Friday, January 6, 2017


The 7 Wonders of Olive Oil will be released Tuesday, January 10,  2017


A beautiful French woman, Jeanne Calment, lived to be 122 years old. Toward the end of her life, when asked the secret of her longevity and her relatively youthful appearance, she had two words: “olive oil.” This supercentenarian French lady was alert right until the end of her life.

    Olive oil, our gift from Mother Nature, has always been praised by dietitians, nutritionists, and medical researchers worldwide. They say, “Olive oil is good for your health and well-being.” Today, consumers are more health conscious. More curious than ever, they want to understand the medical research behind the health benefits, they need to know how they should be taking this monounsaturated fat, and, most importantly, they want to understand why they should include extra-virgin olive oil in their daily diets. 

Countless studies on the different health benefits of olive oil have been discussed over the years, and scientists are constantly discovering more. We could not include all these research projects, but what we discuss in The 7 Wonders of Olive Oil is based on interviews with the researchers involved in the studies, published research carried out in laboratory studies, randomized clinical trials, and observational studies. 

Without being too academic, we describe health conditions and show the extraordinary work and positive results that scientists have achieved so far.

    In order to fully grasp the work of these researchers, consumers need to understand olive oil. What you’ll find in 7 Wonders—in addition to the astounding health benefits of olive oil—is a comprehensive guide to extra-virgin olive oil, how it’s made, and the different types of olive oil available, as well as tips on storing and cooking.

Excellent olive oil comes from excellent fruit. This is one of the first things we as olive oil enthusiasts have come to appreciate more and more. We also realize that even though olive oil is one of the oldest products in history, not many people understand the basics of olive oil production, what a well-balanced extra-virgin olive oil should taste like, or, equally important, the practical side of buying, storing, and cooking with olive oil. This book answers all of these questions.

 Three major sections:


Part I

Part 1  looks at the history of the Mediterranean culture, followed by a description of olive oil processing. It covers harvesting and milling, looking at some of the choices modern-day producers have to face—questions such as when the best time to pick the olives is and whether or not producers should filter the oil. We conclude this section by discussing the complicated business of fats and how olive oil is different from other oils. 

Part 11

  Part II is a more in-depth study of the healthful characteristics of olive oil. It describes the research into the nutritional, medicinal, and cosmetic values of olive oil. We show you through scientific discoveries that olive oil is a therapeutic agent fighting diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s and why it is so important to incorporate this gift from Mother Nature into our daily diets for health and beauty. Dr. Oreste Gualillo, one of the scientists whose findings contributed to this book, sums up the value of this research: 

 Natural products have been used for thousands of years for the treatment of many diseases and pathological conditions. Thus, nature is a vast source of bioactive molecules from terrestrial and marine environments. Many of these natural products have gone on to become current drug candidates. The era of modern pharmacology is the result of man experimenting by trial and error for hundreds of centuries through palatability trials or untimely deaths, searching for available foods for the treatment of diseases. 

What he means by this is that Nature has been providing the necessary ingredients for healthful living since the beginning. We are just using the elements that she offers to us to find healing.

Part 111

In Part III, we offer you practical advice and information to help you figure out what it is that you should look for when purchasing olive oil. Food magazines and cookbooks say you should be using olive oil in the kitchen, but the choices in the supermarkets these days are overwhelming. As consumers, you want to understand the tricky business of labeling, especially when olive oil quality and authenticity are being questioned. This final section explains why you should not reject oil just because it causes a sting at the back of your throat and how to store your oil once you buy it.        
The olive oil world has changed over the years. Olive oil keeps making the news, attracting the attention of people from all walks of life—from health-conscious baby boomers to nutritionists and medical experts.
 “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food,” said Hippocrates, fifth-century Greek physician and philosopher, considered by some the “father of medicine.” How right he was! But today, we are afflicted by a plethora of noncommunicable diseases, the leading cause of death worldwide and a new challenge for all global health policies. If only we could put Hippocrates’s advice into practice.

More than anything, we want this book to be inspiring, to show you that the humble olive fruit produces a most powerful natural oil that can make a significant difference to our health.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

To Fry or not to fry with olive oil?

What do you know about Smoke Point and Olive Oil?

Cooking allows us to transform basic ingredients into something wonderful using heat. A skilled cook has learned how to improve and diversify the flavor of his dishes; he knows for example how important it is to have low heat and the right technique to produce fluffy scrambled eggs.  A talented health conscious cook, however, will want to get the best nutritional benefits possible and that means knowing about smoke point and stability of cooking oil when frying food.

You might have heard about smoke point and stability of cooking oil but what does it mean?  

Smoke point refers to the temperature at which the fat changes its chemical compound, gives off smoke and becomes toxic. This breakdown of fats means that the oil has lost a lot of its flavor. The smoke point is related not only to the fatty acid content but also to the presence of free fatty acids and the acidity level. What you should know is that refined oils are said to be more stable because the refining process that manufacturers employ eliminates these elements.
Stability in cooking, refer to the resistance of oil or fat to high temperatures. Olive oil is stable oil because it has a high smoke point.

