To find out more about the olive plant, different cultivars and the methods of their cultivation go HERE or for an easy to read and fairly informative background into all things olive go HERE.
But oil is fat…fat is bad? No? Let’s quickly establish what’s what: there are various types of fat but they are not all bad; the main types are saturated and unsaturated fat and this latter can be further split into monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. All types of fat are classified by this "saturation" and many foods contain all three types in different proportions.
Together, the three different types are known as "total fat" but it is important to note that each type has a different effect on the body. Each fat is made up of various fatty acids and each different fat will have a unique fatty acid profile containing SFA (saturated fatty acids) MUFA’s (monounsaturated fatty acids) and PUFA’s (polyunsaturated FA’s).
Published studies confirm that monounsaturated olive oil has many health benefits. While both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats lower the harmful LDL cholesterol (low density lipoprotein) in the body, monounsaturated fats maintain levels of the helpful HDL cholesterol (high density lipoproteins), but polyunsaturated oils reduce it. Despite all the known and presumed benefits of monounsaturated oils (Olive oil in general but also groundnut, nut and avocado oils…) it is the PUFA’s that are classed as essential fatty acids (EFA) because our bodies cannot synthesise them…it gets really complicated…go HERE for as good a place as any to get in really deep.
We know olive oil is high in these monounsaturated fats and among the health benefits are the lessening of risks of heart attacks and other circulatory problems, helping the digestive system to function more efficiently and is the edible fat most easily absorbed by the intestines and regulates the passage of food through the intestines, in fact one or two tablespoons of olive oil has a positive effect as a laxative and as if that is not enough, olive oil is considered a good food choice for expectant and nursing mothers since it is thought to encourage normal brain development in the infant before and after birth and at the other extreme in the autumn of our lives it may be helpful in preventing the wear and tear of age on the brain functions and the aging of organs and tissues in general.
Olive oil contains a high percentage of the monounsaturated oleic acid, the highest in fact at over 70% monounsaturated (with +/- 16% saturated and 10% polyunsaturated) Thus, it is a natural monounsaturated oil.
When shopping try to be selective, as always you pay for what you get so if the olive oil you want is 'surprisingly' cheap...well, enough said; always choose cold-pressed unrefined nut or seed oils or extra-virgin olive oil, this way you know that it has not undergone undue processes or chemical treatments, also if you can get it in dark glass all the better… I’m serious, read this “Find an extra virgin olive oil that is cold pressed, unfiltered, and looks cloudy. The oil should be packaged in dark glass bottles to protect it from the damaging effects of light. Real olive oil is still made in small estate bottled settings.”…then read more HERE.
Credit for the photograph of the olive selection: DECLAN MCCULLAGH PHOTOGRAPHY