Olive Oil

What are the health benefits of olive oil?

The health benefits of olive oil have been recognised thousands of years ago, in ancient Greece, by many physicians like Hippocrates, Galen, Dioscorides, and Diocles. In recent years, modern doctors and nutritionists have realised that extra virgin olive oil, particularly, contributes significant nutritional value to human health.

Olive oil contains a very high amount of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA’s). Diets high in MUFA’s and low in saturated fatty acids (SUFA’s) could favourably affect blood cholesterol levels and consequently decrease the risk of developing cardiovascula diseases such as coronary heart disease (CHD); even when providing the same amount of total fat. Further studies have revealed that other than its high MUFA content, unprocessed (extra-virgin) olive oil contains non-fat components such as certain phenolic compounds which have been found to have a wide range of beneficial health effects which include favourable effects on cholesterol (both 'good' and 'bad') levels and oxidation, as well as posessing an anti-inflamatory effect and potentially having healthy influences on our blood pressure and blood clotting [1].

[1] Visioli F, Galli C. Biological properties of olive oil phytochemicals. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2002;42(3):209-21.

Can olive oil reduce the risk of heart disease?

Heart disease, also called cardiovascular disease is a collection of many different conditions or diseases that can affect the heart. There are many things we can do to help prevent heart disease, from changing our lifestyle by getting more exercise to the things we eat. Olive oil can be an important part of that healthy diet as it has been shown to have a positive effect on the risks associated with heart disease.

An American Heart Association report summarizes other research info on how monounsaturated oil reduces your risk of heart disease in total. They also explore how a high-MUFA diet can improve the other conditions that contribute to heart disease like lowering LDL and raising HDL Cholesterol, helping diabetes, lowering triglycerides and reducing blood clots {AHA Science Advisory (Circulation. 1999;100:1253-1258.) "Monounsaturated Fatty Acids and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease"}. Many studies have shown not only that olive oil has superior protective effects than other foods high in monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA’s) due to its non-fat components, but extra-virgin olive oil may be the most beneficial type of olive oil due to its higher concentration of these protective non-fat components, including a variety of phenolic compounds and other antioxidants

Can olive oil prevent the appearance of cancer?

It has been found that the rates of cancer among the Mediterranean populations are significantly lower than the rest of Europe and the United States. This has been attributed to the high dietary intake of plant foods and olive oil. Although it has been observed that per capita fat consumption around the world is highly correlated with breast cancer incidence and mortality, the incidence rates of breast cancer in Mediterranean countries are relatively low compared with those in most other Western countries despite Mediterranean diets being relatively high in fat. Several case-control studies throughout Mediterranean populations have found that women who consume olive oil frequently have a reduced risk of breast cancer. Although it is not clear precisely what component of olive oil its protective effect on breast cancer can be attributed to, it has been suggested that a type of fatty acid called Oleic acid may be at least in part responsible. Animal studies have found that olive oils higher in Oleic acid have prevented carcinogen-induced breast cancer better than olive oils with lower concentrations of Oleic acid.

Why Greek olive oil?

Greece is full of olive groves. Olive trees thrive in the warm rocky hillsides of Greece, producing some of the best olive oils around the world. The Olive Tree is the protagonist of the Greek nature and history as olive oil is the protagonist of the Greek diet.

The indigenous olive tree (wild olive tree) first appeared in the eastern Mediterranean but it was in Greece that it was first cultivated. Since then, the presence of the olive tree in the Greek region has been uninterrupted and closely connected with the traditions and the culture of the Greek people. Olive oil production began over 5000 years ago, on the Greek island of Crete. During the Minoan Period, the olive oil that was produced was stored in earthenware jars and amphorae and quite often it was exported to the Aegean islands and mainland Greece. Apart from the financial gains, though, the olive tree was worshipped as sacred and its oil, besides being offered to the gods and the dead, was also used in the production of perfumes, medicine and in daily life as a basic product in diet, lighting and heating. Ideogramms depicting the olive tree, its crop and olive oil found in Linear A and B tablets, consist the evidence for Minoan's occupation with the olive tree and its produce, from 1800 BC.

In the following centuries, between 700 - 400 B.C, the olive and the olive-oil acquired a special importance all over Greece. Philosophers Anaxagoras and Empedocles investigated the history of olives, Aristoteles described its cultivation, Solon legislated its protection and Platon tought his students in its shade.

The olive tree was the sacred tree of goddess Athena and Athens, the capital of Greece, took its name from the goddess. Zeus had decreed that the city should be given to the god who offered the most useful gift to the people. Poseidon gave them the horse. Athena struck the bare soil with her spear and caused an olive tree to spring up. The people were so delighted with the olive that Zeus gave the city to Athena and named it after her. Athena is often shown with an olive branch, a symbol of peace, wisdom and prosperity.

In the 6th century BC, Solon, the great Athenian legislator, drafted the first laws protecting the olive tree including prohibition of its uncontrolled felling. A number of facts demonstrate the link between the olive tree and social activities in ancient Greece. Most people are familiar with the tradition of awarding an olive branch to winners at the ancient athletic games. A lesser known tradition is that the winners of Athens’ most important games, the Panathenaea, were awarded huge amounts of olive oil (as much as 5 tons!) stored in special amphorae known as “Panathenaic Amphorae”.

