Our family recently traveled to Italy – Venice, Rome and Florence to be exact – and enjoyed the most wonderful foods throughout. For many reasons, the cuisine being just one, this was one of our best vacations.  Before, and even now after the trip, we’ve been trying to extend our enjoyment by: watching movies even half-way referencing Italy (just last night we watched The Italian Job re-make from 2003), brewing Italian Roast Starbucks and, even as I type, wearing Italian shoes. Pasta has been on our dinner table most every night. Ahhh, bellissima vacanza!

The difference in regional cuisines, the merits of terraced farming, the best soil for white wines – we took it all in.  But no topic, had the locals buzzing more than the subject of olive oil.

Without exception, each person explained to us why his/her olive oil was THE best explaining to us that it was the: weather, soil, tree, harvest method, timing, color, aroma.  “Here, have a taste.” And we did.

And you know, each was right.  Olive oil preference is as personal as any other taste preference. We tend to like the familiar; oftentimes, that means we prefer the tastes we grew up with. So, each opinion was correct.

From a nutrition standpoint, olive oil weighs in like other oils with respect to calories (1 Tablespoon contains about 124 Calories).  So, regardless of food oil source (safflower, corn, soybean, or canola for example) the calories are similar. Olive oil’s health benefit that we hear so much about, then, isn’t from a calorie savings but from it’s chemical composition.  

The fat molecule, a pretty complicated structure, begins with a small chemical backbone from which three branches of fatty acids are attached.  The branches can be the same or different from one another in several ways and the health benefits or consequences come from the structure of those branches or chains. The branches are one of three types: 1) saturated, 2) monounsaturated or 3) polyunsaturated.  These terms describe how the elements are chemically bonded to one another.

Once within the body, these chains either stack easily onto the inside of a blood vessel or not.  Olive oil has a majority of its branches in the monounsaturated configuration which are less likely to accumulate in vessels and the heart and also not create other health ills.

I’ll come back in another minute and chat a bit more about olive oil. Until then, essere ben,

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  1. Clyde says:

    Reading about your trip to Italy is fascinating. Was the food there as scrumptious as everyone says? I have never been to Italy, but is the food as good as at my favorite Italian restaurant, Fazoli's?

  2. Marcia Crawford says:

    Clyde, I sense that you, my fine reader, are funnier than I am. Please control yourself and be well! MC

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