The largest agricultural sector in Greece, Italy and Spain is the olive agri-food chain. Extra virgin olive oil and olives are mythical foods since pre-historic times, and when produced the right way, are very beneficial to human health.
The focus for the extra virgin olive oil is in the low acidity and for the olives is for the flesh to pit ratio. The taste, colour, aroma and the nutritional components of the olive products, have been ignored.
High quality extra virgin olive oil has a high impact in human health. Today foods processed the natural way, without additives, are in demand. The new methods of chemically, massive food manufacturing and distribution are questionable and avoided. Wholesome organic foods are getting more popular, because they provide better taste, nutrition and health.
The quality of extra virgin olive oil and olives and their health benefits, depend on colour, taste and the bio-molecular constituents in the final stage of the product.
Bio-phenols are non-nutrient components found in the most typical and common Mediterranean foods, extra virgin olive oil and olives. The quality of the table olives mainly depends on the maturity of the olive fruit when it is harvested, firmness, triacylglycerol and bio-phenol content.
Bio-phenols demonstrate antioxidant and anti-microbial activity, very important for human health.
Extra virgin olive oil slows down the penetration of fatty acids into the arterial walls and by using antioxidants like tocopherols and phyto-sterols, generally along with the Mediterranean diet, is a therapeutic way to reducing the development of degenerative disease and aging.
The phyto-sterols in olive oil are very important nutritionally and they lower the cholesterol levels in humans. In a study was proven that when a phyto-sterol free corn oil was used, the cholesterol levels increased, but when the phyto-sterols were replaced, cholesterol levels decreased. A phyto-sterol analysis can also determine the purity of olive oil.
The bio-molecules in olive products are very important in the determination of the extra virgin olive oil’s characteristics. They also play an anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-cancer and anti-HIV roles.