During the classical period when Athens reached the peak of its power, the Greeks exported olive oil throughout the known world of the time. When the Romans occupied Greece olive oil production continued and spread to other parts of the empire, as it did during the years of the Byzantine Empire. Due to the large pieces of land owned by monasteries during this period, a great part of the total production was the work of monks. The Byzantine Empire included almost half of the olive oil producing areas in the known world and the product was widely exported. When the Turks conquered Greece the production of olive oil was not affected. The product itself was kept alive through the traditional Greek way of life, and was even used for religious purposes. During this time the olive tree and its oil had special significance in the Christian Church; it was a symbol of love and peace, an essential part of several solemn rites from baptism to its use in the oil lamps seen in churches and the little shrine that is part of every Greek household.

Today more than 120,000,000 olive trees are cultivated in Greece, and according to the International Olive Oil Council data, Greece is the third biggest producer of olive oil in the world, with a total production of more than 300.000 tons, of which more than 85% is extra virgin olive oil.


What about Greek olives?

Olives have been a staple in the diet of ancient Greeks for thousand of years. Ancient Greeks used olives as there main source of fat instead of meat from animal because they thought it was an unhealthy way of getting fat, since the barbarians (non Greeks) ate that way. In actuality, the barbarians ate meat and their products such as milk and cheese because they were nomadic and had no way of growing an olive tree or preparing olives if they saw any.

Preserving olives was possible because there was salt everywhere, since Greece was surrounded by sea. Sea salt was easily accessible and allowed them to preserve olives with ease.

To preserve their olives, the first ancient Greeks would gather them while they where unripe and place them diractly to water. They changed the water every 12 hours with water that contained wood ash. This process could take more than a week, so to decrease the time sometimes they would cut them with a knife. Then, oil would come forth from the olives but this was just used to help preserve them. They were then kept in wine, vinegar, and salty water and were consumed throughout the year.

Today, Greece is the world's third largest producer of table olives, producing approximately 10% of the world's total production or an average of 80.000 - 90.000 tons yearly.

The two most important table olive varieties produced in Greece are Kalamon (Kalamata) olives and Konservolia olives.

Konservolia variety is the most important economically, being responsible for at least 50% of table olive production in Greece. It grows throughout the country from sea level up to altitudes of 600 meters. Fruits are round to oval-shaped, have a thin, elastic and resistant to shriveling skin and the pulp has a fine, consistent texture. According to the degree of maturity and time of harvesting they may be:

  • Green olives most usually producing Spanish-style green olives. AB Earth Flavors is one of the few producers in Greece that use natural fermentation to create outstanding green olives.
  • Blond olives with blond, reddish-black color.
  • Black olives with violet black, deep violet black color. Both black and blond olives are usually put directly in brine, to naturally ferment.

Kalamon variety is famous around the world under the name Kalamata olives for its excellent taste and aroma. The name Kalamata is PDO and refers to Kalamon olives only from the area it was originally grown, principally in the region surrounding the town of Kalamata in the south-west Peloponnese. Kalamon variety is the second most importand variety used in the production of Greek table olives accounting for about 15-25% of total production and today good Kalamon olives groves have been established in many areas of Central Greece.

The olives are cylindro-conical, curved, showing a prominent tip at the end. They aquire a natural beautifull black color when reaching maturity. Kalamon olives are processed only with brine, to retain their unique characteristics. Their skin is thin, elastic and has an intense black color when mature, but still retains a good texture. Usually they are incised lenghtwise by cutting into the skin and part of the flesh and then marinated in extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar, or left in sea salt brine.

What is the difference of VIOS organic olives

VIOS organic green olives are harvested by hand from selected olive groves, around the middle of September. Within a few hours from harvest, the olives are thoroughly inspected, pass through quality control and are immediately placed in tanks with water and sea salt. The olives are left for at least 5 months to ferment, with the natural traditional way that has been used for hundreds of years in Greece. During the fermentation period, the olives are constantly monitored by experienced food scientists in order to maintain the optimum fermentation conditions. After the end of the fermentation process, the olives that will be stuffed are pitted, pass through quality control and then are hand stuffed, one by one, by our experienced personell.
The organic fillings of the green olives (almonds, pimento, garlic, lemon) are pickled seperately in sea salt brine and cut in small pieces by hand. VIOS green olives have a relatively large size, because the traditional filling by hand is only possible for large sized olives, which shows the unique character of VIOS olives.

VIOS organic Kalamon olives, also known as Kalamata olives, come from the famous Greek cultivar for table olives, Kalamon. The fruit starts to ripen in November and it turns black when fully ripe, under the bright Greek sun and the Aegean sea breeze that blows through the olive trees . VIOS Kalamon organic olives are also handpicked and the same natural fermentation method is followed, resulting in an outstanding product, with unique characteristics.

What can VIOS organic olives offer to you?

AB Earth Flavors uses only the natural method of leaving the olives in tanks with brine to ferment over a long period of time, produces a supperior product in many ways.

Most of the green olives that are sold worldwide are treated with a lye solution (caustic soda, NaOH), washed to remove the lye and then stored in brine to comlete the fermentation. This method of treating olives produces olives that are suitable for consumption within a few weeks. However, with this method most of the natural antioxidants and various other aromaitc compounds are removed from the olives, resulting in the loss of a great part of the nutritional value of the olives along with the subtle flavors of the olive fruit.

On the contrary, AB Earth Flavors uses only natural ways of treating VIOS green olives and VIOS Kalamon olives, a mild procedure that has been scientifically proven to preserve all the volatile aromatic substances and antioxidants (maslinic acid, oleuropein, etc.) in the olives. The result is a superior product, both in terms of flavor and nutritional value.