Olives are a super food.
Olives are a super food.

Health-giving olive oil goes on list of super foods

WANT to live a longer, healthier life with clear arteries, low blood pressure, sound bones, resilient immunity, a powerful brain?

One of the super foods that can provide these benefits has been used for centuries by a population studied relentlessly for its rude good health.

And even better, this food tastes good. It's olive oil, used liberally in the Mediterranean diet.

Scientists have laboured long and hard to discover what it is about olive oil that makes it so darn healthy compared to other oils.

The evidence indicates it isn't the contents of the oil, but how it's processed too.

Olive oil in its natural setting (ie in the olive fruit) contains polyphenols, natural plant chemicals with potent positive health effects.

When extra virgin olive oil is extracted from the fruit, no heat or solvents are applied - just squeeze the fruit and oil comes out (each olive is about 15% oil).

Strain, bottle, and there's your oil.

This simple processing differs markedly from the processing of some other vegetable and seed oils, where heat and/or solvents are needed to extract the oil, but this process may also destroy the health-giving aspects of the plant.

The amount of olive oil normally consumed in a Mediterranean household may surprise you. Studies indicate 25-50mls of oil per day per person (that's just a smidgen under ¼ cup).

That quantity means that Mediterranean diets contain a higher proportion of fats but, as it turns out, good fats.

You can buy olive oil as 'extra virgin' which is as close as you can get to squeezing it yourself.

If you want to test out the health power of your preferred olive oil, pour out a tablespoon and sample.

It should have a real peppery after-taste, signifying a high proportion of health-giving plant chemicals.

The light varieties of olive oil may taste milder but may also have been processed in a way that diminishes the quantity of polyphenols that make olive oil healthier.

Your sample definitely shouldn't taste unpleasant, which could flag that it's rancid or adulterated with cheaper oils.

Fortunately it's easy to obtain very good quality extra virgin Australian olive oil at a supermarket; buy a small bottle of high quality oil first to start your olive oil taste adventures.

There are a multitude of ways to use olive oil, as any internet search for Mediterranean recipes will demonstrate.

It's good for cooking, excellent as a salad dressing, and dipping toasted sourdough bread into olive oil is a real treat. So there you have it: olive oil - truly a super food.