One of the healthiest fats to consume, olive oil, is produced heavily in countries like Spain, Italy, and Greece, but altogether, there are more than 20 top producing countries in the world.
Most of the world’s production comes, however, from the Mediterranean region where olive trees are grown for centuries.
Where the best olive oil comes from
There are many countries that produce good olive oil but about a handful that delivers what is considered top-quality extra-virgin oils. The top four countries where high-quality olive oil is produced are Italy, Spain, Greece, and Croatia.
One country not as popular but that does produce some premium oils is Australia too. Australia olive oils benefits from rich soils and very good growing conditions that enable producers to craft world-class olive oil, nowadays competing with rivals in the Mediterranean basin and sometimes even taking the lead in the different types of olive oils.
What differentiates olive oils from one another?
There are three main characteristics by which olive oils can vary. These are color, aroma, and flavor, influenced by different factors such as environmental factors, growing conditions – both in terms of location and regarding soil, ripeness, olive type, and pressing technique among others.
Olive oils worldwide, except for those in the United States, are graded by The International Olive Oil Council that determines quality standards based on the production method, the flavor, and the acidity content of oils.
The finest olive oils
The different grades of olive oils are extra virgin which includes two subcategories – premium extra virgin and extra virgin, followed by virgin olive oil, which includes fine virgin, virgin, and semi-fine virgin.
Extra virgins are the best olive oils. These are oils obtained from the first pressing and cannot include any chemicals nor can they be refined once the pressing process has finished.
Virgin oils come second to extra virgins, often the only difference between the two being the acidity level that can vary by as little as half a percentage point. Again, virgin oils can’t contain chemicals or be refined.
How are olive oils healthy?
Despite the many olive types and the different factors that determine an olive oil, extra virgins and virgins are all healthy oils due to the fact that they carry monounsaturated fatty acids, fats linked since a very long time with many health benefits.
There are various ways in which monounsaturated fats influence body health. First, these fatty acids can help regulate blood pressure by reducing levels of bad cholesterol in the blood. Second, by helping reduce bad cholesterol, monounsaturated fats also lower the risk of developing heart disease.
In addition to containing healthy fats, olive oils are a very good source of antioxidants, already known to help against many serious health issues.
Oleocanthal and oleuropein are olive oil compounds that act both as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents. They fight chronic inflammation in the body and can prevent diseases such as arthritis and diabetes.
It is interesting to note that cardiovascular disease is rarer in countries situated in the Mediterranean region where olive oils are most consumed. In Mediterranean countries, the number of people affected by heart attacks and strokes is considerably lower compared to other countries in the world.
Important when choosing an olive oil
For real health benefits, always choose extra virgin olive oil. There are many brands that don’t meet the standards for extra virgins, and fake olive oil can actually cause damage than doing good things.
Cut with cheaper oils, fake olive oil doesn’t just taste bad but can also be bad for health given the cheap vegetable oils in its composition.