Oh, the Advantages of Olive Oil!—The ancient elixir’s practical and health benefits

By Deena C. Bouknight
Deena C. Bouknight
Deena C. Bouknight
July 27, 2021 Updated: July 27, 2021

While the olive symbolizes peace, the small fruit has also been one of the most cultivated and consumed for centuries. Because of its health benefits, olive oil is a culinary favorite; but additionally it holds weight as a beauty basic as well as a home-help hack.

The Mediterranean region is the olive oil-rich region, yet American Olive Oil Producers Association has informed that U.S. consumers use 90 million gallons of olive oil annually – no matter whether it is sourced domestically or internationally.

Epoch Times Photo
Olive oil is consumed at the rate of 90 million gallons annually in the United States, according to American Olive Oil Producers Association. (Pixabay/CC0)

“No single country has a monopoly on outstanding EVOO (extra virgin olive oil),” said Nicholas Coleman, co-founder and oleologist (olive oil tasting expert) at Grove and Vine in New York City. “Not all olive oil is created equal. In this sense, quality relies on the individual producer. If one plants the right cultivar in the appropriate microclimate, expertly prunes the trees, harvests at optimum maturity, swiftly transports their fruit to the mill, cold extract the olives in sanitary conditions under a skilled miller, filters the micro and macroscopic particles of olive sediment, and stores the oil in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks, then one can make exceptional EVOO both domestically and abroad.”

Grove and Vine offers a subscription service that delivers direct to customers single-estate EVOO. The selection is “ever-evolving,” said Coleman, who added, “In this capacity, we chase the harvest through both hemispheres guaranteeing your oils are of the freshest and highest quality. Each oil comes with a scroll featuring tasting notes, harvest information, wine pairings suggestions, a regional recipe, and a signed original photograph of the specific site where the olive cultivars grow.  It takes the subscriber on a global tour showcasing the various aromas, flavors, and textures of the world’s finest producers.”

Coleman stumbled upon a career as an oleologist “by accident.” He explained,

“In 2007, I traveled from the Arctic Circle down to the Sahara Desert when I stumbled upon a villa in Tuscany called Mulinmaria. I was there in October during the olive harvest and the villas owner, Nadia Gasperini Rossi, welcomed me into her family. Suddenly, I was hand-harvesting olives at the highest level. I saw how this lipid was at the center of Nadia’s life; it connected her to friends, family, and a sense of tradition. The experience was transformative for me. Growing up in North Jersey, olive oil was not discussed as an important aspect of life. But in Tuscany, olive oil is life. That was when I realized I could build a career around the olive and its precious oil.”

Thus, starting Grove and Vine gave Coleman an opportunity to bring others into his new world. “… for people to see, learn, and taste phenomenal oil in the comfort of their own homes.”
Now that he is knowledgeable about olive oil, Coleman understands why it is so desired and highly considered as a cultural and social foodie pursuit: “Olive oil is the backbone of Western civilization. It’s the perfect bridge between tradition and innovation, connecting us to a deeper sense of history, culture, and gastronomy. There are hundreds of different olive cultivars, which showcase an array of aromas, flavors, and textures that can be paired with different foods. It is one of the most malleable tools any home or professional cook can have in their kitchen. Fresh olive oil facilitates a casual and rustic interpretation of Mediterranean cuisine … straightforward, simple and ingredient driven.”

He personally does not have a favorite olive oil, but keeps an open mind, and he encourages others to do the same. He tells people to “Let the ingredients in the dish, along with your personal palate, guide which oil is best in terms of culinary applicability.”

Epoch Times Photo
Due to nutritional and health benefits, as well as taste, home cooks and chefs alike regularly cook with and serve olive oil. (Polina Tankilevitch/Pexels)

Home cooks and chefs alike cook daily with olive oil. However, flavor profiles are not the only reason olive oil is a staple in residential and commercial kitchens. The health benefits have been lauded for centuries.

American Heart Association (AHA) endorses an olive-oil rich Mediterranean-style diet due to findings that olive oil may lower heart-disease risks. AHA shares: “Researchers found those who ate more than half a tablespoon of olive oil each day had a 15% lower risk of having any kind of cardiovascular disease and a 21% lower risk of coronary heart disease.”

Olive oil can be used in non-food-related ways as well. North American Olive Oil Association shared “6 Beauty Hacks”:

  1. For difficult-to-remove makeup, such as stage makeup, combine 1/3 cup water and 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil in a small bottle, shake well, and apply a small amount to a cotton ball. Wipe off makeup with the cotton ball and then follow up with a light cleanser and moisturizer.
  2. Make a homemade scrub with a half cup of coarse sea salt and a half cup of olive oil; apply the scrub to dry, flaky areas of skin, such as knees, elbows, and heels, and let sit for a few minutes, and then rinse with warm water.
  3. Rub a few drops of olive oil into dry cuticles to moisturize.
  4. Deep condition hair with 1/3 cup of conditioner mixed with 2-3 teaspoons of olive oil; leave on hair for about five minutes and then rinse, dry, and style hair normally.
  5. Concoct a lip sugar scrub by mixing 1 tablespoon of brown sugar with 1 tablespoon of olive oil; leave on lips for 1-2 minutes and then rinse off.
  6. To moisturize areas around eyebrows, apply a light coat of olive oil with a Q-tip just before bed; in the morning, remove the oil with a warm cloth.
Epoch Times Photo
Besides a desired food source, olive oil is lauded for its beauty-related benefits as well. (Chelsea shapouri/Unsplash)

Beyond nutritional benefits and beauty aids, olive oil is handy for tackling numerous home-related dilemmas, including:

  • loosening tight rings and jammed zippers
  • eliminating gum and paint stuck in hair
  • preventing hair balls in cats (1/8-1/4 teaspoon in food)
  • quieting squeaky doors
  • removing stickers on furnishings and windows.

But first, it starts with quality olive oil. Coleman reiterated that, since not olive oils are the same, some knowledge is fundamental when shopping for olive oil:

  • First cold-pressed means that olives are run through the mill only one time; second, everything is kept below 28 degrees Celsius, and finally, a hydraulic press crushes the olives to release the oil.
  • Cold extraction is how most quality oils are currently produced. To achieve the oil, olives are run through a complex process to divide varying densities into solids, oil, and water, and the goal is to never expose the olives to oxygen during the process in order to achieve what Coleman explained is “a sharper oil from more ripe fruit.”
  • Extra virgin simply means “of the highest quality,” conveys oliveoilsource.com, with the oil obtained only from the olive and not from other products mixed in.

One misnomer is that, like wine, olive oil improves with age. Definitely not, maintains Coleman. “Freshness is a key component to quality. An oil should be less than one year old. As a consumer, you always want to look for the most recent harvest,” he said. “Oils should not smell or taste like wax, crayons, wine, vinegar, or black olive tapenade. In addition, an oil shouldn’t leave a greasy texture in the mouth.”

Coleman advised purchasing quality olive oil in dark glass bottles instead of clear or plastic bottles. “Light causes oil to photo-oxidize,” which means the quality of the oil can deteriorate faster.

Deena C. Bouknight
Deena C. Bouknight