Benefits of Olive Oil finally Revealed

Benefits of Olive Oil finally revealed. We've known for some time that olive oil is good for you. But how is it made? Where does it come from? And what exactly is it about this oil that makes it essential for a healthy diet? Here's all you need to know ...

Most Spanish oil comes from olives grown in the Andalucian countryside. Typically, the oil is sweetly fruity with low levels of bitterness. Catalonia, Extramadura and La Mancha also produce considerable quantities of delicate oil.

The Peleponnese and the island of Crete are the main Greek-producing regions. Here, grassy-flavoured oils are made from Koroneiki olives. The better-known Kalamata olives are for eating. Some oils are called "Kalarnata", but this refers to the region of the same name.

Olives are grown in every part of Italy, with the exception of the far north west. Each region has its own weather, soils and varieties, and styles vary from the sweet, lightly almond-flavoured oils of Liguria to the peppery oils of Puglia, and the sweetly tomato-flavoured oils of Sicily.

Most olive oils we find in the UK are a blend from several countries. This is to preserve consistency in flavour, a little bit like a house Champagne. The market leader for olive oil in the UK is Filippo Berio.

Most olives are grown by small- to mediumsized farmers, who sell their olives to local co-operatives or to privately owned olive mills. These companies may pack a small amount of their best extra-virgin olive oil under their own labels, but they sell the bulk of it to large international packers. In Europe, the harvest takes place around November. Nets are placed under the trees, which are then shaken to release the olives. However, nowadays, machine picking on larger estates is becoming more common.

The term" traditional pressing" refers to granite millstones used with a hydraulic press, but this method is becoming rare. Oils, like those in the Filippo Berio range, are processed in modern centrifugal equipment, which separates out the oil, water and pomace (or olive residue) in one continuous process.

As soon as olive oil is produced, it is graded for quality. The very best olive oil (extra virgin olive oil) is stored or bottled straight after pressing, just as it is. However, it must undergo a range of stringent tests.

If an oil fails these tests, it is sent to a refinery. The resulting refined oil has no aroma or flavour, so it is mixed with a little extra virgin olive oil to give it a pleasant taste. The product is known as "olive oil".

In the traditional producing countries of the Mediterranean, olive oil is used for everything, from deep-fat frying to making bread. Elsewhere, it is becoming more and more popular as a dressing for salads and pasta, and for dipping with bread and raw veg.

It is important to choose the rig ht style or flavour of oil for each dish. Sweet oils are ideally suited to the delicate flavours of soft lettuce leaves. fish or chicken breasts. Oils with a more definite flavour are needed to stand up to the robust taste of watercress, hearty soups and barbecued meats. Remember that heat brings out the flavour of an oil, making its flavour characteristics more pronounced.

Fresh is best with olive oil. It is usual for olive oil to have an 18-month sell-by date, so make sure that it is well within that period. Olive oil is effected by heat, light and air, so bottles should be stored in a cool, dark place and, once opened, used as soon as possible.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil is the very best. Use for dressing salads and cooked vegetables, and for finishing soups and pasta dishes. Drizzle over baked or steamed fish and serve with pizzas. Use to marinate meat and fish for the barbecue and to give added flavour to pot roasts, casseroles and roasted veg.

Olive Oil is not as expensive as the extra virgin version and is a good choice for everyday use. It is also the right oil for deep-fat frying and cooking at high temperatures. Use for baking bread, biscuits and carrot cake.

"Light and mild oil" is the oil to choose if you are not keen on the taste of olive oil, but want to make a healthy choice. It is also very useful for making things like mayonnaise, where too strong a flavour is not suitable.

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Summarized from: Woman and Home Mag

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