Sugar

Azúcar! Excitement, mystery, sin, willpower… all feelings feeding the love-hate relationship we have with sugar. The thing is, that in the sweetened modern world, sugar walks a fine line between sin and pleasure, enjoyment and guilt. I want to, but I shouldn’t eat it; just a little…The disadvantages of eating too much sugar are well known and no less exploited by the light industry. In the following tabs, we will see that nowadays we probably eat more sugar than we believe and that in this country sugar is normally from cultivated beet from not very far away.

In the Mediterranean:
  • Like many other culinary products, sugar is closely linked to the Mediterranean and the cultures that have developed there throughout history.
  • References to the planting of sugar cane go back almost 5,000 years, to New Guinea. It quickly expanded to China and India. It appeared on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean in the 4th century BC, with Alexander the Great’s journeys and conquests in his expansion of Macedonia into Asia.
  • In the 7th century AD the Muslim world came into contact with sugar when it invaded the regions of the Tigris and Euphrates. After the invasion of Spain in 711, sugar production extended all around the Mediterranean basin: to Sicily, Cyprus, Malta, Spain and a large part of North Africa (above all Morocco).
  • It was in France in 1705 that an important milestone in the history of this prized sweet substance occurred when the chemist Olivier Serrés discovered that wild beet contained sucrose. A few decades later, the German Margraf managed to extract and solidify the sugar from this plant. The establishment of the first beet sugar factories then began.

The main function of sugar is to sweeten. We innately find a sweet taste pleasant and we appreciate it depending on how sweet a tooth we have. In very different cultures, a sweet taste is associated with trust and pleasure (and a bitter taste with rejection and punishment). The fact is that sugar affects the mood: for example, it is involved in the secretion of serotonin, a neurotransmitter linked to pleasure and biorhythms. It is therefore not surprising if we want sweet foods when we feel sad. There are, however, other sources of sweetness, some of them not recommended. We should discover the different sources of sweetness.

How can we go about it:

  • Honey is the sweetener most used in North Africa andEurope, until it was deposed by sugar. The calorie content is similar to that of sugar, and that of other nutrients is low. It is considered to be a 1.5 times stronger sweetener than sugar.
  • Stevia is a plant originally from Paraguay, where it is used medicinally. It can be grown on any balcony and sweetness can be obtained from the leaves, which are 20-30 times sweeter than sugar. They can either be eaten or infusions can be made. Companies like Coca-Cola or Pepsico already use the sweetening component, which is 300 times sweeter than sugar. In some countries, there is an active movement to promote its medicinal properties and extend the domestic growing of the plant.
  • Industrial sweeteners are substances that can be put into industrially made foods to give them sweetness without using sugar. Some have health drawbacks and they are best avoided.

Nutritionally, sugar largely has calories, that is, energy. The sugar molecules are formed by only two saccharides (simple sugars), which is why they are digested more quickly than other carbohydrates, like cereals, which contain longer saccharide chains. That is why their energy takes less time to reach the cells, which is why, when we make a brief, intense physical effort we recover quicker with sugar (or fruit, juices, chocolate, etc.) than by eating a sandwich or a dish of pasta. Brown sugar has a few other nutrients. We should find out the nutritional differences between white and brown sugar.

How can we go about it:

  • White or refined sugar is made almost exclusively (99.85%) of sucrose.
  • Brown sugar can also have different quantities of molasses (other components of sugar cane) and the darker it is the more it will have. The darkest sugars have between 7% and 15% molasses. This molasses above all contains vitamins and trace elements.
  • The calorie content and sweetening power are slightly lower in brown sugar. Slightly more brown sugar than white is needed to achieve the same level of sweetness; the quantity of calories will be similar in both cases.
  • Some people say that white sugar is damaging because when the molasses is taken out, vitamin B is taken away, therefore vitamin B has to be “stolen” from the body to digest it. But, with a varied diet, we can obtain vitamin B from many sources.

