olive oil

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Olive oil is made by crushing and then pressing olives. The fact that olives are rich in oil is reflected in the botanical name of the olive tree - Olea europea – wherein the word "oleum" means oil in Latin. Olive oil is more healthful than other sources of alimentary fat because of its high content of monounsaturated fat (mainly oleic acid) and polyphenols. This oil comes in different varieties, depending on the amount of processing involved. Of these, extra virgin olive oil has the most delicate flavour and highest antioxidant benefits.

The varieties include:

Extra virgin
Considered the best, this oil comes from the first pressing of the olives.

Virgin oil comes from the second pressing.

Undergoes some processing, such as filtering and refining.

Extra light
Undergoes considerable processing and only retains a very mild olive flavour.

Cold pressed
Another term that you may see on a bottle of olive oil is "cold pressed." This means that minimal heating was used when mechanically processing the olives to make oil.

How to Select
• Olive oil is available throughout the year, much to the delight of health-watchers.
• Since olive oil can become rancid from exposure to light and heat, look for oils that are sold in dark tinted bottles since the packaging will help protect the oil from oxidation caused by exposure to light.
• In addition, make sure the oil is displayed in a cool area, away from any direct or indirect contact with heat.
• The extra virgin variety is the best; however, choose a variety based on your cooking methods and requirements.

Culinary Uses
• Dress up salads with a tablespoon of olive oil and a splash of lemon juice or balsamic vinegar.
• Place your olive oil and vinegar in a small dish and enjoy as flavouring for a slice of crusty whole grain bread.
• Enhance your vegetable preparations with a sprinkling of grated Parmesan cheese and a little olive oil.
• Use olive oil to top off brown rice or pasta.
• Purée roasted garlic, cooked potatoes and extra virgin olive oil together to make exceptionally delicious garlic mashed potatoes. Season to taste.
• Drizzle a bit of extra virgin olive oil over healthy sautéed vegetables before serving.
• Instead of putting the butter dish out on the table, place a small cup of extra virgin olive oil to use on your bread or rolls.
• For extra flavour, try adding a little Balsamic vinegar or any of your favourite spices to the extra virgin olive oil.

How to Store
• If olive oil goes rancid, it not only spoils the delicate taste and smell but also affects the nutritional profile. Hence, proper storage is essential.
• Even though olive oil's monounsaturated fats are more stable and heat-resistant than the polyunsaturated fats that predominate in other oils, olive oil should be stored properly and used within a few months to ensure that its healthy phytonutrients remain intact and available.
• Resist the temptation to place your beautiful bottle of olive oil on the window sill. Light and heat are enemies of olive oil. So, store it in a cool and dark place.
• Remember, oxygen promotes rancidity. Hence, store in a tightly sealed bottle.

Health Benefits
• Pure, extra virgin olive oil is not only a light and delicate addition to many wonderful dishes; it is one of the most health-promoting types of oils available.
• Olive oil is more healthful than other sources of alimentary fat because of its high content of monounsaturated fat (mainly oleic acid) and polyphenols.
• Olive oil is a super food for the heart, as it controls LDL ("bad" cholesterol) while raising HDL (the "good" cholesterol) levels.
• Olive oil is a natural juice which preserves the taste, aroma, vitamins and properties of the olive fruit. Olive oil is the only vegetable oil that can be consumed as it is - freshly pressed from the fruit.
• The oil also has excellent antioxidant properties.
• Olive oil is very well tolerated by the stomach. In fact, olive oil's protective function has a beneficial effect on ulcers and gastritis.
• Olive oil activates the secretion of bile and pancreatic hormones much more naturally than prescribed drugs. Consequently, it lowers the incidence of gallstone formation.
• Olive oil lowers the risk of colon cancer.

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