12 Facts About Olive Oil

olive oil

Olive oil is one of the most versatile ingredients found in kitchens around the world. This flavorful cooking oil made from pressed olives has been used for thousands of years and is a staple of the Mediterranean diet. Read on to discover 12 fascinating facts about olive oil – its origins and history, health benefits, culinary applications, and modern production methods.


Olive oil comes from the fruit of olive trees, which have been cultivated for over 6,000 years in regions around the Mediterranean Sea. Valued since ancient times for its versatility and health properties, olive oil continues to be a nutritional powerhouse and kitchen necessity today. The highest quality extra virgin olive oils provide delicious fruity flavors that can transform everyday dishes.

Beyond its culinary virtues, olive oil also offers science-backed health bonuses like heart disease prevention, reduced inflammation, and antioxidant effects. From the groves of southern Europe to artisan producers globally, olive oil is easy to fall in love with. Read on to uncover 12 interesting facts about this liquid gold!

Facts About Olive Oil

selective focus photography of green leafed plant
  1. Olive oil originally comes from the Mediterranean region, with some of the earliest cultivation traced to ancient Greece, Egypt, and Rome. The Mediterranean climate, with its hot dry summers and cooler rainy winters, is ideal for growing olive trees.
  2. Spain currently leads the world in olive oil production, providing over 40% of the global supply. Italy and Greece follow close behind as top producers. California also successfully grows olive trees and produces excellent quality extra virgin olive oils.
  3. Extra virgin is the highest quality and most flavorful variety of olive oil. To qualify as extra virgin, the oil must be extracted from fresh olives using only mechanical methods without heat or chemicals. The best extra virgin olive oils are unrefined and feature a wealth of fruit, spice, grassy, and nutty flavors.
  4. Thanks to its high concentration of monounsaturated fats, olive oil provides numerous science-backed health benefits. Studies show that replacing less healthy fats with olive oil can lower heart disease risk by reducing LDL cholesterol oxidation and improving HDL levels. Olive oil also decreases inflammation, enhances blood vessel function, and may help combat cancer cell growth.
  5. Olive oil is loaded with powerful antioxidants like oleocanthal and oleuropein. These plant compounds give extra virgin olive oil an anti-inflammatory effect and help prevent oxidative damage linked to chronic diseases. In fact, the oleocanthal in olive oil even mimics the pain-relieving properties of ibuprofen!
  6. Aside from its primary use as a cooking and dressing oil, olive oil also shines in various cosmetic applications. Some beauty devotees apply olive oil directly to moisturize skin and hair. Olive oil is also a key ingredient in soaps, lip balms, shaving creams, and many other body care products.
  7. The taste, aroma, texture, and quality of an olive oil depend heavily on exactly where and how the olives were grown and pressed. Terms like “Tuscan extra virgin olive oil” or “first cold pressed Greek olive oil” indicate that careful production methods were used to craft exceptional, regionally distinct oils.
  8. While most olive oils are blends derived from different olive varieties, some exceptional single varietal olive oils exist. These showcase the unique flavor profile of olives from just one specific cultivar like fruity Picual, herbaceous Hojiblanca, or spicy Arbequina.
  9. Aside from simple uses like drizzling over salads or bread, olive oil also shines for sautéing, roasting, frying, and baking. Chefs prize extra virgin olive oil’s high smoke point and ability to enhance the flavors of vegetables, seafood, poultry, and other ingredients.
  10. Olive production waste like pits, leaves, and pulp were historically discarded but are now being utilized. For example, olive leaf extract is valued for its antioxidant content while olive pits can be burned as biomass fuel. Further innovation could unlock more health, agricultural, and sustainability applications.
  11. While tradition dictates consuming olive oil in its first 2 years for peak flavor, properly stored olive oil can keep well for upwards of 12-24 months. For the longest shelf life, keep olive oil sealed in a cool, dark place and check for defects like rancidity before consuming older oils.
  12. Thanks to modern innovations like stainless steel mechanical presses and centrifuge extraction, olive farmers can produce high quality extra virgin olive oil faster and more sustainably than ever before. However, many smaller producers still use traditional granite stone mills and hydraulic presses to craft their oils.


Olive oil beautifully blends culinary versatility, health bonuses, and rich history – which is what makes it a beloved staple around the world. Seek out high-quality extra virgins and use olive oil generously in your cooking routines. Drizzle it over salads, veggies, and pasta or use it to sauté, roast, bake, and fry amazing dishes. Here’s to enjoying the pleasures and benefits of liquid gold for thousands more years to come!

Bowl Being Poured With Yellow Liquid

FAQs about Olive Oil

What is the smoke point of olive oil?

The smoke point of olive oil varies depending on the type. Extra virgin olive oil has a smoke point of 190–215 °C (374–419 °F), while refined olive oil has a higher smoke point of 210 °C (410 °F).

What are the main uses of olive oil?

Olive oil is commonly used in cooking for frying foods or as a salad dressing. It is also found in some cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, soaps, and traditional oil lamps.

Which countries are the largest producers of olive oil?

Spain is the world’s largest producer of olive oil, manufacturing almost half of the world’s supply. Other large producers include Italy, Greece, Tunisia, Turkey, and Morocco.

What are the different grades of olive oil?

The different grades of olive oil include extra virgin, virgin, refined, and olive pomace oil, each with specific characteristics and uses.

How can I identify high-quality olive oil?

Look for labels indicating “extra virgin” or “virgin” olive oil, as these are generally of higher quality. Additionally, seek out oils with protected designation of origin (PDO) or protected geographical indication (PGI) for exceptional quality and properties derived from their place of origin.

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