The Mediterranean diet appears to be associated with a reduced risk of several chronic diseases including cancer and cardiovascular and Alzheimer's diseases. Olive products (mainly olive oil and table olives) are important components of the Mediterranean diet. Olives contain a range of phenolic compounds; these natural antioxidants may contribute to the prevention of these chronic conditions. Consequently, the consumption of table olives and olive oil continues to increase worldwide by health-conscious consumers. There are numerous factors that can affect the phenolics in table olives including the cultivar, degree of ripening, and, importantly, the methods used for curing and processing table olives. The predominant phenolic compound found in fresh olive is the bitter secoiridoid oleuropein. Table olive processing decreases levels of oleuropein with concomitant increases in the hydrolysis products hydroxytyrosol and tyrosol. Many of the health benefits reported for olives are thought to be associated with the levels of hydroxytyrosol. Herein the pre- and post-harvest factors influencing the phenolics in olives, debittering methods, and health benefits of phenolics in table olives are reviewed.