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How to tell a good olive oil

Just like wine, there’s a bewildering selection of olive oils for sale. And producing and maintaining good extra virgin olive oil isn’t simple. Many supermarket olive oils don’t  live up to their labels; even if it says “extra virgin” by the time it reaches your table, it might not be.

The good news is, you don’t have to be an expert to tell a superior olive oil from an inferior one. If you know what to look for, you won’t be fooled. You will need to employ two of your senses: smell and taste.

1.Aroma. Your nose knows!

Don’t worry, if you don’t have the nose of a bloodhound! A really good extra virgin olive oil is always aromatic, it will never have a neutral aroma. When you open a new bottle, or warm a glass of olive oil in your hands for a few minutes, you should be able to detect a distinct fragrance of freshness.

Freshly-pressed olives have a herbaceous fragrance like that of freshly-mown grass. That’s basically it. (Experts are able to detect all sorts of other elements such as, artichokes, apple or tomatoes, but if you stick to grass, you’re ok.)

No aroma at all means that the olive oil is past its best or is not extra virgin. Unpleasant odours such as spoiling fruit, mustiness or a metallic smell are no-nos. Listen to your nose: it knows!


 2. Taste. Get used to the peppery taste.

A good extra virgin olive oil will never have a neutral taste. The freshest extra virgin oils with the highest nutrient content will have a slightly bitter taste, and a peppery feel in the throat. This is good!

Just like you got used to dark, bitter chocolate because it’s good for you, you should get used to this. Olive oil connoisseurs look for the peppery-ness and cherish it.

 

 Why Greek Extra virgin olive oil?

Because you can’t go wrong with Greek olive oil. While there are many good and even award-winning olive oils from other Mediterranean countries eg. Italy and Spain, over 80% of the olive oil Greece produces is of superior, extra virgin quality, so the chances are that any Greek olive oil you buy will be good. Compare this to Italy, which only produces 25% extra virgin quality, and buys Greek olive oil to mix with its own. Over 60% of Greek olive oil is exported in bulk to Italy for mixing and re-labelling as Italian.

Greek olive oil is so good for a number of reasons, which altogether make it a uniquely qualitative option:

1.Olive trees love to grow near to the sea. Greece has the longest coastline in Europe: the sea breezes fanning through the olive trees help to keep the trees naturally healthy and free from pests and disease, without the need for artificial pesticides. You will find olive trees growing everywhere in Greece, whether cultivated or wild.

2.The Mediterranean climate, with mild winters and long summers. The trees are rarely afflicted with damaging frost and the sun concentrates goodness, flavour and aroma.

3.The soil quality. Olive trees grow best in mineral-rich, well-drained soil. Greece is mountainous, with many sun-drenched slopes, and its volcanic legacy has left trace minerals very beneficial to plant life. Due to Greece’s low industrialization this has, to a great extent, remained unspoilt. The result is that most Greek extra virgin olive oils are particularly rich in polyphenols, the antioxidants and vitamins that are so beneficial to your health.

4.Cultivation methods. Traditional olive cultivating methods are still practiced everywhere in Greece. The land has remained in the hands of the descendants of the original families for generations, with olive knowledge passed down. Among other things, this means that the trees are planted well apart and allowed to grow tall and healthy (low intensity), compared with large olive farms in other countries where the trees are crowded close to each other like bushes (high intensity), in order to make it easier for machine-harvesting. Machine harvesting is faster and more economical, but it bruises the olive fruit and damages the quality of the oil. Hand-harvesting in Greece is labour-intensive, which adds to the production cost, but makes for consistently high quality result. One could say that the Greeks put the tree before their convenience, and nature rewards them with superior olive oil in abundance.

 

Why spend more on a premium olive oil?

There are many grades of olive oil. The top grade is “extra virgin.” But not all extra virgin olive oils are alike.

Medical studies point to polyphenols being responsible for much of olive oil’s healthy benefits. Premium extra virgin olive oil is pressed from top quality olives, retaining more natural polyphenols and active phyto-nutrients than other olive oils. Though you will be asked to pay more for a premium, organic or PDO-designated extra virgin olive oil, there is a real difference in nutritional values, as well as in  taste and quality characteristics.

