To a quart of olive oil was added 200 centipede legs, a piece of snake's skin, and the sprouts of a Spanish herb, the combination boiled down to a third and then used as a potion against paralysis.
Hyppocrates, the most celebrated physician of ancient times, recommended olive oil for curing ulcers, cholera and muscular pains. In more recent medical times, the health benefits of olive oil have received considerable attention.
Much research has been conducted on the connection between dietary
fats and blood cholesterol. Olive oil, a so-called monounsaturated
fat, and polyunsaturated vegetable oils such as corn, soybean
and safflower all lower the artery-clogging low-density lipoproteins
(the so-called LDL "bad cholesterol"). Which oil does a better
job is moot, depending on the particular study you read. Many
widely-published studies point to the consumption of olive oil
by Mediterranean people's as a major reason why they have a lower
incidence of heart disease than Americans.
Fats (oils are fats) are all combinations of saturated and unsaturated
fatty acids. The term saturation refers to the number of hydrogen
atoms a fatty acid carries. Fatty acids have different degrees
of saturation and length, factors which determine whether a fat
is solid or liquid at room temperatures. Saturated fats tend to
be solid and relate primarily to animal sources such as butter
and the fat in dairy and meat. What matters most, researchers
say, is that you reduce the amount of saturated fat in your diet.
Animal studies suggest that large amounts of polyunsaturated vegetable
oils can increase the risk of several types of cancer. Among them:
breast cancer. Investigators at the Harvard School of Public conducted
a survey of Greek women to determine if their high consumption
of olive oil could also increase cancer risk. Their findings indicated
that olive oil had an opposite effect. They reported that the
breast cancer risk for women who consume olive oil more than once
per day is reduced by 25 percent when compared to women who consume
olive oil less frequently.
"Our work shows an association between consumption of a type of
fat and reduced risk of breast cancer," said Dr. Dimitrios Trichopoulos,
director of the study. "These findings suggest that the type of
fat source one consumes may influence breast cancer risk in opposite
Researchers all point out that people in Mediterranean areas eat
more vegetables and fruit than Americans, foods that contain many
natural substances beneficial for health. Studies have documented
a beneficial effect of olive oil on blood pressure and blood glucose
levels. For cooking purposes, olive oil is recommended over polyunsaturated
vegetable oils. It is less susceptible to heat-caused oxidation
that changes the chemical structure of the oil to a less nourishing
and potentially harmful form.
For more information, Contact Allergy Research/Nutricology Inc.
400 Preda Street, San Leandro, California 94577
Copyright copy; 1996 Health Savers
Chanukah and Olive Oil:
Lessons in Devotion
YomTov, vol. II # 22 by Rabbi Yehudah Prero
One of the main rituals associated with Chanukah, which begins
at sunset on December 5 1996, is the lighting of the Menorah.
The Menorah, an eight branched candelabra, is lit to commemorate
the great miracle which occurred at the time of the Maccabees:
a flask of oil which could only last for one day miraculously
lasted for eight days. (See vol. I: 57-62 for further information.)
The Aruch HaShulchan (Orech Chayim 673:1) writes that it is preferable
to use olive oil when lighting the Menorah because it is easily
drawn into the wick, its light burns clearly, and the miracle
of Chanukah happened with olive oil.
There is another aspect to olive oil that makes it an appropriate
choice for use on Chanukah. The Medrash Rabba (Vayikra 31:10),
when discussing the use of olive oil for the Menorah in the Mishkan
(Tabernacle), mentions a parable. "Rav Avin said 'It is comparable
to a king whose legions rebelled against him. However, one of
his legions remained faithful and did not rebel. The king said
that this legion that did not rebel, from them I will take for
my rulers and governors.' So did Hashem say - This olive brought
light to the world in the time of Noach, as we see 'the dove came...and
it had an olive branch in its mouth."
The Rada'l explains when exactly the olive did not "rebel" against
G-d, thus earning it a special place in history. In the time of
Noach, the entire world was corrupt. The Talmud Yerushalmi explains
that not only did mankind engage in immoral, base, and corrupt
behavior; the animal and plant world did as well. One specie of
animal tried to breed with a different one, and one type of plant
attempted to "graft" itself to other forms of vegetation. The
only plant that withstood the corruption that permeated the entire
world at that time was the olive tree. It remained pure. It withstood
the pressures to engage in the perverse behavior that was in vogue
at the time. The olive remained faithful to the world order as
G-d created it, and for that reason, it is considered the "legion
that did not rebel." Because it remained faithful to G-d, the
olive was chosen to be the sign of rebirth and renewal after the
flood. It was chosen to be the source for light in the holiest
place in the world. It was chosen to be the source of light for
generations to come.
