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Olive oil is a type of oil produced solely and exclusively from olives, the fruit of a tree called an olive tree. The food is ancient and the tree started to be planted in Asia Minor. In the 16th century BC, the Phoenicians took olive oil to Greece and the cultivation of the olive tree started to gain importance from the 4th century BC Called “liquid gold” by the Mediterranean, olive oil is in the ranking of essential foods on the menu of those who want a healthier life.

Foods rich in saturated and trans fats are highly harmful because they increase the chances of developing atherosclerosis: accumulation of fatty plaques in the arteries of the heart and brain, which can lead to heart attack and stroke.

Olive oil is also rich in antioxidants, such as polyphenols, capable of combating free radicals, responsible for the aging of cells. The benefit? Protective effect against a series of degenerative diseases, including heart disease. Another advantage is the large concentration of monounsaturated fat – the most beneficial for the heart – as it captures the excess of bad cholesterol circulating in the blood. When compared to other oils, olive oil skyrockets in the amount of this fat: it is responsible for 77% of its composition against 24% present in soy oil.

Research shows that regular consumption helps to balance blood cholesterol levels, meaning that while the bad decreases, the good increases. É recomendado o consumo de 3 colheres de sopa de Azeite de Oliva diariamente.

Vitamin K is another nutrient that is very prominent in olive oil, so much so that in a portion of olive oil (30 grams), it is possible to consume 129% of the recommended dose of the vitamin per day. This nutrient is essential for maintaining healthy bones and also acts in the blood clotting process.

The extra virgin is the purest of olive oils, with a degree of acidity not exceeding 1% for each 100g. The virgin type reaches 2% acidity per 100g and those with an acidity level greater than 2% went through more stages during preparation and, in general, are mixed with other oils, such as soybean, which decreased its quality . It is recommended to consume 3 tablespoons of olive oil daily.

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But how to use olive oil in food?

A good tip is to put it in cold preparations and those that have mild heating, such as stews and stews. The ingredient should never stay in the fire for too long. When using olive oil for cooking, some important components such as antioxidants can be changed, which diminishes its benefits.

The ancient culture of olive and olive oil is associated with religious practices, myths and traditions, artistic and cultural manifestations, sporting and economic activities, medicinal and gastronomic uses, which are of enormous relevance in the history of peoples, their civilizations and traditions.

History and mythology are intertwined in the culture of olive trees and olive oil. The foundations of Athens and Rome are related to this tree and its fruits.

In Greek mythology, each new city had an Olympian god to protect it, but in the case of a particular city, there were two stakeholders: Posseidon, the god of the sea, and Palas Atenas, the goddess of peace and wisdom. In this case, another god arbitrated the dispute, and the one who offered the most precious creation to the people of the city would be the chosen one. Posseidon, with his trident, sprouted a beautiful and strong horse, fast and agile, while Palas Atenas created a tree with small green fruits, called olive tree, capable of producing oil to illuminate the night, soothe the wounded and be a precious food , rich in flavor and energy. As the olive tree was chosen, the city was named Athens. As a result, the ancient Greeks believed that the olive tree had divine origin. The Romans believed that Romulus and Remus, descendants of the gods and founders of Rome, saw the light of day for the first time under the branches of an olive tree.

The olive trees are present in several passages in the Bible, such as Jesus preaching to the disciples on the Mount of Olives and when Noah releases the dove to check if the flood waters had subsided and it returns to the Ark, carrying a green olive branch in its beak, which confirmed the diminishing of the waters and that the divine anger was softened. This is why the image of the dove with the olive branch in its beak is considered to be the universal symbol of peace.

Olive oil, due to its qualities and properties, has had several types of use throughout history, in addition to food, for example: oil lamps for lighting, in the treatment of wounded warriors in battles, for hair and skin beauty treatments and in religious rituals.

Crowns formed from intertwined olive branches were used as a symbol of power, conquest and wisdom, having been used by emperors and kings. From the beginning of the Olympic Games in 776 BC to the present day, the winning athletes are awarded an olive crown. From the wood of the tree the royal scepters were made and with oil the monarchs and priests were anointed.