Both extra virgin and virgin olive oils have the same calorific value. But it’s worth buying a good quality extra virgin oil because you actually need to use less than other olive oils in order to get the health benefits, which is important if you are also watching your weight. A little as two tablespoons a day (or 25ml) of a high quality extra virgin can make a difference to your health!  That’s why it’s better to buy the best quality extra virgin olive oil you can.

 

About Greek balsamic vinegar

The original greek balsamic vinegar dates back to Homer

In the ancient Greek kitchen, red wine vinegar was a basic ingredient. Used as a preservative and flavouring agent, it was known to have antiseptic and therapeutic qualities.

The ancient Greeks also produced vinegar by mixing raisins with grape must, and allowing it to ferment, making it thick and sweet. This was the original Greek balsamic vinegar and each household made it for its own use. Sweet vinegars like balsamic have been recorded since the time of Homer, and as far back as 6000 years BC.

Good vinegar needs time

Most of the balsamic vinegar on the market today isn’t aged, it’s commercially-made, enriched with caramelized sugars and other agents to artificially imitate the traditional maturing process.

To make a good vinegar, aging is a necessary process which retains good body, augments the aromas and softens the acidity. Authentic balsamic vinegar can age for up to 100 years and is rare and expensive.

 

Artisanal vinegar is back

Though exact recipes vary and many are family secrets, Greek balsamic vinegars are still made in the traditional way.

-Grape must is allowed to ferment over a period weeks or months and then transferred to oak barrels, where it may mature for years.

- As the vinegar matures, it develops specific flavour characteristics, such as tannins, aromas, colour and density.

-When it is considered ready, the balsamic vinegar is bottled unfiltered. In this way it retains all its considerable nutrients, amino acids and minerals, which are known to confer health benefits.

 

Greek vinaigrette: simply classic!

Greek vinaigrette – ladoxido – is the simplest of vinaigrettes, made with extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar, sometimes with the addition of dried herbs, such as oregano or mint. What distinguishes authentic Greek vinaigrette is the quality of the raw ingredients in a laconic blend, the pure taste of nature. Delicious, not just in salads but also for marinades and steamed vegetables.

Greek honey vinaigrette – oxymellon -  made with honey-imbued vinegar, is an ancient recipe that tastes bang up to date. An elegant and refined alternative that adds gourmet sophistication to any salad.

Premium Greek extra virgin olive oil and traditional aged Greek honey balsamic vinegar come together in an ethereal vinaigrette dressing, combining flavour, aroma and a rich polyphenol bouquet!

 

Why Greek PDO and PGI products?

Due to the quality of its produce and its distinct and varied regional food processing and culinary traditions, Greece has over 100 certified Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) or Protected Geographical Indication products (PGI).

Unique Greek PDO or PGI products include several superb wines, 30 different extra virgin olive oils, 10 different eating olives, including the black Kalamata olive, the only olive variety widely-recognized by consumers and considered the best olive in the world, 32 different fruit, vegetable and nut varieties, 20 regional cheeses, including feta cheese, made from goat and sheep milk, the famous Chios mastic, precious red saffron from Kozani, and delicious botarga from Messolonghi, a sought-after delicacy. Many of these products have won quality awards at prestigious competitions worldwide.

 

MORE FAQs

 

What are the health benefits of Greek balsamic vinegar?

There are a number of health benefits in preferring traditionally-made or Greek balsamic vinegar over other mass-produced vinegars and salad dressings.

Because Greek balsamic vinegar is traditionally-made from grape juice, it is rich in nutrients which are concentrated during the maturing process. This fruit vinegar contains antioxidant polyphenols such as quercetin (a bioflavonoid), vitamins (A, C, B) and minerals (potassium, calcium, iron).

Two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar a day, along with a balanced daily diet can actually aid weight management. The acetic acid in balsamic vinegar helps slow the absorption of carbohydrate foods as they are broken down in the body, helping to balance blood sugar levels. It’s cholesterol and fat-free, and contains hardly any sodium.

Preferring Balsamic vinegar in salad dressings is a flavourful and healthy substitute for high-cholesterol dressings such as mayonnaise.

 

Which parts of Greece produce olive oil?