Chanukah is a holiday on which we celebrate our freedom from religious
oppression. The Syrian-Greeks' oppression of the Jews was not
physical. They did not want to annihilate the Jews. They did,
however, want to annihilate Judaism. They applied what ever pressure
they could to "convince" the Jews to abandon the ways of their
fathers. Many Jews indeed succumbed to this pressure. Hellenism
made inroads in to the Jewish communities. At times, the pressure
to give in to popular culture was overwhelming. Ultimately, the
Jews withstood this pressure and fought with all their might against
it. The Jews were victorious. Today, all that we know of the Syrian-Greeks
is from history books, while Judaism lives on. When we look at
the olive oil burning bright on Chanukah, we should be reminded
that the olive is a symbol of the fortitude our forefathers had.
The olive withstood the pressure to deviate from the word of G-d.
Our forefathers at the time of Chanukah withstood the pressure
to deviate from the word of G-d. We should allow the light of
the olive oil to inspire us to stand steadfast against the pressure,
what ever it may be, to deviate from the word of G-d.
For questions, comments, and topic requests, please write to Rabbi
Yehudah Prero. Copyright ©1995-1997 Project Genesis, Inc. firstname.lastname@example.org
6810 Park Heights Ave. Baltimore, MD 21215 (410) 654-1799 Last
Revision: August 17, 1997
Rating the Olive Oils
Olive oil has a rich and enduring history as a culinary oil. It
was held as sacred by the Romans and was used not only as a food
source but was revered for its healing and restorative properties.
It lit the lamps of the temples and homes of our ancient civilizations.
Our fascination with and enthusiasm for olive oil remains today.
Still holding a high rung on the culinary ladder it is an integral
part of the cuisines of Italy, Spain, Greece and France. Olive
trees require a considerable investment of time and money. The
olive trees do not fully mature for thirty years and harvesting
is done by hand. Olive oil is produced anywhere that olive trees
will grow. You will need to sample oils from each production area
to see what best pleases your palate. The oils of Italy and France
and California are my favorites. I find they are more fruity and
flavorful bringing to the surface the true character of the olive.
Because olive oil is basically a "fruit" juice and does not contain
cholesterol, it has gained in popularity in this country. California
is responsible for almost all of our olive oil production in the
With all the different sources and grades of olive oil one wonders
how to choose among the varieties. It is not as difficult to decipher
the difference as it may first appear.
Olive oils are rated on their level of acidity. The higher the
acidity level the less aromatic the oil will be and usually the
The traditional method for making olive oil is to crush the olives
to a paste between two stone wheels. The crushed olives are laid
out on mats, stacked and weighted to extract the oil. The slow
pressing of the olives does not build up heat and is referred
to as "cold pressed". The lower the heat the lower the acidity
and the oil retains its full flavor.
The oil is then separated by use of a centrifuge. This very first
pressing yields what is called Extra Virgin Olive Oil with an
acidity level of less than 1 percent.
The second pressing yields Fine Virgin Olive Oil or Virgin Olive
Oil with acidity levels ranging between 1.5 and 3 percent. Pure
Olive Oil is a blend of refined olive oil with small amounts of
extra virgin olive oil or virgin oil added for flavor.
Olive Pumace Oil is the result of treating the remaining pulp
with solvents to extract any additional oils. This usually is
the least desirable and least expensive of the olive oils.
The term Light Olive Oil is a reference to its color and flavor
not to its caloric content. All of the olive oils have basically
the same amount of calories from fat.
In reading the label it is important to look for the acidity level,
the grade of oil, the region of origin and any other distinguishing
information. Some oils will even display a vintage, the name of
the farm or producer or village where the oil was made.
Since the production of olives is dependent on soil, weather and
individual olive oil making styles all of this information is
of value when selecting an oil. The quality and flavor of olive
oil is really the determining factor. This quality and flavor
is tied to price. The higher the quality the higher the price.
When cooking with olive oil you will want to select the olive
oil that best suits the dish at hand. Use the more flavorful hearty
extra virgin olive oils when seeking the rich flavor of the olive
in your dishes. If this proves too strong for you, select the
lighter oils. Color
It is also common to infuse these lighter oils with additional
flavors such as porcini mushrooms, herbs, lemon, garlic and spices.
These additions are limitless and are a great way to infuse flavor
into a dish or to use simply as a seasoning to sprinkle over tomatoes,
crusty bread or pastas.
Storage is also important. Once the oil is opened it becomes vulnerable
to its immediate environment. Keep the oil tightly sealed in a
cool place away from direct sunlight. The oil can and will go
rancid if stored improperly. Refrigerate the oil If you expect
to keep it on hand for more than a couple of weeks. The oil will
become cloudy when cold but the flavor remains relatively unaffected.
The oil will clear up when it returns to room temperature.
Expect to see more and more varieties and selections of olive
oil in your markets as our diet conscious public discovers what
the ancients held as sacred long ago.