The Wonder That Is Olive Oil February 26, 2016 12:59

Hi Everyone,

I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir when I start a blog by saying that olive oil is good for you.  As lovers of good food and believers in sourcing good quality, PB customers are usually well-versed in the nutritional benefits of their favourite ingredients.

We launched our self-serve flavoured oils and vinegars last summer and they’ve been a huge success with many of our customers now coming back with their empty bottle for a refill.

Which means, of course, that as well as being really delicious and super-good for you, you're also helping the environment.  My personal favourite is the basil oil which is delicious drizzled over salads – easily as tasty as any ready-made dressing.  

As well as our Self-Serve Dispensers we have a great choice of bottled oils and I’m really proud of the standard and choice we’ve achieved over the years – especially after reading some of the scandalous tales attached to major Italian bottlers (do read on for more on that!).

There are loads of mixed reports out there on olive oil and way back in the dark old days, we were told that a low-fat diet was the only way to avoid the BIG health problems. However, we now know that it’s the type of fat that counts and a diet rich in monounsaturated fats such as the ones found in olive oil, actually protects us from many chronic diseases. 

As the cornerstone of the Mediterranean diet, olive oil has long since been regarded as one of the main reasons the people of Italy, Greece, Spain, Portugal and the South of France live long and healthy lives.  

A study published in the scientific journal Diabetes Care showed that a Mediterranean style diet rich in olive oil reduced the risk of type II diabetes by almost 50 percent compared to a low fat diet.

And according to a new study from France published in the online issue of Neurology, older people who consume olive oil daily may be able to protect themselves from a stroke.

Researchers gathered information from the medical records of 7,625 individuals over the age of 65 from three cities in France: Bordeaux, Dijon and Montpellier.  After 5 years there were 148 strokes and the results showed that “intensive” users of olive oil, those that used for both cooking and dressing had a 41 percent lower risk of stroke compared to those that did not use olive oil at all. These results were noted even after considering weight, diet, physical activity and other risk factors. 

Most recently, a new study carried out by the University of Granada revealed that frying or roasting vegetables in olive oil as opposed to boiling, is a much better method of cooking in terms of nutritional value; so although your calories are higher, the nutrients are reserved and health benefits greater.

As these global studies begin to produce their results, we’re only just beginning to understand the countless ways olive oil can contribute to our wellbeing. In fact when you consider the fact that scientists all over the world have been interested enough to even conduct studies, you know there's something there. Let's face it, there are no control groups being fed fish suppers and expected to live long and prosper!

All great news for a woman who loves and sells olive oil! 

However, like all good things in life, not all olive oil is created equally!  It’s all about the process and although as a whole, olive oil is simply the product of the fruit from the olive tree there are different varieties depending on the process used to extract the oil.  

I've simplified it all down (there are whole websites dedicated to this!) but check out this great site if you want to know more:

Extra-virgin olive oil is an unrefined oil and the highest-quality olive oil you can buy. There are very specific standards oil has to meet to receive the label "extra-virgin." Because of the way extra-virgin olive oil is made, it retains more true olive taste, and has a lower level of oleic acid than other olive oil varieties. It also contains more of the natural vitamins and minerals found in olives.

Contrary to popular believe, you can cook with extra-virgin olive oil but it has a lower smoke point which means it will start to burn at a lower temperature so just keep an eye on it.  For me, I keep the pricey super-high quality stuff for dipping bread, making dressings and dips or pouring on cold dishes and then use a bottle of less expensive olive oil for cooking and baking.

Olive Oil that has been refined and mass produced is available to buy (elsewhere!) but it has little or no olive aroma, flavour, or colour and most importantly, it loses that wonderful bitterness that gives olive oil its distinct taste. It also lacks the important antioxidants and anti-inflammatories that make the virgin oil so special.

This very point has been causing quite a stooshy over in Italy where Olive Oil tastings are as regular as wine tastings.  A well-known Italian public prosecutor, Raffaele Guariniello, has accused a number of olive oil companies of committing fraud including longstanding household names such as Carapelli, Bertolli and Sasso. 

The claim is that it wasn’t extra-virgin olive oil being sold by this group of large producers, but rather oil from the second category, “virgin olive oil”, which although still a good standard is less refined and more importantly, less expensive.

After a number of sample bottles from multiple supermarkets in Turin were pulled in for testing the analysis revealed some of the oil was indeed “fake extra-virgin”.  The scandal first came to light in Italy’s equivalent of WHICH magazine,  ‘Il Test’ and in a report last May they stated that “as many as 9 of the 20 bottles analysed in the laboratory were declassified by the industry’s official advisory panel to simple, virgin olive oil”. 

In 2014 a crackdown on standards ensured over 6000 checks were carried out within the oil industry, resulting in the confiscation of 10 million euros worth of products. As a huge export, Italy has aimed to give clarity and transparency to protect consumers the world over. 

Here at PB, we are fortunate to work with honest companies who are committed to producing amazing oil with no need to cover up the standard of what they sell.

Our self-serve dispenser - which is what started me on this long olive oil chat! – gives you a delicious choice of nine flavours including lemon, garlic, rosemary and tomato, and there’s also a few different bottles making them a super idea for a foodie gift. We’ve always got little dishes out so you can have a taste and a dip and I’d encourage you try then all. 

We also stock bottled Extra Virgin, Virgin and Regular Olive Oils giving you a great choice for dressings, cooking and baking.  Most of our brands are estate grown oils meaning they are sourced from growers, not from bottlers, so please do ask if this is important to you.

Like everything, the more you spend the better the quality (although you can rest easy knowing that all of our choices are the best standard within their price range).

If you’d like some advice on choosing the right oil for your culinary needs then please do ask next time you're in.

Happy drizzling, 

Diane B X