Olives are cultivated throughout the country and on most Greek islands. There are more than 130 million olive trees and over half the cultivated land is given over to olive production.

Greek olive oil is of very fine quality. Greece is the world’s top producer of extra virgin olive oil and more than 80% is superior category.

Whether they are cultivated in family olive groves or growing wild by the roadside, olive trees love Greece. They love the ideal climate and environment: mild winters and hot, dry summers, hilly ground near the sea (Greece has 15.000 kilometres of coastline, the longest in Europe), carpeted with aromatic flora such as wild lavender, thyme and rosemary.

There is a great diversity of local plant species: over 6000, one tenth of which are unique to Greece and an abundance of olive varieties, resulting in a rich choice of unique, aromatic monocultivars or blended extra virgin olive oils and superb table olives.

 

Where does the Mediterranean diet originate?

There is no single Mediterranean diet, since the populations of the various countries in the region have different cultures and dietary habits.

The Mediterranean diet was first described in the early 1950s, when it was linked to low mortality rates from coronary heart disease in Mediterranean countries. The first studies were made in Greece, and particularly in Crete.

The traditional greek diet, rich in dishes slow-cooked in olive oil and based on seasonal fresh produce, such as vegetables and pulses, is very much a prototype for the traditional Mediterranean diet.

The popularity of Greek restaurants around the world is proof that Greek cuisine is not only healthy but also delicious. And, in recognition of the quality of Greek cuisine, more and more gourmet establishments are including authentic Greek dishes or Greek-inspired dishes on their regular menus.

 

How many Greek olive varieties are there?

Determining exactly how many olive varieties there are is challenging. The same name can be used for several different varieties, or a single variety may be grown under different names in different regions! However, it is believed that there are around 40 different olive varieties cultivated in Greece today.

Over 30 of these native olive varieties are cultivated for their oil, producing excellent monocultivar oils and as well as blends, many of which have won quality awards both in Greece and internationally.

 

How many categories of Greek extra virgin olive oil are there?

Greek extra virgin olive oil is available in the following categories:

~ Extra virgin olive oil

~ Organic extra virgin olive oil

~ Protected Designation of Origin (PDO)

~ Protected Geographical Indication (PGI).

Much like wine, the taste, aroma and colour of an olive oil are directly influenced by the unique combinations of conditions prevalent in each region. Olive oils may be produced from a single variety (monocultivar) or from a blend of two or three varieties, crushed together at the same time. Both may be equally good quality and a matter of personal preference.

There are many excellent Greek extra virgin olive oils from numerous producing regions to choose from, many of which, when they meet the specific characteristics associated with a particular region, are also classified as protected designations of origin.

 

How many varieties of Greek Extra Virgin olive oil are certified as PDO* or PGI* by the European Union? 

Greece has 26 Protected Origin, PDO or PGI-rated olive oils, a very high number.

Only products genuinely originating in the designated region can be labelled PDO or PGI, which indicate specific or unique taste and quality characteristics particular to products of that region.

With a PDO or PGI-designated olive oil, you know that you are buying a unique and superior, genuinely Greek, extra virgin olive oil from the specific region in which it is produced.

* PDO/Protected Designation of Origin, PGI/Protected Geographical Indication.

 

Where do the colour variations in Greek olive oil come from?

The unique colour of olive oil is due to natural pigments like chlorophyll, pheophytin and carotenoids. The presence of various factors depends on the olive variety, degree of ripeness, soil & microclimate and extraction procedures.

Greek extra virgin olive oils can range in colour from emerald green, golden-green through to amber. The green is typically due to the high chlorophyll content present in green olives picked early in the season. Greek early harvest olive oils are named agourelaio which literally means “early” or “raw” oil from unripe olives. Olives harvested later are riper and tend to produce more golden-coloured oils, due to naturally-occurring carotene-like elements.

A colourless or very faint yellow oil indicates an oil that has been exposed to sunlight or artificial light for too long. A very light-coloured oil with no or neutral taste is usually a refined oil that has been chemically processed and should not be preferred. An extra virgin olive oil will always have a ‘personality’: an aroma and taste of fresh olives.

 

How can I tell if my olive oil is still good to eat?