Sugar is also used as a preservative, for example to make jams or syrups, because many microbes cannot survive in a sweet environment. The food industry also uses it for various purposes.

The sugar in the table represents only a quarter of the quantity of sugar we eat: there is sugar in many other foods. We should find out the ways in which we can eat sugar.

How can we go about it:

  • The fresh foods that contain the most sugar are fruit and honey, followed by milk. There is a little in all vegetables, and none in meat and fish.
  • It is also contained in sweet processed foods: soft drinks and other beverages, sweets and preserves, biscuits, cakes, buns, ice creams, dairy products, etc.
  • We also find it in not such sweet processed foods in which sugar is used to provide texture or volume, as a flavour enhancer, or as a colourant (in this case it is additive E150…). Quite a lot of foods unexpectedly contain sugar.
  • European law regulates the information concerning sugar content that can be put on food labels. It is a regulation that leaves room for a degree of ambiguity.

We have the idea that sugar is fattening, but in fact what is fattening is eating more calories than we burn (those we have not used are stored in the form of fat). Excessive calorie accumulation can result in various illnesses. To prevent sugar from being damaging to us, we need to seek a balance between “the sugar coming in and the sugar going out”.

How can we go about it:

  • We should have a varied, balanced diet without an exaggerated intake of sweet things or of anything else. We should be careful to not eat too many cakes and buns or eat between meals, which normally leads to eating more foods rich in sugar and fats (the other big source of calories).
  • We should remember that, as we have seen above, “sugar comes in” by many routes, in addition to eating sugar itself, and some are unexpected (many processed foods that are not sweet).
  • We should not blindly trust products that “are not fattening” (low-calorie, light, etc.) which the industry makes so we can carry on enjoying sweetness without worrying about our weight. Labelling regulations allow false “lightness claims” and sweeteners with dubious health effects can be included.
  • If we see that we ought to cut down the quantity of sugar or sweet things that we eat, it will be difficult for us in the beginning, because our bodies are used to operating with a certain level of sugars. But this yearning will pass, because the body adapts to the level of sugar to which we accustom it.
  • We should fight growing sedentarism, doing at least a minimal amount of physical exercise.

There are two main types of sugar – white and brown – although other kinds can be distinguished within each type. We should find out what each type of sugar is.

How can we go about it:

  • Sugar beet gives white sugar, and sugar cane gives brown sugar.
  • Molasses (which can be obtained from sugar cane) can be added to beet sugar and the result is brown sugar.
  • Sugar obtained directly from cane is called natural brown cane sugar. It is obtained by pressing the cane in mills near to where it is grown so as not to wait too long once the cane has been harvested (otherwise the sugar is damaged).
  • This sugar can be refined, which means removing the molasses (other components in cane sugar), obtaining white sugar.
  • Molasses can be added once again to this white sugar, obtaining what is called refined brown cane sugar.
  • There are different degrees of “brownness”: the more molasses left (or added to it if it is based on white sugar) the darker it will be.
  • White sugar consists almost entirely of sucrose (calories) and brown sugar also contains nutrients from the molasses: largely vitamins and trace elements. The darkest sugars can contain between 7% and 15% molasses.

Another parameter for classifying sugars is the plant they have been obtained from. Sugar can come from sugar beet or sugar cane, which is grown in tropical zones. Quite a lot of beet is grown in the Mediterranean area (above all in France, Turkey, Egyptand Italy), but not much sugar cane (it is only grown in Egyptand Morocco, and a very small amount in Spain). They are two crops with very different characteristics. We should be clear about which informed consumption criteria are most important to us when choosing one origin or another.

How can we go about it:

  • If we place a great deal of importance on consuming foods of local origin, we choose beet sugar. It is very probable that the white sugar we find at the market is beet sugar.
  • If we want to help make business initiatives which seek the sovereignty of Southern societies viable, we can choose Fair Trade cane sugar. We will largely find it in shops specialising in Fair Trade, where they can tell us about the origin of the sugar. We can also find it in other shops. We can identify it by its international Fair Trade marks or the marks of importers in this country.