With an ancient history, the origin of the olive tree and the development of its culture are confused with the history of mankind. There are divergent opinions on the exact date and region of its origin, but the most accepted studies indicate that there are records that olive trees originate in the region comprised by Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Iraq and Iran, more than 6,000 years ago , and its spread across the Mediterranean basin is attributed to the Phoenicians, Egyptians, Arabs, Greeks, Carthaginians and Romans. The Spanish caravels took the olive tree to America in the 15th century, initially to California, which at that time was part of present-day Mexico, and to Argentina, in the Mendoza region.

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In Brazil, olive trees were planted in the early twentieth century, through Portuguese and later Spanish and Italian emigrants. The pioneer state was Rio Grande do Sul, in 1900, in the region of Caxias do Sul, Rio Grande and Bagé, followed by Minas Gerais, in 1930, in the city of Maria da Fé. Brazil, several problems, such as lack of knowledge, technical support and investments, prevented Brazil from already being a producer of olives and oils.

It is very common to associate the country of origin of the oil as an indication of the sensorial characteristics that we can find when tasting an oil, because we still know very little about the influence of olive varieties in the differentiation of the different types of oil. Throughout this text we will learn a little more about how these factors really contribute to distinguish olive oils.

The main olive oil producers are located in the Mediterranean region, which accounts for approximately 95% of world production. The three largest producers are Spain, with approximately 40% of the world total, followed by Italy, with 22% and Greece with 14%.

Olive oil, similar to wine, has different flavor and characteristics largely due to the different types of olives used in its preparation. There are more than a thousand varieties of olives cataloged worldwide. Olive oil can contain only a variety of olives, called “monovarietal”, or be the result of the harmonious combination of several varieties, called “blend of varietals” or “multivarietal”. The big olive oil companies generally use a “blend of varietals”, in such a way that their brands have their own characteristics and personality. However, lately, a growing number of “monovarietal” olive oil launches have been observed among these companies, as well as other differentiated presentations, such as organic versions (obtained from olive groves with organic cultivation practices), “special reserve” (made from selected olives) or from specific regions) and “new oil” or “first harvest” (produced from olives harvested in the initial stage of harvest). This movement by manufacturers clearly signals a search for differentiation of products for a consumer who is eager for news.

Gourmets oils, usually produced by smallholders or small producers’ cooperatives, generally produce “monovarietals” or blends of varieties from their producing region.

In the European Union countries there is a regulation for olive oil producing regions, which certifies producers with quality seals of origin, called “D.O.P” (Protected Designation of Origin), a practice similar to that used in wines. An olive oil with “D.O.P.” certificate ensures that that product, in addition to being produced in a defined geographical region, used specific varieties of olives, with regulated cultivation and processing practices, as well as the final product has certain characteristics evaluated and approved by laboratory analyzes and specialized tasting panels. In addition to the fact that these products have flavor and aroma qualities and characteristics, which tend to be repeated throughout successive harvests, the “D.O.P.” it generally has much higher prices than other olive oils.

Some olive oil brands inform on their labels the varieties of olives that make up the product, but this practice is still not very common. Products in which the varieties are not mentioned on their labels, are usually multivarietal.

The word “olive oil” comes from the Arabic word “Az-zait”, which means olive juice.

Its importance, over time, resulted from the multiple uses that were given to it in food, medicine, hygiene and beauty. Mesopotamians, for example, anointed the body to protect themselves from the cold more than 5,000 years ago. The first formal classification dates from the 7th century BC and was used for pain relief and wound healing, being widely used in wars. During the Roman Empire it was widely used to soften skin and hair. It was also fuel for lighting, lubricant for agricultural tools and implements and waterproofing for textile fibers.

However, the great highlight of the use of olive oil, in addition to food, was in medicine. In ancient Greece, athletes already used olive oil as a base to improve their performance. At the time of the great discoveries, around the 16th century, oil was mandatory on ships, used as a basis for the preparation of various medicines.

Olive oil has always been present in the corners of daily life and today it is essential in haute cuisine, it is a product to use and abuse!

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