Olive Trees and Olive Oil in Liguria and in the Mediterranean Area

The numerous health benefits of olive oil run almost as deep as its history. It may appear simple, but in fact, is one of the most complex oils used today. In order to reap the wide range of health benefits, we must take time to understand the creation process and the different types.

History

The exact origin of olive oil remainsĀ sea salt unknown, but evidence of the existence of olives dates back farther than 6,000 years ago. As one of the oldest cultivated trees, it first grew in Crete, Greece in 3500BC. At that time, the tree spread to the Mediterranean basin, which includes African shores and Southern Europe. In 2000BC, olives were found inside Egyptian tombs; additionally, that date is when cultivation began to play a major role in the Crete economy. Crete began the first olive export to Greece, Asia Minor, and Northern Africa. Olives were a luxury in Greece and it became not only a food item, but was highly regarded as a beauty treatment.

Types of Oil

Most countries utilize the International Olive Oil Council to define quality and standards; however, the United States does not adhere to these standards. Instead, the United States follows the USDA’s 1948 Classification System, which includes the following qualities: extra-virgin, virgin, refined, pure, olive pomace, refined olive pomace, and lite. Please read the following for descriptions of the most common types:

Extra-virgin oil is the highest quality due to its high mineral and vitamin content. In order for olive oil to be considered extra-virgin, the oil must be produced by extraction methods that contain no chemicals or hot water, be first cold-pressed, have an acidity level of less than 1 percent, and have perfect taste.

Virgin olive oil, like extra-virgin, is first-cold pressed and produced without chemicals or hot water; however, virgin oil may contain an acidity level up to 3.3 percent. The flavor can vary and the taste is less mild than extra-virgin varieties.

Refined olive oil is created by refining virgin oil. The acidity level is greater than 3.3 percent; the finished product is tasteless and the odor is unpleasant.

Pure olive oil is a mix of virgin and refined. It has the same acidity level as virgin and can withstand high heat. The nutritional content is lower than virgin oil, which make it inexpensive compared to high quality oils. Pure oil is commonly used as all-purpose oil.

Light and extra-light are types of oils that contrary to the name do not contain less calories, but are a blend of refined oils that are made from the lowest quality oils created through chemical processing.

Health Benefits

Olive oil is composed of monounsaturated fat, which is considered a healthy fat. Introducing monounsaturated fats into your diet is healthier than ingesting saturated and trans fats. Monounsaturated fats offer a plethora of health benefits, when used in moderation. The following is a list of all of the wonderful health benefits it can impart.