Olive trees, or Olea europaea, are native to the eastern Mediterranean, but thrive anywhere with a similar climate. A bitter substance in raw olives renders them inedible, so they require processing. Green olives are harvested unripe, then processed. Olives turn black when ripe, but not all bottled or canned black olives were harvested ripe. Processing can also turn unripe olives black. Regardless of color, all olives contain valuable vitamins.
Olives contain thiamin, or vitamin B-1, niacin, or vitamin B-3, pantothenic acid, or vitamin B-5 and vitamin B-6. The human body uses these vitamins to convert carbohydrates from food into glucose for energy. Beyond this, each B vitamin has a separate function and the body requires different amounts of each daily. The most prevalent B vitamin in olives is niacin, which is important for hormone production. The second most abundant, pantothenic acid, is essential for red blood cell production.
Fat-soluble vitamin E is among the vitamins in olives. This vitamin is an antioxidant, helping protect cells from damage. It's also vital for the creation of red blood cells. You can get 1.65 mg of vitamin E from 100 g, or 3.5 oz., of canned ripe olives, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Nutrient Data Laboratory. People older than age 14 need 15 g of vitamin E daily, so eating olives will help you somewhat in getting that amount.
Vitamin A and Beta Carotene
A 100-g serving of canned ripe olives provides 403 IU of vitamin A and 237 mcg of beta carotene. Vitamin A is important for healthy eyes, a properly functioning immune system and red blood cell production. Beta carotene, a compound the body converts into vitamin A, has similar uses in the body as vitamin A.
A small amount of vitamin C is present in olives. This antioxidant helps the body produce and repair tissues, including skin, collagen, tendons and blood vessels. A 100-g serving of olives contains only 0.9 mg of vitamin C. The recommended daily intake of this vitamin is 90 mg a day for men and 75 mg daily for women, according to the University of Maryland. So olives provide only a fraction of the vitamin C you need daily.
Although leafy green vegetables are the richest sources of vitamin K, 100 g of olives contains 1.4 mcg of this vitamin, according to the Nutrient Data Laboratory. The primary function of vitamin K is to ensure normal blood coagulation. Because it helps the body use calcium, it's also important for sufficient bone density. Vitamin E, also found in olives, helps your body use vitamin K.