Whats the big deal about olive oil anyway? Part 2

Olive oil is as diverse as wine – it can come from a single grape or a blend; it can vary in color, aroma and flavor; it can come from many different regions all over the world and is sold in many different grades. However, there is one simple characteristic you must know that will help you make sense of all olive oil labels. If only understanding wine could be that easy!

To understand olive oil, you must understand how the oil was obtained from the olive and if it has undergone a mechanical or a chemical process to achieve its flavor, color and acidity.

Virgin olive oil is made with no chemical treatment using solely physical means to extra oil from the olive fruit. Extra virgin olive oil is the highest quality of olive oil, because it has the lowest acidity of any olive oil. Extra virgin olive oils vary widely in taste, color and appearance. Note that “extra virgin” may be used without legal restrictions.

Refined olive oil has been chemically treated for taste and acidity, but loses some of its nutritional properties. It has a high acidity level, making it a lower grade olive oil.

An olive oil can be a blend of both virgin and refined olive oils. It is made by taking lower quality refined olive oil and adding virgin olive oil to create a medium grade olive oil. The term olive oil refers to this blend. Thus, “100% Pure Olive Oil” is often the lowest quality available: higher grades would have “virgin” on the label. The term “Pure” does not refer to anything in the production of olive oil and is a widely used but unregulated marketing term.
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Wanting to live a healthier lifestyle but don’t know where to start? Switch to an olive oil-rich Mediterranean diet!

Whats the big deal about olive oil anyway?

Homer called it “liquid gold.” It has a long history from medicinal to culinary and was even used as currency in ancient Roman times. Olive oil is high in monounsaturated fats like oleic acid and polyphenols, which studies show reduce the risk of developing heart disease. The high content of antioxidants in olive oil also reduces bad cholesterol levels (LDL) while raising good cholesterol levels (HDL). Olive oil has no trans fatty acids and tastes wonderful.
Other health benefits of olive oil include:

  • Regulating blood pressure
  • Shown to inhibit the growth of some cancers
  • Helps regulate blood sugar
  • Lessens the severity of asthma and arthritis because of its anti-inflammatory properties
  • Lowers triglyceride levels
  • Promotes the normal function of the digestive system and aids bile, liver and intestinal functions
  • Natural treatment of constipation
  • Helps maintain a healthy metabolism
  • Promotes healthy cellular processes cell regeneration and energy production by neutralizing free radicals
  • High in vitamins A, E and K

Not only is olive oil known for its beneficial health effects – it has also been a beauty secret of the Mediterranean people for centuries. It can be used as a natural, hypoallergenic way to moisturize skin and hair, is a natural lubricant for a close shave, works wonders as a cuticle softener, is an inexpensive lip balm, eases diaper rash and even works great as a furniture polish!

Up next – we’ll talk about the different varieties of olive oil and how to buy, store and cook with olive oil.
Here’s to your health!

May is Mediterranean Diet Month!

The Mediterranean Diet is regularly described as the “gold standard” for promoting healthy patterns to living well. Our cookbook will teach you to eat like a Greek with recipes that incorporate fish, dairy, vegetables and fruits, whole grains, legumes and nuts, and using olive oil as the main source of fat – the main staples of the Mediterranean diet.