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Not all fats are bad for your health – there are good fats as well as the bad ones. The ones to avoid are known as saturated and trans fats while a diet rich in unsaturated fats, such as those found in the best extra virgin olive oil, helps prevent heart disease and certain cancers.

Where olive oil comes from

The olive fruit secretes an oily fluid when it is squeezed at maturity. This substance contains several kinds of fatty acids including:

* Oleic fatty acid

* Palmitic acid

* Linoleic acid and

* Linolenic acid

This wonder oil contains high concentrations of oleic acid which is a powerful antioxidant known to lower risk of coronary heart disease, prevent cell damage, reduce hunger pangs and prevent the onset of diabetes.

How the best extra virgin olive oil is made

Olives initially appear as round, green fruits that grow well in regions blessed with warm summers and wet winters such as the Mediterranean countries of Spain, Italy and Greece and the southern parts of Australia. The fruits begin to ripen and turn black between the end of summer and just when autumn starts.

Selection and squeeze test

The olive fruits are harvested carefully by handpicking only the mature fruits which readily express a liquid when squeezed at the stem tips. Oftentimes a second maturity test is made to see if the fruit can be twisted and split in half with a free stone effect. This requires more skill but is crucial for obtaining the best quality table olives and oil.

Washing and water treatment

Immediately after picking, the mature olives are washed and treated with cool water to remove some of the bitter principles. Shortly after the harvest, the fruits are then processed under low temperatures to release the oily fluid from the fruit. This immediate extraction produces what is known as extra virgin oil which contains the highest concentration of antioxidants and unsaturated fats. All other extractions using high heat and chemical additives are marketed as “pure” or “light” oil.

Some producers have taken advantage of the media hype about the health benefits of extra virgin oil by marketing their products as such when, in fact, they use chemicals like talc and other solvents to yield more oil. Others mix a small percentage of virgin oil with other types of oil to produce low quality oil.

To get the best extra virgin olive oil, Australian producers maintain strict standards of production, using only a few critical steps:

* selecting mature olives that are not bruised or damaged

* extracting the oil immediately after fruit picking and

* maintaining a clean mill all throughout the process.

Eating Your Way to Good Health With Extra Virgin Olive Oil

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