Healthy olive oil is a monounsaturated fat, rich in oleic acid. Photo by Clare Freierman.
|Global olive oil consumption is at an all-time high: 2.9 million tonnes (3.2 million U.S. short tons) in 2006/7 compared with 1.6 million tonnes in 1990/91, according to the World Olive Oil Council. Olive oil, which has been produced for thousands of years, achieved a boost in the 1990s, with medical studies on the “French Paradox”—the apparent contradiction between the relatively rich diet enjoyed by the French (cheese, cream sauces, foie gras) and their lower percentage of cases of cardiovascular problems, compared with other northern Europeans Americans. Researchers named a high intake of fruits and vegetables, wine and olive oil, a monounsaturated fat rich in oleic acid. Scientific studies on the benefits of the Mediterranean diet reinforced the heart-healthy benefits of olive oil. Its use spread worldwide, often replacing butter. Olive plantations multiplied, and places as far afield as Australia became major olive oil producers. Olive oil replaced butter on many American tables and at restaurants, engendering a product category called “bread dippers”—seasoned oils.|
|The FDA allows producers of olive oil to place the following health claim on product labels:
Saturated fats include butter, coconut oil, cottonseed oil, ghee, lard, palm kernel oil, suet and tallow. With the new year just days away, its easy to convert some of that delicous but cholesterol-filled butter to olive oil. Olive oils vary widely in flavor and quality. See the Oil & Vinegar Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine to learn about the tastiest.
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