Olive Trees in Andalusia
As Far As the Eye Can See
Central to the Traditional Med Diet
The Golden Elixir of Life?
There are 21 countries with a Mediterranean coastline. They have very different cuisines, but a lot of them do consume olive oil.
Olive oil is a liquid fat, which does not sound very appetising. However, this liquid fat comes from the pressing of whole olives, which does sound appetising. An olive is, of course, the fruit of the olive tree.
As well as for food, it is used in cosmetics, medicine and soaps. Its wonderful taste and health properties are now recognised world-wide.
Spain, with over 300 million olive trees(!) accounts for an astounding 45% of world production of olive oil. Italy has 25% and Greece 20%, so those three countries account for 90% of total world production.
Health Benefits of Olive Oil
The health benefits of this ancient oil are broadly the same as those of the Mediterranean Diet. (See here). There is a long list of definite benefits plus many more possible ones. There have been many documented studies, which have discovered most of these benefits.
These benefits include: Improvements in heart disease, blood pressure, cholestorol, Alzheimer´s, diabetes, some forms of cancer. Also, despite its relatively high calories, it can help in reducing or controlling weight.
A more detailed list of the benefits of olive oil, as an integral part of the Med Diet, here.
There are a few dissenting voices on the internet. People who suggest that the benefits of olive oil are illusory - just hype. But the vast majority of qualified people, such as doctors or nutrition researchers, are enthusiastic about its benefits.
"Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food." Hippocrates (d. 370 BC)
Olive Oil and Overweight Or Obesity
It is an integral part of the Mediterranean Diet. The benefits of the Mediterranean Diet for overweight/obesity, or for weight maintenance, can be seen here.
According to a Readers Digest article, various studies that have suggested that the consumption of olive oil instead of foods heavy in saturated fat raises energy usage even when at rest. As a result, more calories are burned even when at rest, or sleeping. A German study suggests that just the scent of this miraculous oil can cause people to feel fuller, and thus consume fewer calories.
(The Readers Digest based its article on “The Greek Diet” by Maria Loi & Sarah Toland)
Potted History of Olive Oil
Many consider it almost magical in its benefits. Here is a little of its history.
As long ago as 10,000 years, people in Asia Minor, where the olive tree originated, collected wild olives. (Though it may also have come from ancient Greece.) By about 8,000 years ago, olive oil was being made. 4,500 years ago, olives were being grown in Crete, though production of olive oil in present-day Greece is thought to long pre-date this. The Phoenicians probably introduced olives to Spain, the largest olive oil producer in the world, about 3,000 years ago. They also took the olive tree to North Africa. The Greeks took the olive tree to Italy. The Roman Empire led to the planting of olive trees all around the Mediterranean. It also introduced olive oil exports to England, Germany and France.
Production of olive oil has continued to increase up to the present day. Early, during the Middle ages, it was most important in Italy, Spain and Greece, and they remain amongst the largest producers and consumers. Spain, in fact, accounts for over half of the total world production, while Greece is, on a per capita basis, by far the largest consumer in the world.
Various countries a long way from the Mediterranean Basin now produce olive oil. These include: USA, South Africa, Australia, Chile and Argentina.