The Mediterranean diet, one of the most widespread diets around the world, is based on the consumption of olive oil as the main source of fat. Over the last 50 years, surveys carried out in parts of the Mediterranean, including Crete and southern Italy, have shown that the Mediterranean diet is responsible for the longevity of the inhabitants and the absence of cardiovascular and digestive diseases.
The Mediterranean Diet, rich in fibers, is based on eating healthy foods for the body, vegetable and plant foods. Vegetables, pasta, rice, legumes and fruits are its main ingredients, while food of animal origin is consumed in small quantities.
Olive oil, specifically raw, is used in salads and always at the end of cooking. Finally, in this model of diet, it is common to consume small quantities of red wine during meals.
An example of Mediterranean diet could be:
|Olive oil||the main source of fat|
|Fresh fruits, vegetables in variety and abundance||several times a week|
|Dairy products in particular yoghurt and cheese||several times a week|
|Legumes, plenty of bread, pasta and other starchy foods such as rice, potatoes and other cereals||in variety, but with a measure of daily consumption and at least twice a week|
|Fatty fish, poultry and lean meat||at least twice a week|
|Wine, when consumed||along with the meal|
And also don't forget that Olive Oil:
• Has the same number of calories (9.3 per gr) with any other vegetable fat.
• It is, together with avocado oil, the only vegetable oils that can be consumed immediately after extraction without having to undergo any further treatment
• It is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids: 60-80% oleic acid
• It has a very low content of saturated fatty acids ~ 14%
• It has approx. 10% linoleic acid
• Contains about 10% of the required daily amount of vitamin E in each tablespoon
• It has a high content of natural antioxidants and nutrients (eg polyphenols, flavonoids, carotenes etc.)
• It has a high content of squalene that actively regulates metabolism
• Does not contain water, proteins, gluten, carbohydrates, salt or other preservative
• It is absorbed by the body by 98%, while retains an important role in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins
• It has an excellent digestion by the human body, while its fatty acid composition and the presence of chlorophyll helps digestive tract function, stimulates the enzyme pancreatic lipase, facilitates the secretion of bile and promotes the metabolism of endogenous cholesterol.
In order to categorise an olive oil, taste is as important as the chemical analysis. Olive oil is the only food required to undergo a trained and approved panel test to prove its category statement.
To be able to label an olive oil as Extra Virgin, there must be no defects in its taste and must at least just perceptibly fruity.
Flavor defects in olive oil are associated with problems with the olive fruit (olive fly, frozen conditions), improper handling of olives during harvest (dirt, wet fruit, prolonged storage prior to milling), certain milling conditions (unsanitary equipment, excessive heat), and improper or prolonged storage after milling (oxidation).
The first step in learning how to taste olive oil is to understand how our senses work. Perception of flavor relies on both our senses of taste and smell. The ability to taste is quite limited; receptors on our tongue can only discern sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami. All other information that we think of as flavor is actually perceived by smelling food through the back of our nostrils (retronasally) while it is in our mouths.
And then, we undergo this process:
1) Pour two tablespoons into the blue olive oil tasting glass, or glass for white wine or a glass for cognac.
2) Cover the glass with your hand to help the olive oil warm up while simultaneously you cover the top of the glass. This will help release the aromas and flavours of the olive oil.
3) Swirl the glass for a couple of minutes.
4) Release the hand covering the glass. Instantly sniff a couple of times the olive oil and then take a deep breath to sense the fruity attribute.
5) Sip a small amount of the olive oil. Close your mouth well and draw in air through your teeth, delicately first and more intense after, while breathing out through your nose. Here you must sense the bitter attribute.
6) Now you can either expel the olive oil or continue by swalling the olive oil to sense other things about this olive oil.
7) Right after you swallow the olive oil, the phenols of olive oil with start a reaction which you will feel as a tingle in your throat and might be as strong to make you cough 1-2 times. This is the pungent atrribute which is absolutely normal to happen and it is a proof of olive oil quality.
