It’s traditional. It’s been used for food and anointing as long as we’ve had civilization (at least 8000 years). The Romans famously plastered themselves with it daily. Greek peasants swig it today with lunch. It’s the world’s biggest seller in home-produceds.
Have you guessed? It’sOil. The stuff that’s so fundamental that the very name (oleo) comes from ‘olive’.
With such a long history and an imive health record, you’d think that all you have to do is go to the nearest supermarket, buy a bottle and glug down plenty every day. Then you’d be assured of long life. Yes? Nah! You’re too smart to fall for that stuff, aren’t you?
But you ought to know that this is exactly what a lot of food experts recommend. With provisos…
First, it has to be part of a calorie-controlled diet. If you don’t live in the UK, that phrase won’t hit you so hard. It’s the disclaimer on every pack of quack slimming food for sale here! It’s a fair comment, though. If you add olive oil to a bad diet of fat/sugar/meat/salt junk, it’ll make things worse.
In the Mediterranean, people who drizzle olive oil on their food eat fresh bread, rice and pasta with a whole lot of vegetables and not a lot of meat. And they aren’t well up in eating sugar (except the fat ones!) You do the same, and your health will improve. Replace other fats with your olive oil. Don’t add it to them.
Second, it has to be the right olive oil. All through the ages, healthy, fresh olives have beened by hand and the oil that dribbles out collected and bottled as it is. That’s the stuff you need. It’s called Extra Virgin Oil and by EU protection law, the name is reserved for just that cold-pressed, raw oil. No processing. Most of it comes from Greece, Italy and Spain and those countries are generally the reliable sources, whatever the price.
In North America, if the Extra Virgin oil you find isn’t European, check very carefully that the label means what it says — US laws aren’t so tough on this one and there are some blending get-rounds.
And The Junk?
So, what happens to the other millions of tons of olives that aren’t good enough for the certificated stuff?
Pressure-cook it to a mush (with the spent mash fromoil). Press it in high power, hot-action screw presses to squeeze out the last drop. Refine it to get rid of the stuff that will make it go bad in careless storage (the minerals, vitamins, esters, sterols and other minor ingredients that you need for health). Bleach and chemically deodorize it, because by now it’ll be a strange colour, and smell and taste bad. Then bottle it and sell it as olive oil. Which it is, technically. Dead olive oil.
You get the point. Because of its traditional reputation, olive oil is a premium product, at a premium price.But in fact, thed stuff is no better than other oils. It’s similar in composition to d (canola) oil — the cheapest of them all. And refined sunflower and corn oils have a lot more polyunsaturates, so they’re probably healthier for you unless you eat too much Omega-6 already. A lot of people do.
So How Do I Use Olive Oil?
My advice? Do use olive oil. It’s good for you if you replace most other fats with it. But ONLY get the- kind. If you don’t go for expensive brands that look like classy white wine in the bottle, it only costs about a third more than the refined stuff, and it’ll do you good. And remember that you’ll still need both Omega-3 and -6 oils for your — you’ll get sick without eating them, and in proper proportion to each other.
Use it in salads and cooked foods. Drizzle it on your bread instead of butter or margarine: it’s a lot healthier.
It’s great –unless you can find cold-pressed,seed oil! A lot of supermarkets sell this these days at a similar price to virgin olive oil. In the US and Canada, look for cold-pressed Canola oil, a variant of the seed oil the rest of the world uses. That’s even better because it has some of the vital Omega 3 fatty acid ALA. And it’s tastier, in my opinion.