricots, apples, or cherries. As you might already know, the pits of those fruits are downright harmful to humans and animals, which propelled many people to think that olive pits fit into the same category.

Yet, that’s not the case.

What makes the pits of these fruits dangerous to eat is that they contain a compound called amygdalin. Once a person eats one of these pits, the compound metabolizes into cyanide in their body, which is a dangerous chemical that’s lethal in large amounts.

On the other hand, the pits of green or black olives are mostly lignin. Lignin is almost entirely what makes up wood, so chewing on an olive pit is a lot like munching on a tree bark!

The bottom line is you can’t compare olive pits to other fruit pits because they have completely different components. Therefore, they’re dissimilar in terms of toxicity.

Are Olive Pits Involved in the Making of Olive Oil?

Yes. In fact, this is further proof that olive stones don’t contain harmful substances.

During the manufacturing process, fresh olives are crushed and ground into fragments without removing the pits first. Then, the olives go through multiple processes until the oil is extracted.

So, when you’re cooking with olive oil, a large percentage of the amount you’re using is olive pit extract.

Are Olive Pits Edible in Their Natural Form?

When they’re not in the form of olive oil, you may be surprised that olive pits are edible. If you have a strange craving for olive seeds, you’re free to eat them without fearing their toxicity.

Still, that doesn’t mean it’s a wise idea to eat olive pits. For starters, these stones are tough, so they might break your teeth if you’re not careful. 

Plus, swallowing them whole without chewing may subject you to more problems, like having them stuck in your throat. Or, they may wreak havoc on your digestive system because they won’t go through the digestion process, especially if you consume multiple ones.

So, you can eat one olive pit or two without worrying about adverse effects if you’re curious. Just don’t make a habit out of it!

What Happens if You Swallow an Olive Pit?

In most cases, swallowing an olive pit should have no negative effects on your body. Chances are it’ll pass through your digestive system and end up in your stool as it is.

However, the indigestion of an olive stone means you’ll likely have some mild gastrointestinal issues because of its hardness and inability to break down. A few unwelcome symptoms that you might experience include constipation and abdominal pain.

In addition to that, there’s a tiny chance that the olive pit may get stuck somewhere in the digestive system.

Why Do Some Manufacturers Remove Olive Pits?

If olive stones aren’t that dangerous, why are there pitted varieties? Well, it’s mostly to enhance the taste of olives or for pure convenience.

Some olive companies remove the pits to stuff the olives with other ingredients that enrich their savory flavor. You’ll find stuffed olives with anything from carrots to anchovies, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, and almonds.

Or, you could choose pitted olives to use in a recipe without having to remove the pit from each small olive, which can be time-consuming. All you’ll have to do is take the plain olives out of their solution and chop them in a matter of minutes to make pizza, a salad, etc.

What Can You Do with Olive Pits if You Don’t Want to Throw Them Away?

Thankfully, there are many things you can do with olive pits that don’t include eating or disposing of them! Let’s take a look at some of our favorite methods to reuse olive stones.

  • Soil amendment: Try grinding the olive pits to use in your garden soil to retain moisture and increase fertility.
  • Renewable energy: Collect your olive pits and offer them for recycling, as olive waste may help in generating sustainable energy.
  • Decorations and DIY projects: Consider cleaning and coloring olive pits to involve them in crafts, like decorating a plant pot or making jewelry.

Are Olives Healthy?

Yes. Olives are a fantastic source of many vitamins and minerals, making them the ultimate healthy treat. The health benefits of olives include:

  • May reduce the risk of cancer
  • Great for your heart health (helps prevent heart disease)
  • Decreased risk of cognitive illnesses

While they’re a far better alternative to potato chips, you should still consume manufactured olives in moderation. That’s because salted olives have high levels of sodium, not to mention that they might include preservatives to increase their shelf life.

In addition, olives are pretty high in fatty acids.

The Bottom Line

It’s such a relief to know that the pits of black olives or green olives aren’t poisonous, right? So, if you swallow one by accident, there’s a high chance that it’ll have no negative effects on your body.

Still, that doesn’t mean that you or your furry friend should go around munching on olive pits! They’re too hard on the teeth, may pose a choking risk, or could get stuck in the digestive system.

They might also cause constipation or stomach cramps. To stay on the safe side, eat pitted olives or simply remove the stones before eating this healthy snack. This way, you can get all the benefits of olives with minimal drawbacks!

Know your author

Written by

Dim is a food writer, cookbook author, and the editor of Home Cook World. His first book, Cooking Methods & Techniques, was published in 2022. He is a certified food handler with Level 1 and Level 2 Certificates in Food Hygiene and Safety for Catering, and a trained cook with a Level 3 Professional Chef Diploma.