Olive Trees in Andalusia
As Far As the Eye Can See
Central to the Traditional Med Diet
Olive Oil - 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. This does not sound very appetising, until you consider that it comes from pressing whole olives, the fruit of the olive tree. As well as for food, olive oil is used in cosmetics, medicine and soaps.
The wonderful taste and health properties of olive oil 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 olive oil are broadly the same as those of the Mediterranean Diet. (See here).
There is a long list of definite benefits of olive oil consumption plus many more possible ones. Most of these benefits, or possible benefits, have been discovered in documented studies. Sometimes various studies.
These benefits include: Improvements in heart disease, blood pressure, cholestorol, Alzheimer´s, diabetes, some forms of cancer. Also, despite its relatively high calories, olive oil 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 the benefits of olive oil.
"Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food." Hippocrates (d. 370 BC)
Olive Oil and Overweight Or Obesity
Olive oil 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, there have been 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 even sleeping. According to a German study, just the scent of olive 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
Olive oil is considered by many to be almost magic in its benefits. Here is a little at its history.
As long ago as 10,000 years, wild olives were being collected in Asia Minor, where the olive tree originated. (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, presently 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. They remain amongst the largest producers and consumers. Spain, in fact, accounts for over half of the total world olive oil production. Greece is, on a per capita basis, by far the largest olive oil consumer in the world.
Olive oil is now produced in various countries a long way from the Mediterranean Basin. These include: USA, South Africa, Australia, Chile and Argentina.