Tourism

Where are you going on holidays this year? What are you going to do in the long weekend? Travelling is becoming such a usual (and inexpensive) thing that we are mixing up leisure with tourism. Is travelling the essential ingredient of holidays? Is it meaningful to talk about sustainable or responsible tourism? With so much globalization it is getting more difficult to distinguish a French man from a German man. Where is the pleasure of travelling?

In the Mediterranean:

  • Modern tourism was born in the Mediterranean, in the French and Italian Riviera of XIX century, (Venice, Nice, Monaco…). Afterwards there arrived the mass tourism of sun and beach. Even now the Mediterranean is one of the main destinations and origin of tourists in the world. For the past three decades of XX century the touristic arrivals to the Mediterranean have been multiplied almost by four (and also those of worldwide tourism).
  • Tourism in the Mediterranean is one third of the world tourism. Spain is the second world destination if we count the visits and the revenues. But it is not distributed in the same way throughout the area: in 2000, the 75% of visits went to France, Spain or Italy, although the destination for such travels is starting to go down and instead, in countries such as Greece, Turkey, Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt, Malta and Cyprus it has been tripled in twenty years (1980-2000), In these latter countries, tourism is a 20% of their whole economical activity.
  • The tourism coming to the Mediterranean is mainly a leisure one, whereas for example a 40% of travels to Italy are professional ones and to Israel or Morocco there are many travels to see the family or friends (48% and 39% respectively).
  • With regard to the tourists from the Mediterranean, every time there is an increase, mainly from the northern zone. The 72% of French and half of the Israelis and Spanish are travelling on holidays, whereas only a 25% of Turkish and a 10% of Syrians and Egyptians do so. In Morocco, Algeria and Albany they scarcely make tourism.
  • It also happens that people from the northern part of the Mediterranean are travelling more abroad, and the southern ones do it inside the same country (a 97% of the travels to Turkey and a 70% are to see family or friends, without needing neither lodgement nor touristic operators).
  • Also, within the same countries where much tourism is done, there are also many inequalities. A 41% of Spaniards have never travelled abroad, and on the other hand, a 15% does it at least once a year. A 38% has never slept outside their home even a single weekend, or neither to visit their family in the last 3 or 4 years.

There are several reasons to do tourism, to know a place, to widen one’s horizons, to take a rest, to devote ourselves to vital aspects which we consider to be unattended, to give us a treat, to vent stress… We can also travel for more unconscious reasons, as to show a certain status to our vicinity (and to ourselves), or to reinforce our own identity. Let us ask ourselves what we really do need and let us make a plan adapted to ourselves.

How can we go about it:

  • Part of what we are seeking in a travel we can find it also very near, landscapes, knowledge and persons of other cultures, places where to evade ourselves… And we can also “travel” through books, films, documentaries, music…
  • If we have a real need of having a rest, let’s not choose a travel with too much coming and going, or let us think even, about the possibility of staying where we are.
  • Touristic marketing is omnipresent, sometimes subtly hidden in films where they are singing the charms of some places. Be sincere to ourselves. Am I going because I really want to, or not to be less than others, or because it is inexpensive?
  • We should try to equilibrate every day the attention given to different aspects of life that fulfill us, not to accumulate great shortcomings which may need afterwards great solutions.

Tourism is especially violent with our surroundings and deteriorates the landscape: the urbanization, the degradation of natural zones, the transformation of towns, etc. Let us look only the state of the shores of many Mediterranean countries… Avoid the options that provoke big impacts.

