A Brief History Of Olive Oil- The Benefits Of Adding Olive Oil In Your Diet – Nutritional Benefits of Olive Oil– Olive Oil Side Effects – Are There Any?
Here’s something you should know about fats and oils: they are essential. This means whatever happens, your body needs it to be able to function properly and effectively.
When it comes to this department, one thing stands out: olive oil.
You heard that olive oil is among the healthiest foods around. But do you ever wonder why or how? Are you curious about its components that make it a favorite among health experts and enthusiasts?
Stick around because at the end of the post, you’ll find out why olive oil must be included in your grocery list.
Olive Oil, In a Nutshell
As the name implies, olive oil came from pressing olives or the fruits of the olive tree, a traditional plant in the Mediterranean region. This is also the reason why olive oil is a staple in the Mediterranean diet.
To make olive oil, it is important that growers pick quality olives while they are in their prime, which is about two to three weeks. Then, leaves, twigs, and stems will be removed. Olives will then be pressed using stainless steel rollers and grind into paste.
At this point, the paste will go through malaxation or a process where water is slowly stirred into the paste. This will also the tiny molecules to clump together and make them more concentrated. Modern technology uses closed mixing chambers to prevent oxidation. This will preserve the quality of the oil as well.
Then, the paste will be placed on mats and sent through a centrifuge. This will separate the oil, water, and paste remnants or pomace.
Apparently, not all olive oils you see in the market are the same. In fact, it comes in grades:
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil – This has excellent flavor and odor. If you’re on a diet, then this variant is recommended because of its minimal fatty acid content, which is not more than 0.8 grams per 100 grams.
- Virgin Olive Oil – It has reasonably good flavor and odor. Its fatty acid content in the form of oleic acid is not more than two grams per 100 grams.
- Lampante Virgin Olive Oil – This is not intended for human consumption and may be used for purposes other than food.
- Olive Oil – This is a blend of refined olive oil and virgin olive oils with no further processing. It also has fatty acid of one gram per 100 grams.
- Refined Olive Oil – This is the end product of virgin olive oil going through the process of refining without altering the basic glycerin-fatty acid structure. It is also flavorless and odorless.
At present, countries in the Mediterranean region, specifically Spain, Greece, Italy, Turkey, and Morocco are the top producers of olive oil in the world. The countries in this region also consume two-thirds of the world’s olive oil.
On the other hand, the United States is also slowly entering the market. This may be due to the rising demand for olive oil and increasing consumption of Americans.
Olive Oil History
Olive oil goes a long way, dating back to early as 2500 BC. Several stone tablets were found wherein it first described olive oil during the time of King Minos of Crete. Since then, experts believed that the cultivation of the olive plant started in Greece wherein Neolithic people brought wild olives, which originated from Asia Minor, into their location.
Since then, the “liquid gold” became a part of Mediterranean countries’ diet and way of life. In fact, it was a symbol of fame, wealth, and peace.
Ancient Romans create cakes, known as vatica, using flour, salt, and olive oil. They even used it as a base for cosmetic products and gave it away as a prize.
Ancient Greeks made salad dressings with extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, honey, and vinegar. Affluent society in Greece also used to pour this over their bodies, especially when participating in the Greek games.
Even early Egyptians were fond of olive oil. It was said that they import this ingredient from Crete and became an important item that symbolizes wealth and commerce. In fact, olive oil remains that were about 4,000 years old were discovered in the island of Naxos in the Aegean Sea.
Eventually, people started to look into olive oil deeper. During the Middle Ages, they discovered that olive oil could be a treatment for cuts, bruises, and sore throats.
Fast forward today, olive oil is among the most sought after products in the market because of its many health benefits. It can also be used even outside the kitchen.
Different Types Of Olive Oil According To Country
Did you know that the quality of olive oil varies per country? This is because the creation of olive oil depends on several factors such as type of soil, location, farming techniques, climate, the type of olives used, and the ripeness of the olives.
Here is a glimpse of the different types of olive oil produced by countries around the world:
- California – light in color and comes with a fruity taste
- Greece – tends to be green in color and is more flavorful and peppery
- France – pale in color and has milder taste
- Italy – dark green in color with grassy flavor and herbal aroma
- Jerusalem – fruity fragrance and peppery taste
- Morocco – deep, golden color and has a unique, flavorful taste
- Palestine – heavy consistency with strong, smooth flavor
- Spain – golden yellow in color with nutty, fruity flavor
Olive Oil For Muslims
Did you know that olive oil is highly regarded among Muslims? In fact, the Holy Quran and prophet Mohammad spoke vividly of olive as the blessed tree.
There are tons of passages wherein Allah mentioned olive oil as the “good food.” In Quran 6:141, it mentioned “And He it is who causes garden to grow, [both] trellised and untrellised, and palm trees and crops of different [kinds of] food and olives and pomegranates, similar and dissimilar. Eat of its fruit when it yields and give its due [Zakat] on the day of its harvest. And be not excessive. Indeed, He does not like those who commit excess.”
