Olive oil plays a vitally important part in the Mediterranean diet that has attracted so much interest from nutritionists and health professionals in recent times. Greeks and Greece are known for their olive oil around the globe due to its unique qualities and taste. It is a proud product for Greeks that scientists have proven that olive oil has “been” an active ingredient in Greeks daily lives (fossilized olive leaves found on the Greek islands of the Aegean) for at least 50,000 to 60,000 years hence explaining the immense pride they take in good quality production. The systematic cultivation of olives trees is said to have begun on the island of Crete in Neolithic times. This only one more factor that demonstrates the ties Greeks and Greece has to the olive tree and how very deep this connection to our ancestry is indeed.

According to latest research, Greece is indeed one of the top three olive oil-producing countries in the world and Greek olive oil is indisputably the finest worldwide. So let’s have a look at some important things to pay attention to before ordering your next oil (or simply make sure you check when you order your next oil to be aware before your next order).

Top Grades of Greek Olive Oil

Extra virgin olive oil is of exceptional quality, taste and fragrance. The oil comes from the first pressing of the olives, and no chemicals or hot water are added during processing. Acidity levels are below 0.8 percent. About 70 percent of Greece’s olive oil is extra virgin. In comparison, virgin olive oil also comes from the first pressing, but the quality is not quite as exceptional. It offers fine aroma and taste, but the acidity can be up to 2 percent so it’s less mild.

Color and Clarity

When it comes to the clarity of olive oil, all fresh olive oil is cloudy. That is because minuscule particles of fruit escape with the oil during the pressing. Green (or greenish) olive oil is usually comes from the harvest of Green olives before they ripen and is considered of very high quality from connoisseurs around the world. In addition, yellow olive oil (or also Golden as it is known) is generally the product of olives that have been allowed to ripen for a longer period of time. Both green and golden-yellow oils can be very high quality extra virgin olive oils.

Taste and Smell

It is always difficult to take a smell or even taste an olive oil when ordering online or even at your local supermarket but it is crucial you do the “test” as soon as you get home. So as mentioned above, always make sure to take a little taste and sniff of your newly purchased olive oil. A bitter or sharp taste usually indicates that the olives weren’t ripe yet when they were picked. Oil made from ripe olives has a mild, fruity taste. Taste is entirely a matter of preference and oils made from both unripened and ripened olives have wide appeal.

About Those Acidity Levels

The International Olive Council allows acidity of up to 3.3 percent for human consumption, but this does not mean this is the normal level of acidity you should seek as such a level is far too high and would probably have quite a strong and distinct taste. Normal acidity levels that tend to be used are somewhere around 1 percent and even lower in an extra virgin olive oil. Acidity affects the taste and is a determinant of quality.

What It Says on the Label

Read the label to be assured of excellent quality. It should clearly state “extra virgin Greek olive oil,” like the olive oil of Latzimas that we offer on our website. Have a look here or here for more information. It is a mellow, green herbal tones with plenty of fruit and a light peppery finish. The PDO provenance ensures that that only local olives and traditional methods are used. Each tin is individually numbered. A Gold Star Winner at the Great Taste Awards 2011. Tins are strong and the best way to keep oil in tip-top condition, but they are prone to the odd dints and dings.

Importance of Olive Oil

Initially, it was thought that olive oil’s high concentration (over 70%) of monounsaturated fatty acids was the explanation – it certainly does help to reduce the level of bad LDL cholesterol in the blood while maintaining levels of good HDL cholesterol. But scientists have long suspected that there must be more to it than this. After all, rapeseed oil contains similar levels of monounsaturates, but doesn’t seem to confer the same health benefits.

Olive oil is unusual among vegetable oils in that it can be consumed in its “crude†virgin form without the need for refining. This has the effect of conserving a wide range of phytonutrients, including Vitamin E, pigments (chlorophylls and carotenoids), polyphenols and other powerful natural antioxidants. Olive oil also contains significant levels of plant sterols which have been associated with lowering bad LDL cholesterol.

Recently, it has been discovered that Extra Virgin Olive oil also contains a natural anti-inflammatory substance called oleocanthal. This works by blocking cyclooxygenase (COX) enzymes – an action it shares with ibuprofen. This could be significant because inflammation increasingly is believed to be associated with a wide range of chronic conditions. The link was discovered by accident when someone noticed that good extra virgin olive oil tickles (in some cases even “burns”) the back of the throat in the same way as liquid ibuprofen does.

Another benefit of olive oil, when used in frying, is that it is more heat stable than many other oils, which means that it’s less likely to degrade into potentially harmful substances.

Remember that while olive oil is easily digestible, it contains the same amount of calories as any other oil or fat, and is best eaten as part of a healthy lifestyle programme that includes a sensible diet and exercise.

The Bottom Line :

Eating about 30ml (2 tablespoons) of olive oil a day in place of your usual oil or fat can improve cardiovascular health, joint health and defences against potentially harmful substances.

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