My grandfather is Syria always began his day by swallowing two tablespoons of olive oil. In his last years he lived alone, always taking care of himself, getting his exercise by walking three miles a day. I do not remember him being sick. He died at the age of ninety-six and his sister lived until she was 114. Perhaps their longevity genes were good, and I would never guarantee any one’s life by drinking olive oil, but there is a great deal to recommend it both as a cooking medium and for use in green salads.
It adds taste, and it definitely is healthy. Although you ingest fat when you ingest olive oil, it is a “good fat.” It keeps your good cholesterol HDL high and lower your bad cholesterol. Olive oil is the only oil that some research suggests helps prevent cancer and arthritis. Its beneficial effects on the heart are documented. The latest study I’ve read is one from Kobe, Japan, where researchers used olive oil on the skin of lab rates, the exposed them to ultraviolet rays without getting cancer.
Olive oil still processed the same way it was processed in centuries past, with one exception. Instead of donkeys rolling the wheel, machines now are used. It is called the “cold-press” process.
In the Mediterranean, olives are not picked from the trees until after the first rain, which generally doesn’t happen until October or November. Until the rains, the olives are covered with dust, which the rains wash away. Even more important, the rains decrease the acidity of the olives, taking away the bitter taste and producing a better-flavor olive.
Like honey, which reflects the area from which it is produced, olive oil reflects the country of its origin. It reflects the soil, the climate, the rainfall and the age of the tree.
Not all olive oils are created equal. Darker-colored oil is richer in oleic acid. The higher the percentage of oleic acid, the better it is for your health. Oils from Greece and Spain have been rated the highest in oleic acid.
If the health benefits and taste do not convince you to use good olive oil, you should know that women in the Mediterranean swear that their smooth, olive colored skin is the result of their use of olive oil both in food and on their skin after bathing.