The health benefits provided by Olive Oil are well known since ancient times. Hippocrates, Galen or Dioscorides had by then drafted treatises on the subject.
And time has proved them right, and scientific research has comprehensibly shown that in Mediterranean countries characterised by the use of olive oil in their diet has had a considerable effect on human illnesses. In other words, chronic illnesses are among the lowest in the world and life expectancies are among the highest.
Accordingly, the Mediterranean diet has been viewed as a healthy model to follow.
In recent decades, Olive Oil and, in particular, Extra Virgin Olive Oil have been shown as healthy foods with numerous positive effects on human health. This is primarily due to the high content of monounsaturated fatty acids (oleic acid) and its antioxidant components (Vitamin E and phenolic compounds) components.
The ingested olive oil generally determines a fatty acid composition of the adipose (or fatty) tissue, with a notable oleic acid content, which facilitates the adequate fatty acids profile in the cells.
The beneficial effects of virgin olive oil on the body may be summarised as follows:
The Virgin Olive Oil contains Vitamin E, that – due to its antioxidant effect on the cell membrane – is particularly recommended for children and the elderly.
Extra Virgin quality olive oil is a product much appreciated in haute cuisine and increasingly in households worldwide. Olive oil is the basis of the majority of Mediterranean cuisine dishes. Its aromatic nuances, its pungency and bitterness and sweetness combined are the perfect culmination of any dish.
Of all the uses given to Olive Oil, the culinary use is the most widespread, appreciated and most suitable to enjoy the health benefits that come from the oil.
Virgin Olive Oil is the only oil which is consumed as it is “squeezed” from the fruit. The manufacturing process is straightforward and does not alter the properties of the “oil” obtained. The other Vegetable Oils are principally derived from seeds and in their elaboration chemical processes are involved which make these oils a less natural product as compared to Virgin Olive Oils.
Virgin and Extra Virgin Olive Oils will be the stars of the entire year, given the fact that these oils are those which preserve the aromas, flavour and natural properties of the olive. Olive oil (obtained by blending refined Olive Oil) and Olive Pomace Oil have lost many of their sensory characteristics in the extraction processes and even though are not fit for human consumption, and are not culinarily comparable to the commercial virgin olive oils.
Olive oil from the nutritional point of view is a vegetable-based fat which provides approximately 9 calories per gram of oil consumed. Therefore, an unchecked use of olive oil is not recommended in the same way that no other fat in the diet should be overused.
Fats are the elements which add flavour to food, for olive oil, the flavour and aroma that it brings as an ingredient enhances and improves the rest of the ingredients and adds personality to the dishes.
Current cuisine trends, both domestic as well as professional, and the wide varieties and qualities of Olive Oils are favouring that on our tables specific and distinct Olive Oils for each dish are being used, similar to the selection of a suitable wine to be served with the dish.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil is primarily used “raw” therefore, preserving all the sensory characteristics of the squeezed fruit intact, nevertheless, it is also usual and recommendable to use the olive for different culinary cooking techniques.
The possible uses of virgin olive oil may be described and summarised as follows:
Raw: dressing, marinate, preserve and emulsify.
Cooked: stir-fry, sauté, stew, confit, marinate, roast and fry.
The good gourmet immediately discovers the colour and aroma of a good olive oil. Knowing how to appreciate the nuances which define a good oil is a preliminary step to penetrate the secrets of what constitutes an exciting culinary exercise: the only way to obtain the best and most suitable culinary application to its options.
In this field, as in any other palate-related matter, there are no hard-and-fast rules, but guidelines drawn from the experience that each chef, personally, enhances the inherent discipline level.
The experience and the ancestral wisdom in the manner of using olive oil explains the succulence of Mediterranean cuisine, in which the possibilities of playing with the flavours of different oils seem incomprehensible.