Olive oil is a fat obtained from the olive , a traditional tree crop of the Mediterranean Basin. The oil is produced by pressing whole olives and is commonly used in cooking, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and soaps, and as a fuel for traditional oil lamps. Olive oil is used throughout the world and is often associated with Mediterranean countries. Clinical studies focusing on olive oil show that consumption of olive oil may reduce cardiovascular risk factors by decreasing plasma triglycerides, total and low density lipoprotein cholesterol, platelet activation, inflammation and oxidation damage, and increase high density lipoprotein cholesterol and antioxidant status. Studies have also shown that olive oil consumption may have a protective role on breast, colon, lung, ovarian and skin cancer development.
Compounds specific to olive oil, known as phenolics, seem to possess free radical-scavenging properties and so may be able to reduce oxidation damage to DNA. A number of studies have also shown that olive oil may have additional beneficial effects on blood pressure, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis and immune function. The main type of fat found in all kinds of olive oil is monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs). monounsaturated fatty acids are actually considered a healthy dietary fat.
If your diet replaces saturated and trans fats with unsaturated fats such as monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs), you may gain certain health benefits. it may help lower your risk of heart disease by improving related risk factors. For instance, monounsaturated fatty acids have been found to lower your total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels. it also help normalize blood clotting. And some research shows that MUFAs may also benefit insulin levels and blood sugar control, which can be especially helpful if you have type 2 diabetes.
Olives, one of the oldest foods known, are thought to have originated in Crete or Syria between five and seven thousand years ago. Since ancient times, the olive tree has provided food, fuel, timber and medicine for many civilizations, and has been regarded as a symbol of peace and wisdom. The venerable oil of the olive has been consumed since as early as 3,000 B.C. It’s not clear exactly how olive trees arrived but it’s clear that the time frame was much later, during the 1500-1700’s. Spanish colonizers of North America definitely brought olive trees across the Atlantic Ocean during the 1500-1700’s, and while some may have been brought directly to the region which is now California, olive trees may also have been brought to the region from Mexico, where cultivation by the Spanish was already underway.
Types of olive oil
Olive oil is produced by the pressing or crushing of olive fruit. It comes in different grades, depending on the amount of processing involved. There are unrefined (virgin) grades and refined grades. The less the oil is refined by heat and chemical treatments, the higher the quality of the oil.
Extra virgin – This oil is considered to be the premium grade of olive oil. It is made from the first pressing of olives. The oil is extracted by the traditional cold-pressing method, where no chemicals and only a small amount of heat are applied.
Virgin – This oil is produced from the second pressing of olives or from the second-best grade of olives by cold-pressing, without use of chemicals and use of little heat.
Olive oil – Also marketed as ‘pure’ olive oil. This type of oil is non-virgin, commercial-grade olive oil. It is ‘pure’ olive oil to the extent that it consists only of olive oil. This grade of olive oil consists of the inferior oil that is a result of subsequent pressings after the virgin oil has been extracted from lower-quality olives. This oil then undergoes a refining process involving heat, chemical solvents, high pressure and filtration treatments. This oil is then mixed with a small quantity of virgin olive oil to restore color and flavor.
Light and extra light – These oils are produced from the last pressing of olives. They are more refined and of lower quality than the other grades. There is little of the natural olive flavor and color in these oils.