Health-conscious consumers: 1.4 billion fewer calories a year because of olive oil

Sales of the humble olive oil have grown by 43 percent since the beginning of the year, and the industry is expected to increase as much as 12 percent by year’s end, experts say. Olive oils have enjoyed unprecedented growth in recent years, reaching new high-elevation customer tiers, and so the boom has prompted olive growers across Europe to increase production and boost marketing.

The surge in sales can be explained, in part, by a surge in the use of olive oil in the Mediterranean diet, which includes local sources, according to the International Olive Council, a research and promotion organization. Consumers have added 1.4 billion fewer calories a year since 2014, after increased interest in health and well-being, the IOC says.

The trend reflects an interest among consumers in products which incorporate healthy Mediterranean food sources: The qualities of mature olives are shown to help strengthen blood sugar levels, thus keeping waistlines small and wrinkles off the face. The quality of olive oil also benefits from having been fermented at high temperatures in barrels and vats for days on end. And there’s another bonus: Ethanol, a compound found in the oils themselves, is a substitute for alcohol, offering yet another health benefit as it is a cancer-fighting agent, according to the IOC. The wine and spirits industries have tried to convince consumers that adding their own olive oil to vino would equal health benefits. But those findings were quickly disputed by an Italy-based academic journal.

There’s also been a surge in using olive oil in cooking, from making vinaigrettes, with the help of smoothness from adding olive oil to seasoned dishes, to covering potatoes and with butter or oil.

Image a: A basket of seed oil in Italy. Image b: Traditional cooking. Image c: A joint investigation carried out by The New York Times, Le Monde and The New York Times shows how olive oil is being used in places such as Buenos Aires and Naples, at one of Italy’s highest-end restaurants and in the Neapolitan homes of wealthy and middle-class people. Image d: Newmarket: The oil in drying villages. Image e: Green olive on a truffle harvest day in southern Italy. Image f: Asiago cheese made with oil. Image g: Souvenir tubes.

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