Extra virgin olive oil should smell fresh and ‘clean’, like freshly-mown grass. Do not consume if it smells bad or rancid. Olive oils that sit for a long time on the shelf will gradually lose their nutritional benefits.

Extra virgin oils keep better because they start with low acidity levels. As a general rule, antioxidant levels begin to decline between three and six months of storage.

In a Greek kitchen, a bottle of good olive oil is pressed into constant use. The Greeks are the highest consumers of olive oil in the world. They not only pour it on salads, they use it for grilling, cooking, frying and frequently baking. Don’t open a bottle of good olive oil and leave it on the shelf. Consume it!

 

What’s the difference between filtered & unfiltered olive oil?

In unfiltered - or more correctly, minimally-filtered - extra virgin olive oil, tiny particles of olives that have escaped into the oil through the cold pressing are left in. These olive bits have been removed from filtered extra virgin olive oil.

Unfiltered olive oil in the bottle may have a hazy or cloudy appearance due to the suspended olive particles, and may develop a tiny sediment at the base of the bottle. This sediment is perfectly safe to eat and is very high in nutritional values, which is why many olive connoisseurs cherish it.

There is a growing consumer fan base for the taste and texture of unfiltered extra virgin olive oil, which is sometimes also called ‘living’ or ‘raw’ oil. Unfiltered fresh olive oil is also a growing trend in response to consumer demand for minimally-processed food produce.

 

How much of the olive oil produced worldwide is extra virgin quality olive oil?

Only around 10% of the olive oil produced in the world is superior or extra virgin category. 80% of Greek olive oil is extra virgin.

One of the internationally-recognised quality parameters for extra virgin olive oil is acidity level. The maximum acceptable acidity level for an extra virgin olive oil is 0.8%. In a premium extra virgin you would look for around 0.3% acidity or less.

 

How is olive oil quality measured? 

Various laboratory tests are capable of detecting not only quality but also how fresh the olive oil is, whether it has been corrupted with older olive oil or seed oils (which are much cheaper), and even minute traces of herbicides and pesticides.

The physico-chemical characteristics of extra virgin olive oil are determined through a spectroscopic examination which measures such values as: acidity level, peroxide value, ultra-violet (UV) absorption indexes K232, K270, FR etc.

The standard or maximum permitted indicators (less than: > or equal to: =) for each olive oil classification are:

OLIVE OIL CLASS

ACIDITY LEVEL %

PEROXIDES (meqO2 / Kg oil)

K270

K232

Extra virgin

0.8%

20

0.22

2.5

Virgin

2%

20

0.25

2.5

Refined

1%

15

0.9

2.5

 

Why is acidity level in olive oil important?

The level of acidity in olive oil is one of the major quality indicators. Acidity is a measure of free fatty acid content, usually expressed as a percentage out of 100%. The lower the acidity, the higher the quality. More specifically,

The acidity in olive oil is a result of a breakdown of the fatty acid chains in olive oil, in which free fatty acids are formed.  Free fatty acidity (FFA) is a direct measure of the oil’s quality and reflects the care taken at all production stages, from the olive tree and harvest to the bottle and consumption. Oil extracted carelessly or from poor quality olive fruit or not stored or bottled properly will result in a product with high levels of free acidity.

FFA is expressed as grams of oleic acid per 100g of oil. Freshly-pressed oil, made carefully without the use of excessive heat, from sound, healthy, freshly-picked olives has a very low acidity, well under 0.5%. To qualify as extra virgin, oils must have less than 0.8% acidity. Premium extra virgin olive oils usually have an acidity of 3% or lower.

 

Some olive oils mention peroxide levels. What does this mean?

Peroxide levels are an additional measure of the oil’s freshness. The more oxidized the oil, the more peroxides are present. Peroxide levels can be established in a very simple lab procedure. In order to be classified ‘extra virgin’ olive oil must have less than 20meq/kg. High quality extra virgin olive oils have a peroxide level of less than 10meq/kg.

 

What is olive oil?

Olive oil is a fat. Fats can be solid or liquid, vegetal or animal. Olive oil is a liquid vegetal fat, made up mainly of monounsaturated fats, which are healthier than other kinds of fats. Olive and avocado oils are the only oils that come from fruit (instead of seeds) and can be used without further processing. Olive oil is in effect fresh fruit juice.

