Olive oil is pressed from fresh olives and is made mainly in the Mediterranean, mostly in Italy, Spain, and Greece. It is available all year round. Just like in wine-making, several factors affect the character of the oil, including climate, soil, and the way the olives are harvested and pressed.
The flavor, smell, and color of olive oil can vary significantly, based on its origin and whether it is extra virgin (finest grade) or not. Generally, the hotter the country, the more robust the flavor will be.
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) grades olive oil based on flavor, odor, absence of defects, and acidity. Extra virgin olive oil is described as having an excellent flavor and odor, and a free fatty acid content of ≤ 0.8g per 100g (0.8%).
Uses of Olive Oil
Good Housekeeping lists several surprising uses of olive oil, including for healthy skin. Olive oil has been used for centuries for moisturizing skin, partly because of its linoleic acid. You can consume the oil, apply it directly on skin, or add a bit to a warm bath for a good soak.
Olive oil can also be used as a safe, natural lubricant for a close shave and as a soothing aftershave (rub on an extra teaspoon of it after you rinse off). It can also help soothe chapped lips – make a balm by mixing olive oil and melted beeswax in a 1:1 ratio, and add an essential oil for fragrance. According to the website AltUse.com, it can also moisturize your cuticles when you apply it directly before applying polish or buffing nails.
Benefits of Olive Oil
Olive oil is touted for a number of beauty benefits, including the following:
- Moisturizing skin
- Improving skin elasticity and its regenerative properties
- Providing antioxidants and good fats to fight free radicals and facilitate skin healing
- Reducing under-eye wrinkles
- Massaging dry, flaky scalp or dandruff
- Massaging frizzy hair or split ends (lightly warmed olive oil)
But its benefits are not only skin-deep. Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fats, helping lower your risk of heart disease. It may even benefit insulin levels and blood sugar control, and therefore potentially lower your risk of type 2 diabetes.
Good-quality olive oil contains important vitamins and nutrients and is loaded with antioxidants. This oil is also noted to be gentle on your digestive system, and may help in preventing gallstones and soothe ulcers.