The Holy Quran 23:20 mentioned that “Also, tree springing out of Mt. Sinai, which produces oil, and relish for those who use it for food.”
Prophet Mohammad also relayed to Abu Hurairah saying, “Eat the Zait (olive oil) and use it as an ointment, because it is produced from a blessed tree.”
In other words, olive oil is regarded as holy among Muslims.
Olive Oil Nutrition Facts
Olive oil is predominantly or 73 percent monounsaturated fat, specifically oleic acid. This is responsible for the oil’s anti-inflammation properties.
Consequently, it has 14 percent saturated fat and 11 percent polyunsaturated fat such as omega-3 and omega-6.
According to the Unites Stated Department of Agriculture, one tablespoon or 13.5 grams of olive oil contains the following nutrients:
- 119 calories
- 13.5 grams of fat
- 1.9 milligrams of vitamin E
- 8.13 micrograms of vitamin K
- Other nutrients like calcium and potassium
- Antioxidants such as polyphenols, squalene, tocopherols, phytosterols, and terpenic acids
These nutritional components are what makes olive oil a favorite among health advocates.
Olive Oil Benefits
Olive oil is known for its many health benefits. This includes the following:
Packed With Antioxidants
One of the main reasons why olive oil is a favorite is because of its antioxidant content. These antioxidants are biologically active, which means they are helpful in fighting and reducing your chances of developing diseases.
An example of antioxidant found in olive oil is polyphenols. This type of antioxidant is helpful in protecting your cells against any form of damage.
Here’s something you should know about inflammation: it is a leading driver of many diseases including heart disease, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, and type 2 diabetes.
Thanks to high amounts of oleic acid, olive oil is also an effective anti-inflammatory agent. This means it helps protect blood cholesterol levels from oxidation, thereby reducing your risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.
Also, it can help reduce inflammatory markers such as C-reactive protein or CRP.
The secret: anti-inflammatory properties of olive oil are due to antioxidants. One of these key antioxidants is oleocanthal. According to a study published in the Current Pharmaceutical Design, this substance works similarly to ibuprofen.
Olive oil is loaded with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. Don’t be surprised if you see “antibacterial properties” among its many health benefits.
One of the bacteria that olive oil can get rid of is Helicobacter pylori. This type of bacteria lives in the stomach and causes stomach ulcer or worse, stomach cancer. According to this 2007 study, olive oil could fight eight strains of this bacterium, even those that are resistant to antibiotics.
In fact, 30 grams of extra virgin olive oil everyday could get rid of this bacterium in less than two weeks. This will reduce your risk of developing stomach-related conditions as well.
Protection Against Heart Disease
Did you know that heart disease is the top cause of deaths in the world? You can blame it on unhealthy diet and poor lifestyle but luckily, olive oil could help prevent that.
Experts found out that Mediterranean diet, wherein olive oil is a staple, helps prevent cardiovascular disease.
In particular, experts noted that extra virgin olive oil protect bad cholesterol from oxidation, improves blood vessels’ lining, improves endothelial function, and prevents excessive blood clotting. It also helps lower one’s blood pressure, one of the top risk factors for heart disease.
When combined, olive oil does ensure that your heart is healthy.
Potentially Prevents Stroke
Stroke is a medical condition characterized by a disturbance of blood flow to the brain. This disturbance may be due to bleeding or blood clots.
What does olive oil have to do with this?
Based on a 2014 study published in the Lipids in Health and Disease, experts found out that olive oil was the only source of monounsaturated fat that helps reduce the risk of stroke.
Another study published in the British Journal of Nutrition noted that participants who took olive oil had lower risk of developing stroke compared to those who did not.
Take note that these studies involved large number of participants. This showed that olive oil, when taken properly could prevent stroke.
Reduce The Risk Of Type 2 Diabetes
You might heard that Type 2 diabetes doesn’t like olive oil. That’s true.
Based on a study published in Diabetes Care, olive oil does help in reducing the risk of developing diabetes by 40 percent.
Again, the key here is moderation.
Treat Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is a type of autoimmune condition that causes painful and deformed joints. According to the World Health Organization, this condition is more common in women and developed countries.
Luckily, olive oil can help.
Studies show that olive oil supplements boosts inflammatory markers and helps reduce oxidative stress among individuals with this condition.
In fact, combining olive oil supplements with fish oil, which is another source of anti-inflammatory omega-3 acid, could significantly improve one’s handgrip strength and reduce morning stiffness and joint pain.
Apart from heart disease, cancer is also among the top causes of death in the world. There are several risk factors but one thing is for sure: you can do something to reduce your chances of developing it.
One of this is by including olive oil in your diet. And it’s all because of its antioxidant properties.
Experts believe that free radicals are one of the top risk factors of cancer. The good news is antioxidants reduce oxidative damage in the body caused by free radicals.
There are also test tube studies showing that certain components in olive oil could potentially fight cancer cells.
Experts need to conduct further studies regarding this, but this is a good start.