 

What’s in olive oil?

The exact composition of olive oil varies by cultivar and cultivation methods, by region, altitude, soil quality, microclimate, time and method of harvest and extraction process. However, good quality extra virgin olive oils will share the following characteristics:

Olive oil is high in monounsaturated oleic acid, known as omega 9 (55-83%), as well as omega 6 linoleic acid (3.5-21%) and contains a small amount of alpha-linolenic acid or omega 3 (around 1.5%). Monounsaturated fat is a much healthier choice than the saturated fat found in animal fats such as butter or lard, which clog the arteries and raise (bad) cholesterol levels. The body also needs certain essential fats it cannot produce by itself: linoleic (omega 6) and alpha-linolenic acids (omega 3) are two such essential fats. Olive oil contains no cholesterol or unhealthy transfats.

Olive oil also contains flavenoid polyphenols which are potent natural antioxidants. These antioxidants give fresh unprocessed extra virgin olive oil its pungently aromatic  and slightly bitter taste. They are known to have a host of benefits, including reducing (bad) cholesterol levels in the blood, lowering blood pressure and the risk of heart disease. There are as many as 5mg of polyphenols in every 10g of extra virgin olive oil. Many other nut and seed oils contain no polyphenols and not all olive oils contain polyphenols: refined oils, for instance, are chemically-processed and made from inferior olives or olive oil.

Finally, olive oil also contains fat solublevitamins, which are not destroyed by cooking. Extra virgin olive oil contains vitamin E and vitamin K in significant quantities. One tablespoon of olive oil provides 10% of the recommended daily amount of vitamin E, and is the second richest source of vitamin K, after dark green leafy vegetables such as broccoli or spinach.

 

What is extra virgin olive oil?  

Extra virgin olive oil is pure natural olive juice cold-pressed from high quality olive fruit, without any other industrial or chemical processing. Internationally-accepted methods of extracting the pure olive juice include the addition or omission of water added. Since certain vitamins and nutrients in the natural olive juice are water-soluble, the “no-water” advocates claim their method produces the best oil. All are agreed, however, on the importance of “cold-pressing” or “cold-extraction.” This means that energy or heat which is naturally generated during the oil extraction procedure should be avoided, as this is detrimental to the quality, and temperatures should be kept below internationally-specified parameters.

There are several measurable parameters which determine whether an olive oil can be classified as “extra virgin.” A major quality factor is the level of acidity, which must not exceed 0.8%. Other significant quality factors are determined by recognized experts, who are trained to evaluate organoleptic factors. Through taste testing, they allocate marks for aroma, taste and texture, while marking down for any detectable flaws.

It is actually quite easy to identify a good quality, fresh extra virgin olive oil. Look for an aroma of “freshly-mown grass” and strong “fruity” flavor. The freshest extra virgin olive oils are described as “peppery”, which simply means they have a slightly bitter (but not unpleasant) taste and create a momentary “burning” sensation in the throat, which is actually more like a buzz. Olive oil fans always look for these factors. The best use of extra virgin olive oil is in fresh salads or drizzled on grilled vegetables and other warm dishes just before serving, which really enhances the taste.

 

What is virgin olive oil?                                                                                                      Virgin olive oil is a more economical alternative to extra virgin because the quality and organoleptic standards are not as exacting. (Virgin olive oil is allowed an acidity level of up to 2%). However, it still undergoes the same pressing or extraction process as for extra virgin olive oil, and remains pure natural olive juice pressed from the olive fruit, without any other industrial or chemical processing. Many chefs recommend using virgin olive oil for cooking as a healthy alternative to other processed vegetable oils.

 

What is refined olive oil?
The term “refined”, when used in reference to olive oil, means that inferior quality olive oil with little or no nutrients has undergone chemical processing in order to make it taste better.

Refined olive oil, which may include a tiny percentage of virgin olive oil, is frequently (and misleadingly) marketed by big brand names as “pure”, “100% olive oil”, “light” or “extra light” in taste.

