The Making of Olive Oil
Like all oils, olive oil contains three different kinds of fatty acids: saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Animal fats contain predominantly saturated fats, seed oils contain mostly polyunsaturated fats, but olive oil contains up to 83% monounsaturated fatty acids.
The main monounsaturated fatty acid in olive oil is oleic acid. It also contains a very few saturated fatty acids and some very basic polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as linoleic acid and linolenic acid. It is this ideal combination of oleic, linoleic and linolenic acids that makes olive oil so different from other oils, and gives it its unique biological and nutritional value.
However, its beneficial properties are not just a result of this combination of fatty acids, but are also due to the small quantities of other beneficial elements found in olive oil. These include vitamins and provitamins (A, D, E and K), minerals and trace elements, and a whole class of polyphenolic substances, called antioxidants. Antioxidants are beneficial to the human body, and to the olive oil itself as they protect it from oxidation which gives olive oil its long “shelf life”.