Monday 26th June 2017

Olive Oil

Tuscan olive oil

Tuscan olive oil

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Tuscan olive oil

Olive oil health benefits and medical advantages are now well known, making olive oil increasingly popular.

Tuscan olive oil is the highest quality olive oil in the world. Tuscany produces olive oil to such a high degree of standard that its olive oil has been given its own label of origin, in the same way as renowned wines are defined by their regional origin. Tuscany is a protected geographical cultivation for oil.

There are several types of olive oil.

Extra virgin olive oil is the premium of all the olive oils. To register as extra virgin, it must prove to be free of any defects. Extra virgin olive oil is officially defined as an oil "obtained from the fruit of the olive tree that has not undergone any treatment other than washing, decontamination, centrifugation and filtration".

The ancient Tuscan tradition of growing olives has been nurtured for thousands of years. Today Tuscany continues to set the pace for olive oil producers around the world.

An important district in Tuscany for olive oil production is Chianti, a region of hills, cultivated with olive groves and vineyards, and dotted with cypress trees.

Another olive oil area is the countryside surrounding historical town of Lucca.

Lucca's olive oil is considered one of the best and is one of its specialities. The olive groves that provide its source grow on the hills of the whole province of Lucca, and the oil is manufactured by several companies in the town itself: Bertolli and Filippo Berio are the best known brand names.

The Bertolli family started their olive oil business in 1865, and Filippo Berio began producing and selling the finest olive oil under the brand name "Filippo Berio" even earlier, in the 1850s.

Other Italian regions producing good quality olive oil are Liguria, also called in English the "Italian Riviera", with a long arc-shaped coastline going all the way from the Tuscan coast to France, and Apulia, an agricultural region in South-East Italy, across the Adriatic Sea from Greece.

 

Why is olive oil so good for us?

For centuries, olive oil has been the symbol of good health and well being - its nutritious and digestive qualities make it a staple in the Mediterranean diet.

Why is olive oil so good for us?

Olive oil, unlike animal fats, does not contain cholesterol, being made up of mainly monounsaturated fatty acids.

There are three main types of fats: saturated fats, polyunsaturated fats and mono-unsaturated fats.

Saturated fats, found in animal products, are the fats which are generally bad for health.

Unsaturated fats (mono-unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats), found in olive oil, nuts and seeds, are good fats. They contain the same amount of calories, but offer many benefits for health. Research has shown that unsaturated fats, and particularly monounsaturated fats, may help to protect against heart disease by reducing the amount of cholesterol in the blood.

Tuscan olive groves

Tuscan olive groves

Olive oil contains 9 kcal per gram. Oils which are referred to as "light" relate specifically to flavor - the calorie content remains exactly the same.

It is the high intake of saturated fats, found in animal products, which are partly responsible for the high occurrences of mortality resulting from heart disease in the West - but not in the Mediterranean.

Beneficial to the digestive system, olive oil is highly digestible, has a mild laxative effect, creates an appetite, helps with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, and stimulates the gall bladder - thus preventing gallstones, as well as protecting the mucus membranes. Olive oil's monounsaturated fatty acids - mainly oleic acid - decrease the risk of developing certain types of cancer, like breast and colon cancer. In the Mediterranean, with a high daily intake of monounsaturated fatty acids, there are lower incidences of cancer.

Research goes further, to suggest that monounsaturated fat can potentially help those suffering from non-insulin dependent diabetes (when it is added to a diet rich in complex carbohydrates and fiber).

The beneficial elements contained in olive oil also help slow down the ageing process and the deterioration of cells.

The use of olive oil in weaning foods (from the 4-5th month of life) is ideal for its high content of monounsaturated oleic acid, which is vital for bone mineralisation and brain development.

 

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