Standard guidelines stipulate a low level of acceptable acidity not exceeding 1%, compared with that of virgin olive oil, which allows up to 2%. This compounds the confusion for consumers, who think they are buying a “quality” olive oil, whereas it is important to bear in mind that refined olive oil has undergone “unnatural” chemical processing  (which virgin oil has not), and is significantly nutritionally inferior.

 

Why does olive oil deteriorate in air & light?

Fats and oils such as olive oil are oxidized when they come in contact with oxygen.

With advanced oxidation the oil develops an unpleasant rancid taste and odour and the nutritional value is gone. Essential fatty acids such as linoleic and linolenic are destroyed and certain fat soluble vitamins vanish.

Photo-oxidation occurs when the oil is exposed to natural or artificial light sources, causing deterioration of the taste and benefits.

 

What’s the difference between olive oil & other cooking fats & oils?

Olive oil is the main cooking oil in Mediterranean countries. It’s the highest in monounsaturated fats and antioxidant content and does not lose its nutritional benefits during cooking, only some taste and aroma.

 

 

Total fat

Monounsaturated fat

Saturated fat

Polyunsaturated fat

Smoke point

Olive oil

Canola oil

Sunflower oil

Palm oil

Soybean oil

Butter

100g

100g

100g

100g

100g

  81g

73g

60g

20g

40g

23g

21g

14g

  8g

10g

50g

16g

51g

11g

32g

66g

10g

58g

  3g

216°C

240°C

232°C

235°C

232°C

177°C

 

What’s the difference between virgin & non-virgin olive oils?

Virgin olive oil has been pressed from fresh olives and is in effect a fresh fruit juice. Extra virgin olive oil has been pressed from the best quality olives.

Non-virgin olive oils are made from unpleasant-tasting, inferior quality olives and have undergone processing involving the use of chemical solvent to improve the taste. Such oils will be labeled as plain ‘olive oil’ and ‘extra light’ or ‘100% olive oil’ or ‘pure’. None of these oils contain the beneficial nutritional values of virgin oils, although they have the same number of calories.

‘Olive oil’ or ‘100% pure olive oil’ is a blend of virgin and refined olive oil but the percentage content of virgin olive oil is rarely stated! Moreover, a high percentage content of virgin olive oil in such a case would defeat the object, which is to keep the cost down.

 

What do experts mean when they refer to olive oil sensory characteristics such as “fruity”, “bitter” and “peppery”? 

When evaluating extra virgin olive oil quality experts look for particular sensory and taste characteristics. Major positive characteristics, of which every self-respecting extra virgin should have plenty, are:

“Fruity”. The element of fruitiness is detected by its aroma -the nose knows! - and on tasting. Fruitiness intensity in olive oil depends on the olive variety, its freshness and the quality and optimum ripeness of the olive fruit from which it has been pressed.

Bitter”, sometimes also described as “pungent”, “intense” or “robust”, is the olive oil characteristic that is most often misunderstood. It is a desirable taste characteristic, indicative of very fresh olive oil pressed from the green fruit, and should not under any circumstances be considered a defect. Olive oil enthusiasts look for this element as they know it is a feature of how fresh the oil is, and a confirmation of its richness in beneficial antioxidants. There are a few olive varieties that are naturally less bitter but, as a general rule, this sensory characteristic fades as the olive oil in the bottle ages.  To preserve this characteristic as long as possible, it is important to store your extra virgin properly, away from light and heat, and tightly sealed to prevent oxidization.

Peppery”, also described as “spicy after-taste”, is another desirable sensory characteristic of fresh extra virgin which is often misunderstood. Described as a slight burning sensation at the back of the throat on swallowing, it is actually experienced as more of a momentary buzz or a tingling sensation, and is usually found in early harvest or very fresh extra virgin olive oil.

 

How can I become my own olive oil taste expert?                                                                  
Even if you don’t have the developed “nose” of the expert olive oil taster, it is quite easy to tell the quality of your olive oil when you know what to look for. Below we describe how you can carry out your own olive oil tasting. And it’s fun if you invite friends around to do it together: 

1.Discover the aromas. This procedure is effective if you have at least two different olive oil samples to compare, for instance a high quality extra virgin and an economical supermarket sample.