So what happens when you fry?

All fats, when subjected to high temperatures (180° C or 356° F for most olive oils), undergo changes to their molecular structure. At first, they lose their organoleptic and nutritional qualities, but as the temperature rises, they deteriorate, oxidize, and finally end up being bad for our health. Virgin olive oil reaches its smoke point at 190° C (374° F) on average, but the fresher and less acidic it is, the more stable, with the smoke point sometimes reaching 207° C (404° F).
Interestingly, the smoke point of refined sunflower oil is 232° C (450° F), the same as refined soy oil and peanut oils. Admittedly, they have higher smoke points than olive oil, but that is because they have been refined and have undergone a chemical extraction process which has also eliminated all of their health benefits. Extra-virgin olive oil, by contrast, is a pure, natural fruit juice.

When you fry with olive oil, a crust forms around the food, providing a sort of protection envelope around the food; this means that the oil does not seep in. At the same time, it makes the food crunchy and tasty.

This is an excerpt from 7 Wonders of Olive Oil to be released in January. 
The chapter “Cooking with Olive Oil” compares olive oil with other cooking oils especially when frying. It answers the question “Is it safe to fry with olive oil?

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Tunisian Olive Oil Trade is Booming

European Olive oil standards, rules, and labeling regulations have tightened but when an olive oil label says ‘made in Tunisia,' it is 100% Tunisian.  Tunisia has become one of the largest producers of organic olive oil.

Although Tunisia has been making olive oil since Roman times, the country’s extra virgin has always been in the background, exporting vast quantities of olive oil to giant producers in Italy and Spain. There, the oil would be blended with the local oil and sold as their own. Fortunately for the country’s economy, things are beginning to change. Even though Tunisia still exports to Europe, private companies now bottle and package the oil at home before selling to the international market.  The Tunisian olive oil industry is poised for success, finally being recognized for its excellent organic oil. According to the Olive Oil Times, Tunisia now boasts 2,987 organic farmers, 66% of which are involved in exporting olive oil.

A tax break granted by the European Parliament to Tunisia in March 2016 will further strengthen the economy of this North African country. Tunisians producers can now export up to 35,000 tons more olive oil in 2016 and 2017 without any additional duties. This is welcoming news for a country where olives and olive oil play a major role not only in the economy but also in the environment section as well as providing jobs at home.

Here’s how one of those olive oil producers from this Africa’s smallest country is making a difference.

Huilerie Anis is a small business situated some 90 kilometers, or so from the capital city Tunis: this is where the Ben Fredj family grows olives to produce 95% certified biological olive oil.
 Anis Ben Fredj speaks with passion and commitment when he talks about the importance of quality management:

"We are in total control from A to Z of the olive oil we produce and export.  We grow our olives,  have our own mill and ensure the best  storage conditions for our fine olive oil,  even for the most demanding and refined customer,” he says enthusiastically.

At Huilerie Anis they grow the two main varieties of olives found in Tunisia   - Chetoui and Chemlali, which are hand-picked at harvest time and processed the same day. The company produces the extra virgin olive oil brand-- Oliviera Bio-- certified organic by Ecocert the French certification body for sustainable development. Their extra virgin olive oil- Le Soleil de Carthage made from ripe olives has an acidity of less than 0.5%.

Anis explained that the olives are sometimes blended, a challenge they have perfected over the years.   “It all depends on what flavor profile the customer wants”. Huilerie Anis now exports to Canada where Anis says they prefer more delicate oil.
“They like oil that’s not too spicy, so we mix Chetoui and Chemlali accordingly,” he added.

Today the company produces between 3, 000 and 4,000 tons of oil per year depending on the harvest but most of it exported in bulk and marketed without even mentioning the country of origin. The family would like to change this.

 I asked Anis what he hoped the company would achieve in next five years.
In a gentle but serious manner he replied:
“To commercialize more under our own name, we export in bulk to Spain and Italy, but  the country of origin is not known. What we would like is to increase this amount a little more every year.”

Tunisia produces around 25,00O tons of biological olive oil every year. Out of this, the Ben Fredj family concern produces about 4, 000 tons, which represents 15% of the national product, good results from this small business with strong family commitments.

Encouraging too for the future of Tunisian olive oil is the interest from Japan.
In November 2016, JICA, the Japan International Cooperation Agency visited Tunisia  with the aim of promoting Tunisian food products and olive oil.   This discovery might soon have Japanese chefs making sushi with Tunisian olive.

This positive image in international markets is encouraging for local olive growers who already recognize that the most important ingredients for a  burgeoning olive oil production in Tunisia are great initiative, commitment, and passion. Africa’s smallest country is now set  for a prominent position in the global olive oil market.   

Anis Ben Fredj from Huilerie Anis