December 30, 2020 by D.Fathia
Extra virgin olive oil
The olive tree, a symbol of life, fertility, and peace throughout the ages, has roots in Tunisian soil that dates back to thousands of years; some believe that it goes back in time to the eighth century BC. This old plant has been producing extra virgin olive oil for generations and is still offering its blessings.
Tunisia has been referred to as the Reservoir of Rome as it used to supply the whole roman empire with agricultural goods, among which olive oil had a majestic ranking.
Due to several economic, political, and climatic reasons, Tunisia has grown a tendency towards olive trees plantation.
This very specific tree is linked to the national heritage and personal belonging. I dare say that Tunisia has earned its nickname "green Tunisia" or “Tunis alkhadhra” because of the high numbers of olive trees spread everywhere from the furthest point south in the desert to the coldest places north, where the Mediterranean sea meets the soil on which these trees are planted and inherited through generations. This unique climate endowed the local crop with some distinctive qualities; permitting Tunisian olive oil brands to win International competitions and earn global recognition.
Extracting olive oil
The processes of extracting oil from olive trees have gone through a remarkable shift from traditional methods to modern ones using novel techniques. The crop is still widely hand-harvested, even though big farms started relying on machinery to cover the shortage in manpower and save time. The season might start as early as the first days of winter.
Yet it is common knowledge that the best types of olive oil come from the early harvest. Indeed, extra virgin olive oil, the finest type existing, derives directly from handpicked mature good quality products. It is crucial to remove all leaves to preserve the properties of oil as a result of decreasing the chlorophyll percentage, an oxidizing agent in the presence of light; then starts the washing process to ensure the removal of any foreign elements from the fruits.
The rest of the extraction operation involves crushing the fruits, malaxation, centrifugation, and, finally, filtration.
Why is extra virgin olive oil the betterchoice?
This worldwide recommended brand has a major difference from other types of oil. Extra virgin oil is the pure liquid that conserves the golden green color of the fruit; plus it is distinguished by its strong odor, peppery flavor, and sometimes a taste of bitterness. It is derived from two types of olive trees, chemlali, and chetoui. In contrast to other types, it is one hundred percent organic, contains no additives, and undergoes no chemical processes. It is extracted by cold pressure and is not subjected to high temperatures nor mixed with hot water hence it preserves its nutrients and valuable antioxidants like polyphenol.
The nutritional value
Extra virgin olive oil contains lesser amounts of oleic acid than regular oil and that makes the content a bit lighter. It retains the natural olive flavor and a higher amount of antioxidants; combined with its anti-inflammatory properties, and vitamins like E and K, and minerals, this oil represents a heart-friendly liquid when compared to other cooking oils. It has a smoke point of about 320 degrees Fahrenheit; it is recommended for cooking or frying since research has shown that using olive oil improves the bioavailability of protective plant compounds, such as carotenoids and polyphenol antioxidants. Indeed, cooking with olive oil might increase the nutrient components of the food; the antioxidants are very resistant to heat therefore they do not break up easily, and instead, they end up being absorbed by the cooked food. Yet be careful not to use it for prolonged frying methods because it leads to the degradation of fats and the production of toxic components.
· A 2019 study conducted by Sweilem B. Al Rihani, et al, (Auburn University, Alabama, United States) tackled the possibility of using extra virgin olive oil to halt or slow the progression of Alzheimer's and age-related dementia. EVOO exhibited such an effect by restoring the blood-brain barrier function.
· Laboratory studies in 2018 found that EVOO harbors protective benefits for the liver. Due to its high levels of monounsaturated fatty acids, mainly oleic acid and phenolic compounds, this type of oil can participate in the activation of different signaling pathways in the hepatocytes involved in the prevention of inflammation, oxidative stress…etc, allowing the prevention or resolution of liver damage.
· A Tunisian researcher Mohamed Hammami stated: “Olive oil is an integral ingredient in the Mediterranean diet. There is growing evidence that it may have great health benefits including the reduction in coronary heart disease risk, the prevention of some cancers, and the modification of immune and inflammatory responses. We have shown that extra virgin olive oil and its extracts protect against oxidative damage of hepatic tissue.”
· Research has proved that the Mediterranean diet has a major role in preventing cardiovascular diseases; extra virgin olive oil is part and parcel of this diet. It prevents incidents such as myocardial infarction and stroke.
· Extra virgin olive oil can inhibit the breakdown of calcium; hence prevent bone loss and bone fractures caused by aging.
· Researchers suspect that the unique oleocanthal content of Extra Virgin Olive Oil plays a protective role against cancer. Various studies found low rates of patients of breast cancer and cancers of the digestive systems in regions where extra virgin olive oil is an essential constituent of the local diet.
· Can help restore skin smoothness naturally.
By de facto, extra virgin olive oil has the potential to be a remedy for various diseases thanks to its richness; a truly promising product with nearly zero defects. It is safe and healthy for all cooking methods. Our ancestors’ houses can never lack this oil as they possessed a great belief in its utility and its non-questionable effects on the body. It is an ingredient essential to their lives and so should be to the rest of people for we have witnessed its magical workings. Few spoons of this golden liquid a day can keep doctors away.