Olive oil is produced by grinding whole olives and extracting the oil by mechanical or chemical means. It is commonly used in cooking throughout the world, but especially in the Mediterranean countries.
The olive tree is native to the Mediterranean basin; wild olives were collected by Neolithic peoples as early as the 8th millennium BC. The wild olive tree originated in Asia Minor in ancient Greece. Many ancient presses still exist in the Eastern Mediterranean region, and some dating to the Roman period are still in use today.
During this time, the oil was derived through hand-squeezing the berries and stored in special containers under guard of the priests.
So what’s the difference between olive oil, virgin olive oil, and extra virgin olive oil?
Extra-virgin olive oil comes from virgin oil production only, contains no more than 0.8% acidity, and is judged to have a superior taste. Extra Virgin olive oil accounts for less than 10% of oil in many producing countries; the percentage is far higher in the Mediterranean countries (Greece: 80%, Italy: 45%, Spain 30%). It is used on salads, added at the table to soups and stews and for dipping.
Virgin olive oil comes from virgin oil production only, has an acidity less than 1.5%, and is judged to have a good taste.
Pure olive oil. Oils labeled as Pure olive oil or Olive oil are usually a blend of refined and virgin production oil.
Olive oil is a blend of virgin and refined production oil, of no more than 2% acidity. It commonly lacks a strong flavor.
Olive pomace oil is refined pomace olive oil often blended with some virgin oil. It is fit for consumption, but may not be described simply as olive oil. It has a more neutral flavor than pure or virgin olive oil, making it unfashionable among connoisseurs; however, it has the same fat composition as regular olive oil, giving it the same health benefits. It also has a high smoke point, and thus is widely used in restaurants as well as home cooking in some countries.
Highly favored as a cooking oil, and for use in a variety of classic dressings, olive oil is also touted in many quarters as a delicious companion to good health. Research on the health benefits of olive oil is impressive, as are the affects of a more Mediterranean-style diet.
Lowers “Bad” Cholesterol
The European Journal of Clinical Nutrition has published findings that indicate the introduction of olive oil into regular diet has demonstrated a reduction in LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol). This is significant because once LDL cholesterol has oxidized it often results in artery rigidity and accompanying heart disease.
Olive Oil in Cancer Prevention
In a comparison study at the University Hospital Germans Trias Pujol in Barcelona there seems to be an indication that the health benefits of olive oil may also be useful in the prevention or slowing of cancer cells.
The study provides evidence that a diet similar to the Mediterranean diet, rich in olive oil prevents colonic carcinogenesis reducing precancerous tissue which resulted in fewer tumors when compared to a controlled sample of rats ingesting foods containing other types of cooking oils.
Researchers at Oxford University in England have seen indications that olive oil may actually be as good for our digestive system as fresh fruit and vegetables in preventing or reducing the incidence of colon cancer.
The reasons behind this phenomena are still being considered, but it is believed that the olive oil may help regulate the bile acid in the stomach while increasing useful enzymes within the stomach that contribute to optimal colon health.
Olive Oil and Heart Health
The American Heart Association has also noted that consumption of olive oil has “clear health benefits”.
Olive Oil and Lower Blood Pressure
By substituting virgin olive oil for other fats within your diet, the Archives of Internal Medicine indicates a substantial reduction in drug dosage requirements for the management of high blood pressure. Initial findings indicate dosage reductions could be as high as 50%.
Additional health benefits of olive oil may be found in a diet which explores the varied uses of olive oil in both food preparation as well as additional balanced meal choices. Combined, olive oil and appropriate food choice seem to enhance the overall health of those subscribing.
While studies remain ongoing, it is encouraging to note that something that has long been noted for good taste may also be a link to positive health benefits and longevity of life. Using more olive oil as a replacement for less healthy fats and oils may be a healthy, and palatable change well worth considering.
BTW…here are a few of our favorite hautemealz.com recipes that incorporate this healthy, delicious, oil… Soba Noodles with Mushrooms & Kale, Grilled Ratatouille, Caprese Tomato Bites, and Easy Goat Cheese Naan.