Olive oil is a liquid fat obtained from the fruit of the olive tree (Olea Europaea). Virgin olive oil, produced by machine processing in olive mills, is a key element and a health product of the Mediterranean diet.
Greece is amongst the top five countries worldwide producing olive, while per capita national consumption is the highest in the world.
Oilseeds presses and storage jars are found in Greece since the Mycenaean era. People in Ancient Greece used oil in their diet, as a fuel for lighting, as a perfume, for body care and in tanning.
Nowadays, two different categories of olive oil are available - edible (virgin or simple) and industrial.
The process of olive oil production begins with the collection of olives, done either by hitting the olive trees with sticks or by using machines. The olives are then weighed in the olive mill, separated and washed. Then, they put them into steel drum mills to start the grinding process, where the pulp will be malaxed.
Liquid, which is a mixture of olive oil with aqueous components of the fruit, will be extracted after the malaxation. The solid by-product that remains is called pyrinas and contains a significant amount of olive oil. The crude kernel oil, called pomace oil, produced is refined, in order to become edible. The olive oil emerges from that process is available for consumption only as a mixture with virgin oil and is of inferior quality.
The olive liquid obtained by malaxation is led to centrifugal separators where the oil is separated from the aqueous portion. The ingredients that are eliminated are called katsigaros. From katsigaros it is possible to produce industrial olive oil intended for refining or industrial use. Virgin olive oil emerges from the pure liquid.
Olives weighing 100 kg, usually give 10-25 kg of oil, 35-50 kg of pomace oil and 35-50 kg of liquid residues.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil has a free acidity of ≤0.8%, Virgin Olive Oil ≤2.0% while Olive Oil intended for refining or industrial use has > 2.0%.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil contains intact all the basic ingredients of an olive fruit. Its use in baking, sautéing, grilling, dressing, soup making and elsewhere, improves the taste of food and benefits our health.
Olive oil contains a variety of bioactive ingredients. Its use degrades fat from the body's fat cells, as the high levels of monounsaturated fatty acids it contains, replace saturated fatty acids. Thus, it helps protect against cardiovascular disease, reduce weight, regulate insulin, and helps fight some types of cancer.
Olive oil also helps prevent diseases that cause cognitive impairment, such as Alzheimer's.
Its phenolic components have anti-inflammatory and chemoprotective properties, as they increase HDL (good cholesterol) levels and reduce lipid oxidative stress markers.
Vitamins A, D, E and K, found in olive oil, help protect against free radicals and cell oxidation, i.e. it acts as an anti-aging agent.