The Health Benefits of Olive Oil
Olive oil, like wine, has been around forever. For people of the Mediterranean, it has had medicinal, even magical powers through the ages. The olive tree is considered a symbol of peace and glory.
Olives were first cultivated in the eastern part of the Mediterranean around 5000 B.C. Cultivation spread to Turkey, Greece, and Egypt before it reached southern Italy, Africa, and southern France. Italy was producing olive oil by the first century A.D.
Olive oil was used in medicines and different ointments. It was also used for nourishment and as an overall healing agent.
Today, Italy, Spain, and Greece produce olive oil, and California, with its Mediterranean climate, is fast becoming a leading producer. Like wine, many different varieties of olive oil have their own unique characteristics taken from the land and weather conditions.
Consumption of olive oil in the U.S. is at an all time high, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re still confused about the differences between regular or pure olive oil and olive oil that’s classified as virgin, extra virgin, and cold pressed. So, here’s a quick lesson in the different types of olive oil:
Basically, these designations are the grades of oil extracted from the olive. The classifications are strictly regulated. The regulation is somewhat different according to the country of origin.
Types of Olive Oil
- Regular or Pure Olive Oil
Regular or pure olive oil has been chemically refined and filtered to neutralize both undesirable strong tastes and acid content. This olive oil is of lower quality and usually the least expensive.
Virgin means the olive oil was produced without any chemical additives, so it contains no refined oil. It has an acidity that’s less than 2%, so it tastes better. Virgin refers to the fact that the olive oil has been less handled or manipulated during processing.
- Extra Virgin
Extra virgin olive oil comes from the first press only and is the highest quality olive oil with perfect flavor, aroma, and balanced acidity. This olive oil is less processed than Virgin olive oil and is very delicate in flavor. It’s perfect for salad dressings, marinades, and for dipping bread.
- Cold Pressed Olive Oil
Cold pressed olive oil is an unregulated label description. Back when olive oil was pressed the second time using hot water and steam to extract the last drop, the heat during the second pressing took away the delicate flavors. Today, premium olive oil is cold pressed, which means the olive paste is gently warmed to room temperature to avoid losing taste and pressing is done in winter, when it’s cold, to further retain flavor.
My opinion is that the best olive oil you can buy is organic cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil. That’s what I personally use.
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