All You Need to Know about Olive Oil.
How often do you come across a food item that is delicious in taste and is among the healthiest foods around? Olive oil, pressed from the fruit of the olive tree Olea europaea, is one such rare food. It was observed that people in the Mediterranean followed a particular diet that included, among other foods, olive oil as a significant component. As a result, they were found to have long and healthy lives. Furthermore, scientific studies have been carried out with Mediterranean diets containing extra virgin olive oil, demonstrating its benefits.
A Brief History
Olive oil has been used in the Mediterranean region for thousands of years. It has been a part of the Mediterranean diet, which includes ancient Greek and Roman cuisine. Traditionally, in addition to food, it has been used as fuel for lighting lamps, as part of religious rituals, in medicine and in skincare. The oldest olive oil amphorae that survive date back to 3,500 BC. Olive oil is believed to have been first produced earlier than 4000 BC. Therefore, it can be said that the rest of the world has discovered the benefits of olive oil relatively recently. At present, Spain is the largest producer of olive oil in the world.
Olive Oil Making Process and Types
Traditionally olive oil was obtained by pressing olives. In modern methods of extraction, the olives are crushed and then centrifuged to obtain the olive oil. The most prized form of olive oil is extra virgin olive oil (EVOO). EVOO is the least processed form of olive oil and retains the largest quantity of polyphenols, which are antioxidants with significant health benefits. Unfortunately, olive oils are also processed by the food industry with chemicals and by heating to produce virgin and refined olive oils. As a result, they have a better shelf life but fewer health benefits because they lose polyphenols.
However, all types of olive oils contain mono-unsaturated fatty acids (MUFA), the most significant percentage being oleic acid, which is healthy fats. Olive oil does not contain damaging trans-fats and only small amounts of polyunsaturated fats. It is clear that extra virgin olive oil, apart from being great in taste, has the maximum health benefits because of the polyphenol compounds, particularly hydroxytyrosol and oleocanthal. Polyphenols are antioxidants that reduce body inflammation and benefit heart disease, cancers, diabetes, brain strokes, and dementia.
EVOO is great in salads and with bread. It is also stable enough to heat, and you can use it in cooking, roasting and frying. The other varieties are more suitable for cooking, roasting or frying because the flavour of the oil is not essential as it is lost in these processes. Though the latter does not benefit from having large quantities of polyphenols, they still contain mono-unsaturated fatty acids and constitute a healthy cooking medium.
The pomace contains a small amount of residual oil, which is extracted as olive pomace oil. This is suitable for external use only, such as application to the skin. Olive oil has been used in hair and skincare since ancient Egyptian and Roman times. It is in use today on itself or as a component of proprietary products. It is a joy to have something with a super delicious flavour and bags of health benefits to boot.