Extra virgin olive oil has been the most important culinary ingredient and remedy for Mediterranean inhabitants since ancient times, constituting the backbone of the Mediterranean Diet. Named by Homer as “Liquid Gold” and by Hippocrates as the “Great Healer”, it is considered the healthiest fat on earth thanks to its remarkable composition, rich in antioxidants, fatty acids, vitamins…and much more. We could say that it is the only liquid, not counting water, that accompanies many people around the world during all the days of their lives. In short, we are looking at Mother Nature’s greatest gift to all humanity. A truly holistic elixir whose ultimate goal is our well-being.
If extra virgin olive oil is really such a valuable food, why has it not yet received the glory and recognition it deserves? We must admit that, during the last decade, the situation of the olive oil sector has improved a lot. Companies, producers, chefs and consumers have begun to focus increasingly on the quality of EVOO and on understanding the uniqueness of each of its different varieties. But, if we consider the figures for world consumption of olive oil in comparison with those of its production, we can definitely say that we still have a long way to go.
To really understand the complexity of this product, we must focus on its holistic dimension. Olive oil is the most holistic product that exists in the kitchen since it covers all the dimensions of the human being: the body, the mind and the soul. For those who are not familiar with this term, “holism” comes from the Greek word “όλος” (holos) which means "all, whole, entire". It represents the idea that the elements, whether physical, biological, or social, should be seen as a whole and not simply as the sum of their parts. Hippocrates considered the “father of medicine”, was the first holistic physician, philosopher and teacher who, as early 2500 years
ago, argued that all diseases have a rational physical explanation and that the body should be treated as a whole and not as a series of members separated from each other. He practiced medicine from a patient-centered rather than a disease-oriented approach and created customized treatments based on the patient’s emotional state, lifestyle, season and even the microclimate of the place they resided at the time of their illness. This meant that even if two patients had the same symptoms, they would receive different treatments.
Hippocrates firmly believed in the healing power of nature so he experimented and created hundreds of recipes from herbs and oils. However, only olive oil earned the nickname “Great Healer” because, according to him, it could cure most disorders. His holistic approach to health, beauty and well-being is a legacy that continues to inspire physicians, holistic professionals, naturopaths and well-being coaches around the world. “Prevention is better than cure” and “let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food” are Hippocratic quotes that, more than two millennia later, continue to set the trend today.
Self-care, the art of taking care of yourself to avoid getting ill
Extra virgin olive oil is the ultimate product for so-called “self-care”. It is the perfect ally for health, beauty and well-being, completely affecting our existence in all its dimensions:
Some experts define olive oil as “the standard in preventive medicine”, and they are right, considering its innumerable health benefits.
EVOO benefits our body in the following way:
· Strengthens the immune system
· Keeps the heart youthful, preventing atherosclerosis
· Reduces the risk of type II diabetes
· Controls blood sugar levels
· Contributes to improving the health of the colon and intestinal microbes
· Promotes bone health, fighting osteoporosis and slowing the progression of osteoarthritis
· Helps prevent many types of cancer
· Reduces inflammation
· Helps alleviate constipation
· Alleviates the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease
· Combats premature aging of the skin and internal organs due to its rich composition of antioxidants, which help prevent cell damage caused by free radicals (oxidative stress)
· It is an exceptional beauty product to firm skin and nails, as well as to moisturize, soften and revitalize hair
Our mind also feeds on the positive effects of EVOO:
· Promotes brain health, improving our memory
· Helps prevent strokes
· Increases the processing speed of the brain
· Protects the nervous system and can help treat anxiety and dementia
· May protect the brain from degenerative diseases (for example, EVOO rich in oleocanthal is able to delay the progression of Alzheimer’s disease up to 40%)
· Decreases the risk of depression
Olive oil has the amazing ability to bring people together, open up their hearts and awaken their senses and emotions. Professional tasters who give tasting workshops and all those people from around the world who have participated in seminars related to olive oil will understand what I mean. The stimulation of the senses, the pleasure of experiencing unique aromas and flavors, the memories unleased and the joy of discovery, are food for the soul. Extra virgin olive oil keep your “inner oasis” beautiful and flourishing!
Learning about olive oil and the Mediterranean Diet is a life-changing experience, making us its ambassadors for the rest of our lives. I have participated in many tastings during my career, but the hugs and smiles you receive from people who have just discovered the world of extra virgin olive oil is somewhat difficult to explain. In order to feel the emotions derived from this wonderful product, you must work with it with respect, appreciation, humility and love, as well as being willing to share your knowledge and passion with others.
“What you give is what you will receive”, my grandfather, a Kalamata olive oil producer, used to say. He claimed that olive oil can completely transform your life if you really love it. The experiences I have lived, the trips I have made, the people I have met, the aromas and flavors I have enjoyed, the emotions I have felt, the hugs and smiles I have received have confirmed each of his words. Working with olive oil changes our lives and fills our souls.
Even if you do not work in the olive oil sector, do yourself a favor and treat yourself to a special tasting experience in your kitchen with a good selection of EVOO’s. Or take a walk through an olive grove, sit under the shade of an olive tree, close your eyes, take a deep breath, embrace the serenity and try to connect with your inner self by reflecting on what you want for yourself and how you will achieve it. The olive tree will surround you with its energy, full of wisdom, peace, hope, health and abundance, and will show you the way to your own truth.
Author: Anita Zachou - Expert Olive Oil Taster/Agricultural Engineer/Holistic Wellness Coach/Founder of Mykonos Olive Oil Tasting.