Olive Oil Side Effects
The health and nutritional benefits of olive oil make it seem like it is the perfect ingredient. Does this mean it is safe and can be used without worrying about side effects?
Inside The Kitchen
Olive oil is safe for daily consumption as long as it is used in moderation. Limit your consumption to two tablespoons everyday. Otherwise, too much could cause your blood pressure to drop. This could lead to dizziness, lightheadedness, or even stroke.
Aside from this, here are the other possible effects of too much olive oil:
- Diarrhea due to the oil’s strong laxative properties
- Gallbladder stones or blockage since olive oil is still considered as fat
- Unnecessary weight gain
Precaution is also expected from people with diabetes. It turns out that olive oil consumption increases insulin resistance. Too much olive oil could make you more prone to health complications such as sweating, trembling, weakness, or hypoglycemia.
Also, watch out for the type of olive oil you’re using. Refined or partially hydrogenated olive oil could increase cholesterol levels and cause trans-fat related disease. This could lead to obesity, stroke, or cardiovascular conditions.
When Used As Part Of Skincare Routine
Apart from the kitchen use, olive oil is also used in skincare or as a cosmetic product. Be careful.
Babies have the most sensitive skin, so make sure you avoid using this on them. It could cause rashes, redness, or skin irritation.
If you have oily skin, then don’t use olive oil as well. The combination of olive oil and naturally oily skin could also lead to rashes, redness, or severe irritation. Take it easy on applying olive oil on your skin as well. Olive oil is heavy and not easily absorbed by the skin. This could potentially clog the pores and trap the dirt, oil, and dust into it. You may not notice but this paves way to pimples and acne.
Olive Oil Storage
The good news is storing olive oil is easier compared to other kitchen ingredients. Still, you need to take note of two things: how to store and where to store it.
Ideally, olive oil must be placed in a cool, dry place, preferably away from heat and light. You can place it in a kitchen cupboard or anywhere that is away from the oven. The key here is room temperature.
On the other hand, how to store olive oil is crucial in preserving its shelf life.
If you noticed, olive oil is stored in a dark-colored glass bottle or stainless steel container. This serves as a protection from getting exposed to sunlight.
That being said, below are olive oil storage no-no’s:
- Do not store in plastic containers. The chemicals from the plastic could seep into the olive oil and affect its taste and overall composition.
- Avoid storing olive oil in reactive metal containers such as copper and iron. These reactive metals could cause unwanted reactions with the oil; hence unsafe.
- Do not overexpose to oxygen. Oxygen degrades the oil’s quality and makes it rancid over time. Make sure that the olive oil has a tight cap or lid as well.
Olive Oil Recipes
Here’s how you can use olive oil in the kitchen:
- On salad as a salad dressing
- Substitute for butter when making bread
- Drizzle on bread
- Replacement for vegetable oil during frying
- Toss on cooked pasta and roasted veggies
- As a dipping sauce
You can also use olive outside the kitchen. Here’s how:
- As a hair conditioner, especially if your have thick or heavily processed hair
- Eye makeup remover
- Mix with egg white, honey, or ground oats and use it as a face mask
- Rub olive oil on scars to help skin cells regenerate
Dab the oil around the eye area to reduce wrinkles
Olive Oil Alternatives
Olive oil is among the healthiest oils around. If you want something similar in case you ran out of oil or you want to add more flavor to your dishes, then here are some of your alternatives:
It has omega-3 and monounsaturated fats that are good for the heart. You can use it on salad, soup, and veggies for a mild, buttery taste.
This is the easiest and readily available ingredient at home that you can use to replace olive oil. It adds richness to the food and ideal for pan frying, baking, or roasting.
This alternative is rich in lauric acid, which is good in boosting healthy cholesterol levels.
This olive oil substitute helps reduce LDL or bad cholesterol, thanks to its 70 percent polyunsaturated fat content. The good thing about grapeseed oil is that it has a neutral taste, so you wouldn’t know the difference. It also has a high smoke point, which means it could stand hot temperature without losing its nutritional value.
If you want a distinct, earthy flavor, then this alternative is best. It is also rich in vitamin E, which supports your immune system. Make sure you don’t go for the partially hydrogenated ones since it contains healthy trans fat.
This will give your dish added flavor. It is best for stir-fry dishes, curry, or Asian dressings and marinades. Still, watch out since it may contain peanut allergens.
This is the standard cooking oil you see in the supermarket. The issue with this is that this type of oil went through harsh chemical processes, thereby reducing its rancidity. Plus, it is highly possible that it contains trans fat. Use this only when you’re left with no choice.
This type of oil is thick and with a light nutty taste. However, this works best with salads since heating walnut oil could lead to bitter taste.
The Bottom Line
What does this tell us? Indeed, olive oil is among the healthiest oils that must be included in everyone’s diet.
It is packed with antioxidants, anti-bacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties that ensure optimal health. It also offers protection against harmful and serious medical conditions by reducing your risk. The best part is you can easily include olive oil in your diet.
Still, don’t be too complacent. Too much olive oil could cause serious side effects. Therefore, the key is moderation.