Mythology, historical accounts, traditions and customs all provide evidence that olive oil has special properties, which over the centuries have been used in beauty, health and medicinal products. The beneficial and often miraculous properties of the olive but mainly of its oil have helped it acquire a somewhat metaphysical nature and link it to rituals and religious workship.
Without doubt the main need the olive and its oil met and continues to meet, that of nutrition with positive effects on healthy physical development, was the reason it became known as sacred, and why it was indissolubly bound to popular traditions, customs and folklore. Nowadays large amounts of olive oil are consumed, mainly because it beneficial to health, so olive oil is included among the 10 most beneficial foods.
The quality of olive oil depends on the following characteristics: acidity, oxidation, colour, aroma and flavor. Acidity expresses the percentage of the fatty acids in the oil. The degree of acidity is determined by various factors, such as the time the olives are harvested, the length of time they are left in the sacks, the method of pressing used…Oxidation depends on the way the oil is stored which is not suitable, gives the oil an earthy taste. The aroma and flavor of the oil depend mainly on the area, weather conditions, the variety of tree and the time of harvesting. Finally, the colour of the oil which varies from green to gold and brown, depends mainly on the harvesting time, but also on other factors such as theextraction process. Olive oil varieties: virgin olive oil, refined olive oil and pure olive oil.
Origin and history
The olive was native to Asia Minor and spread from Iran, Syria and Palestine to the rest of the Mediterranean basin 6,000 years ago. It is among the oldest known cultivated trees in the world – being grown before the written language was invented. It was being grown on Crete by 3,000 BC and may have been the source of the wealth of the Minoan kingdom. The Phoenicians spread the olive to the Mediterranean shores of Africa and Southern Europe. Olives have been found in Egyptian tombs from 2,000 years BC. The olive culture was spread to the early Greeks then Romans. As the Romans extended their domain they brought the olive with them.
1,400 years ago the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad, advised his followers to apply olive oil to their bodies, and himself used oil on his head. The use of oil is found in many religions and cultures. It has been used during special ceremonies as well as a general health measure. During baptism in the Christian church, holy oil, which is often olive oil, may be used for anointment. In the past several hundred years the olive has spread to North and South America, Japan, New Zealand and Australia.
Nutrition & health benefits
- Olive oil is the best edible oil in terms of palatability, stability, lipid profile, and safety profiles.
- It is rich in energy; 100 g oil provides 884 calories. However, its high ratio of mono-unsaturated fatty acids to saturated fatty acids makes it healthy oil for consumption.
- one of the healthiest edible oils since it contains less saturated fats, and composes omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids.
- Olive oil is rich in vitamin E, a powerful lipid soluble antioxidant, required for maintaining the integrity of cell membrane of mucus membranes and skin by protecting it from harmful oxygen-free radicals.
- extra-virgin oil is also a very good source of vitamin K; that has a potential role in the increase of bone mass by promoting osteotrophic activity in the bone. It also has established role in Alzheimer’s disease patients by limiting neuronal damage in the brain.
- extra virgin, contains tyrosol phenolic compounds such as oleuropein and oleocanthal. These compounds are responsible for its bitter, and pungent taste. Oleocanthal, oleurpein, and its derivative hydroxytyrosol are nature’s most powerful anti-oxidants. Together with vitamin E and carotenoids, they play a vital role fighting against cancer, inflammation, coronary artery disease, degenerative nerve diseases, diabetes…etc.
- as hair conditioner
- make you arteries more elastic
- reduce bad cholesterol levels
- make you less hungry
- cure or reduce acne
- protect your red blood cells and your heart
- treat sunburn
- help fight breast cancer
- improve your memory
- keep your lips soft and supple
- help you to stay healthier into old age
- prevent middle-age spread
- clean sensitive skin
- a natural vitamin supplement
- as a massage oil
- lower your blood pressure
- minimize cellulite
- remove makeup
- prevent hair loss and damage
- polish wood furniture