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Olive oil

What is it? What's the hype? Why is it considered to be so healthy? And what's with all this extra virgin, virgin, pomace, lampante? You want to know what you're buying? Then read on!

There is a lot of misunderstanding or no information at all about this extraordinary gift earth has given us. Supermarkets full of bottles and cans more appealing than the other one, some oils made in Italy, some made in Spain, Greece, Jordan... even some made in Italy with olives from the European Union

Wait, what? Extra virgin olive oil, made in Italy, with olives from the EU?

Sounds good right? As long as you believe such thing is possible. After reading this blog post you might be in for a blow.

Our purpose is bringing the real, healthy stuff on your table, and make you understand what you'll be getting. It is the reason we started tresmundi

For as every grape variety is different from the other, and the resulting wine is always a mixture of geographical location, terroir, age and other factors, so are olive varieties, also called "cultivars":

some may be more peppery, whereas others milder.

some may be grassy, and others fruity.

some may be more pungent and bitter, others sweet and smooth.

As the grape makes the wine, so does the olive make the oil

There are about 500 olive varieties in the world, 400 of them in Italy alone!

What is olive oil

Olive oil is a liquid fat obtained from olives (the fruit of Olea europaea; family Oleaceae), a traditional tree crop of the Mediterranean Basin, produced by pressing whole olives and extracting the oil.

It is commonly used in cooking, for frying foods or as a salad dressing. It is also used in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and as a fuel for traditional oil lamps, and has additional uses in some religions. (Wikipedia: Olive oil)

So you may be wondering, what’s the hype with the olive oil? My mom used to cook with sunflower oil all the time, right? It was cheap, odorless, and you could use it for pretty much everything, right?

Well...not really

One of the biggest differences between olive oil, and other pressed seed oils, such as sunflower, grape, corn, palm etc. lies not only in the method of extraction, but also in the fact that olive oil is pretty much the only oil to be extracted from a fruit, rather than from seeds. Since the fruit contains considerable water, extraction can be done by mechanical methods alone, with a centrifuge (more modern) or a press, whereas extracting seed oils generally requires the use of industrial solvents. To remove the solvents and any unpleasant tastes and odors from seed oils, these must be processed in a refinery, where the undergo high-temperature:

  • Desolventization

  • Neutralization

  • Deodorization

  • Bleaching

The result is a tasteless, odorless, colorless liquid fat. Olive oil instead can be simply pressed out of the olive oil pulp, the result being a fresh-squeezed fruit juice with all of its natural tastes, aromas and health-enhancing ingredients such as the renowned polyphenols which act as antioxidants against free radicals. (Mueller, Tom. Extra virginity. W. W. Norton & Company.)

So next time you cook or dress your salads, think twice: would you choose the industrial processed liquid, or the freshly squeezed fruit juice?

Olive oil - Nutritional properties

So by now we know: olive oil, fruit juice, healthy, polyphenols, antioxidants, fat..wait, fat ? Extra virgin olive oil is indeed fairly nutritious. It contains modest amounts of vitamins E and K and plenty of beneficial fatty acids

One tablespoon (13.5 grams) of olive oil contains about:

  • Saturated fat: 14%

  • Monounsaturated fat: 73% (mostly oleic acid)

  • Vitamin E: 13% of the Daily Value (DV)

  • Vitamin K: 7% of the DV (“Extra virgin oil nutrient composition”)

Olive oil is packed full of beneficial antioxidants that can lower your "bad" (LDL) cholesterol while leaving your "good" (HDL) cholesterol untouched.

The cholesterol-lowering effects of olive oil are even greater if you choose extra-virgin olive oil, which means the oil is less processed and contains more heart-healthy antioxidants. (“5 foods that can lower your cholesterol naturally”)

Recent studies have confirmed the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet, which cuts the risk of heart disease. The diet's nutritional benefits probably come from a variety of sources, but the diet's generous use of olive oil has also drawn a lot of attention.

Olive oil, regardless of type, is high in monounsaturated fatty acids, containing about 75% by volume. When substituted for saturated fat, monounsaturated fats help lower your "bad" LDL cholesterol. The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of olive oil add benefits beyond cholesterol lowering.

Extra-virgin olive oil is pressed mechanically from ripe olives and processed without high heat or chemical solvents. This protects chemicals in the oil called phenols. Small laboratory-based experiments suggest that phenols may have beneficial effects in the bloodstream. In contrast, highly processed olive oils loose these beneficial chemicals.

The nutritional benefits of olives and olive oil are directly related to the types of fatty acid and the significant amounts of anti-oxidants derived from Vitamins E and K. The following information provides detailed information for both.

  • Olive oil is mainly comprised of monounsaturated fatty acids. A healthier type of fat, it reduces total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol levels in the bloodstream, while raising high-density lipoprotein (HDL or “good”) cholesterol levels.

  • High quality extra virgin olive oil, in particular, provides a high content of antioxidants, like polyphenols, vitamins E & K, chlorophyll and carotenoids. Antioxidants are key to strengthening the immune system and protecting the body from the damaging effects of free-radical molecules.

  • Olive oil contains anti-inflammatory agents, like oleocanthal, that act as a natural ibuprofen-like substance.

Not all olive oils are created equal! Extra virgin olive oil is considered the best grade to deliver healthy benefits because it is the least-processed of all olive oils. It could be described as natural olive juice. Without any processed manipulation like excessive heat or chemicals that would change its chemical makeup, extra virgin olive oil maintains the highest levels of healthy components (Olive oil chemical characteristics”)

But this will be the topic in the next blog post: types of olive oil and the difference between them

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