Olive Oil History

Greek olive oil has earned its well-deserved reputation as the most natural oil, boasting a rich flavour, delectable taste, and captivating aroma. Its distinction arises from its integral role as the cornerstone of the Mediterranean diet. Deeply entrenched in the Greek landscape, the eternal olive trees yield oil that ranks among the world’s finest. These revered trees have found their cherished home in Greece, where devoted growers tend to them with utmost care. Greek olive oil embodies a spirit of wisdom and love that has permeated traditional cuisine and cultural practises for over 4,000 years.

In the realm of ancient Greek mythology, the olive tree holds a special place. It is said to be the first tree to grace the land of Greece. During the divine struggle for control over Athens, Poseidon offered seawater as his gift, while Athena planted an olive tree upon a rocky outcrop. Cecrops, the King of Athens, was called upon by Zeus to render his judgement, and he recognised in the olive tree the enduring promise of glory and happiness. Athena’s name became synonymous with the city, and the olive tree emerged as an emblem of peace and prosperity. In the subsequent years, a wreath woven from olive leaves, known as the “kotinos,” was awarded to victors in the Olympics as a symbol of honour and achievement.

The olive tree holds multiple symbolic meanings:

  • It stands as an emblem of peace and victory.
  • It is a source of health and longevity.
  • It embodies divine protection.
  • It represents optimism and faith.
  • It serves as a sanctuary for inspiration and creativity.

Today, Greece boasts more than 120 million olive trees, yielding 150-200 thousand tons of olive oil and thousands of tons of various types of olives.

Olive Oil & Nutrition

2,500 years ago, Hippocrates, the pioneer of rational medicine, hailed olive oil as a potent remedy. He used it to ease muscle pain, prevent poisoning, heal wounds, and treat stomach ailments, documenting over sixty medicinal uses in his extensive work.

Today, science confirms olive oil’s remarkable benefits. Rich in monounsaturated fats, it reduces bad cholesterol, guarding against heart disease. Oleocanthal reduces inflammation and enhances joint function. Vitamins E and K, along with Beta Carotene, act as powerful antioxidants, lowering cancer risk and supporting digestive health.

Extra virgin olive oil, rich in polyphenols, defends against cancer and heart disease by reducing bad cholesterol levels. It also aids in diabetes prevention by elevating good cholesterol, lowering triglycerides, and improving blood sugar control.

These qualities make olive oil an invaluable addition to a healthy diet.

Olive Oil & Mediterranean Diet

The term “Mediterranean diet” was coined in 1991 by American physiologist Ancel Keys, as he sought to describe the eating habits of Mediterranean countries. Keys’ research highlighted the longer lifespans and reduced incidence of heart disease among Mediterranean Sea inhabitants. Just two years later, in collaboration with the European Office of the World Health Organisation, Harvard Medical School scientists unveiled the “Mediterranean Diet Pyramid” at Cambridge.

At the foundation of this dietary pyramid lies olive oil, advocating for its use over butter and margarine as the primary source of healthy fats. The Mediterranean diet is characterised by its abundance of fruits, vegetables, and legumes, embracing seasonal ingredients, daily consumption of low-fat cheese and yogurt, and moderate portions of fish, poultry, and red meat. Additionally, a daily recommendation of red wine, with two glasses for men and one for women, is suggested to accompany the main meal.

Today, the Mediterranean diet is globally renowned not only for its positive impact on human health but also as a cherished cultural heritage. In recognition of its cultural significance, UNESCO bestowed it with the honour of being included in the list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2010.

Health Benefits of Olive Oil: The Power of Polyphenols

Most of us savour the exquisite taste of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO). Yet, what remains a hidden gem to many is the intricate chemistry of olive oil and its potential to enhance well-being.

Enter polyphenols, those remarkable compounds derived from plants, boasting the potential to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. While the term might sound daunting, let’s delve into it together.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil, thanks to its unrefined nature, packs a more significant polyphenol punch compared to other olive oils, even those imported from Europe.

Polyphenols serve as potent antioxidants that combat a formidable foe lurking within your body: free radicals. These rogue molecules, sporting at least one unpaired electron, wreak havoc in your system by damaging healthy cells.

In her book, “The New American Olive Oil” (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2009), Fran Gauge beautifully articulates the role of polyphenols:

“These antioxidants circulate in the body, forming alliances with free radicals, which are unstable compounds linked to over 60 different health conditions, including cancer, atherosclerosis, and the ageing process.”

Nutritionist Lisa Sheldon, the author of “Olive Oil Baking” (Turner Publishing, 2007), emphasises that polyphenols “are essential for cellular health as they shield against free radical-induced damage.”

In essence, polyphenols act as guardians against serious health issues.

Besides olive oil, other polyphenol-rich foods include onions, apples, tea, red wine, strawberries, blueberries, and cranberries.

Our robust EVOOs, such as our Olio Nuovo, pressed immediately after olive harvesting, are also a rich source of polyphenols, ensuring you enjoy the full spectrum of their benefits.