- Pour a tablespoon from each oil sample into separate small glasses. Rub your palms together to generate heat and then hold the glass for a few moments to warm the contents. This will gently release any aromas. To prevent the aromas from escaping, cover the top of the glass with your palm. Gently swirl the contents, so as to smear the insides, keeping your palm cupped over the top of the glass.

- Bring the glass to your nose, open your palm and inhale deeply through the nose two or three times to smell the aromas emerging. Try to describe and memorize them (some people note them down). If you are unsure, allow 3-4 minutes to elapse before you try again. The olfactory ability loses it edge rapidly and your nose needs a few moments to “recover” its acuity.

2.Try the taste. Take a sip of the oil. Swirl the oil around your mouth gently with your tongue. Keeping the oil behind your teeth with the tip of your tongue (the most taste-sensitive tongue section), and with your lips ajar, inhale quickly two or three times.         - Finally, swallow the oil to complete the taste impression. Try to describe the stages of the taste experience: first impressions, main impression and aftertaste (if any). Do this with each of the oil samples you have chosen and then compare them. But before trying another oil, allow 5-10 minutes to pass and make sure to clean your palette first by rinsing your mouth with water and eating a piece of bread or a slice of apple.

 

How is olive oil beneficial to my health?

Olive oil is rich in vitamin E, mono-unsaturated fatty acids (at up to 83%) and antioxidants. Mono-unsaturated fat is proven to be much healthier than saturated fat or “trans” fats.  Antioxidants are natural vitamins and are referred to in olive oil as polyphenols. The highly beneficial polyphenols found in quantity in high quality extra virgin olive oil include: oleic acid, olefropeini and squalene. These substances have a healthy action on the digestive system (stomach, duodenum and intestines) and the cardiovascular system, helping to prevent disease, and are known to reduce "bad" and increase "good" cholesterol respectively.

 

What are polyphenols and why are they good for you?
In nature, polyphenols present in plants. Unlike vitamins and minerals, polyphenols are not required by the human body to sustain life, but they are thought to exert considerable beneficial effects and are recognized for their antioxidant properties. Fruits and vegetables are sources of polyphenols. Other sources include nuts and seeds, herbs, cocoa products (eg. dark chocolate), whole grains, tea and coffee, red wine. 

Polyphenols are believed to exert cardio-protective action by improving the blood vessel function, helping to preventing blood clots in arteries, and positively influencing blood lipids and insulin sensitivity.

The European Authority for Food Safety (EFSA), which evaluates scientific health claims made on food products, has rejected all health claims relating to polyphenols to date, except those related to extra virgin olive oil. This can be recorded as "polyphenols in olive oil contribute to the protection of blood lipids from oxidative stress."

They stipulate that the beneficial antioxidant effect is obtained with a daily consumption of 20 g of olive oil (equivalent to two tablespoons), as long as the oil contains at least 5 mg of the polyphenol hydroxytyrosol and its derivatives, per 20 g of oil. This can be found in good quality fresh olive oil ie. extra virgin.

 

What are antioxidants and why are they beneficial to me?
Dietary antioxidants protect the body from oxidative damage, which over time can lead to diseases such as cancer or cardiovascular disease. Typical dietary antioxidants are vitamin C, vitamin E and carotenoids, and minerals such as zinc and selenium, are key components of the body's antioxidant enzymes.

 

Why Greek organic foods?

More and more producers in Greece are turning towards certified organic cultivation methods and products. It is also worth noting that many products in Greece that are not officially certified as organic are nevertheless natural and minimally-processed, due to large cultivating areas in Greece never having known any industrial activity, and Greek consumers’ insistence on high quality, natural seasonal produce.

Organic foods are agricultural products whose production is based on natural cultivation processes. This means using natural alternatives to control pests, diseases and weeds. Trace residues of chemical or synthetic fertilizers and pesticides and herbicides can cause health problems, especially in children, as their effect is cumulative over time.

Organically-produced foods are healthier because they contain no hormones, synthetic fertilizers, antibiotics, etc. They have superior nutritional value and often are more tasty and aromatic. For certified-organic foods look for the logo on-pack by a recognized US- or EU-certifying organization. This is a guarantee that the product is organic.

 


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