Finally, here are some common attributes of olive oil:
Astringent: dry and puckering mouthfeel created by tannins mostly appearing in bitter and robust olive oils
Buttery: creamy, smooth sensation on palate
Floral: perfume / aroma of flowers
Forest: fresh aroma reminiscent of forest floor, NOT dirty
Fresh: good aroma, fruity, not oxidixed
Fruity: refers to the aroma of fresh olive fruit, which is perceived through the nostrils and retronasally when the oil is in one’s mouth.
Grass: the aroma of fresh-cut (mowed) grass
Green: aroma/flavor of unripe olives
Harmonious: balance among the olive oil’s characteristics with none overpowering the other
Herbaceous: unripe olive fruit reminiscent of fresh green herbs
Acetone: aroma of nail polish remover, associated with winey defect
Blue Cheese: aroma associated with muddy sediment defect
Burnt/Heated: caused by processing at too high a temperature
Cucumber: off flavor from prolonged storage, particularly in tin
Dirty: oils which have absorbed unpleasant odors and flavors of dirty waste water during milling
Flat / Bland: oils which have no positive or negative aroma or flavor characteristic of olive oil; may indicate presence of refined olive oil
Frozen / Wet Wood: sweet, dry, and untypical aroma/flavor derived from olives which have been exposed to freezing temperatures
Fusty: anaerobic fermentation that occurs when olives are stored in piles too long before milling
Grubby: flavor imparted to oil by olive fly damage to olives
Haywood: flavor of dried olives
Muddy Sediment: barnyard-like aroma caused by olives' prolonged contact with dirt before or after milling
Musty: moldy, humid flavor created by wet olives that have been stored too long before pressing
Metallic: oils that have had prolonged contact with reactive metal surfaces either during processing or storage
Rancid: the flavor of oxidation that occurs as olive oil ages, often described as “stale nuts”
Rough: nasty, thick, greasy mouth feel
Unbalanced: olive oils with overwhelming flavors of bitterness and pungency
Winey /vinegary: sour flavor caused by aerobic fermentation of olives during processing
Extra virgin olive oil is a liquid fat obtained by processing whole fruits of the olive tree. (Olea Europaea, family Oleaceae). Essentially, extra virgin olive oil is made simply by crushing olives and extracting the juice with mechanical means in low temperatures without any addition – chemical or not.
Since extra virgin olive oil is simply fruit juice without any additives, its quality and taste are influenced by the varieties of olives, the terroir where they were grown, and the countless decisions and production practices of a dedicated producer.
In chemical terms extra virgin olive oil is described as having a free acidity, expressed as oleic acid, of not more than 0.8 grams per 100 grams and a peroxide value of less than 20 milliequivalent O2. It must be produced entirely by mechanical means without the use of any solvents, and under temperatures that will not degrade the oil (less than 27°C or 80°F). Olive oil has a low content of saturated fatty acids and a high content of monounsaturated. On average, it is calculated to consist of 14% saturated fat, 11% polyunsaturated and 60-80% oleic acid. It also contains polyphenols, flavonoids, vitamin E, provitamin A, minerals and trace elements. All these microelements function as antioxidants, both for our body and for the olive oil. Antioxidants protect the body against damage from oxidation caused by free radicals, while converting olive oil itself into a durable product by protecting it from oxidation.
In order for an oil to qualify as “extra virgin”, it must also pass a sensory evaluation by a trained tasting panel recognized by the International Olive Council. The olive oil must be found to be free from defects while exhibiting some fruitiness.
Extra virgin olive oil must have no taste “defects.” It needs to have a nice flavor of fresh olives and no defects. Extra virgin is the highest quality and most expensive olive oil classification. It should have and a flavor of fresh olives.
Olive oil tasters describe the "positive attributes" using the following terms:
·Fruity: Having pleasant spicy fruit flavors characteristic of fresh ripe or green olives. Ripe fruit yields oils that are milder, aromatic, buttery, and floral. Green fruit yields oils that are grassy, herbaceous, bitter, and pungent. Fruitiness also varies with the variety of olive.
·Bitter: Creating a mostly pleasant acrid flavor sensation on the tongue.
·Pungent: Creating a peppery sensation in the mouth and throat
Color doesn't show something about the olive oil. It can range from metallic yellow to deep emerald and it is influnced from the cultivar, the time of picking, the weather patterns of the cultivating period etc. For this reason, olive oil tasting is done with IOC approved blue glasses.