How can we go about it:

  • Let us avoid new constructions to lodge us in. Interchange of houses permits us to take the utmost profit of houses and to know better the society we are visiting. Two networks have been set up via internet: InterVac i HomeExchangeGOLD. Some of them give us too the opportunity to live with local hosts: The Hospitality Club, CouchSurfing.
  • There are hotels which provide ecological food or use bio construction elements, for example in Spain, Venus Albir. In the web Environmentally Friendly Hotels we can look for hotels all over the world which are applying criterion of ecological management.
  • If we want to practise rural tourism, the most recommended option would be agro tourism, which does not substitute but complements farming or livestock activities. We can find guide for different countries here, initiatives in France, Spain, Italy, Turkey
  • A particular case of agro tourism is Wwoofing (Opportunities everywhere of Ecological Farms), where the tourist participates in the farming activities of the host farmer in return for accommodation and food. There are participant farms at least in Spain, Israel, Turkey, France, Italy, Morocco, Lebanon, Croatia and Greece.
  • Ecovolunteer organizes travelling to preserve sites of special natural interest and their cultures.

Travels, (mainly those taking us to the destination place) are responsible of quite a great part of the environmental impacts of a travel, especially in emissions of CO2. Let us minimize them.

How can we go about it:

  • Let us go to nearer places than to far away ones. If we go far that it be for many days. We can travel by train, bus or shared car; we can find how to do it here, here… At the destination place, let us find how we can move in public transportation, or rent a bike
  • We can also take advantage of holidays to make a little exercise and use walking routes or by bike, information for Europe at The Bike Tour, Europe by bike or Hitchwiki (also in Northern Africa).
  • At some webs we can also calculate the energetic cost of the different ways of getting around, here (there are many data and very illustratives ones), this one, this one

At many places tourism is seen as a great engine of economy, because it boosts other activities. But a lot of times it generates very precarious jobs often seasonal ones and the revenues are shared in a very unequal way, and even more, in not a few occasions, the local resources are more available to tourists than to local residents.

Mostly, the travel agencies (retailers) sell us the tourist packages made by touristic operators (wholesalers). There are big conglomerates including agencies, operators, hotel chains, airlines, etc., which take the major part of the economical benefit of travels. Let us look for options sharing more with the population of the places we are visiting.

How can we go about it:

  • That it is not sold by an enterprise as foreign as ourselves to the place we are going. Let us choose the services (lodging, guides, food…) offered by the people living there.
  • Let us look near us independent travel agencies and small touristic enterprises, which in general make that money is shared among the local population.
  • Internet is a good tool to find these issues. For example, if we search rural tourism in Morocco we will find this, if we look for non-profit tourism in France, we can come across this… The British organization TourismConcern informs about the social and economical impacts of tourism.
  • We can get informed after the experience of people that have travelled, talking with people we know or also through blogs, this one, this one (only in Spanish), this one, this one on rural tourism (also in Spanish)…
  • If we travel south we can find options of communitarian, responsible or solidarity tourism

A brief tourism may entail a distancing more than a mutual approach among cultures entering in contact: it contributes to feed stereotypes and leaves without contents many cultural events. Let us take some time to savour the culture we are visiting.

How can we go about it:

  • Before and during the travel, let us try to know a little about the culture we are visiting so as to understand it, we should not try to impose either our standards (levels of cleaning, education rules, relations among people, diet, views about time)….Different does not mean better or worse.
  • Contacting with people of that place will allow them to pass from service to hosting. By sure they will be able to let us know things that are not on the guides or at tours.
  • Maybe having seen different ways of making everyday’s things, of commerce, of going from one place to another… than those we know, will suggest us ideas to make a more conscientious consumption when we come back home.
  • The difference in the standard of life between the traveller and the people of the hosting country may be the origin of misunderstandings. Let us be discrete in our clothing (cameras, jewels…) and don’t be haughty when asking or replying. Gifts or tips too important may even create violent situations; let us be as thankful as we are at home, neither more nor less. If we want to collaborate with resources to resolve lacks we detect, it is better to channel them through some local organization.

Books

We open its cover. Maybe we’ll find training, or entertainment, or cultivation… A lot of variety, though many repetitions also of fashion themes. What would happen if we copied literally the contents of those pages? Pages that by the way, still come in their great majority from trees… Do we mind if we may find books reflecting any ideology? If we want to read a book only once, do we like the idea of leaving it on our shelves forever? Many considerations to be taken into account… Don’t turn the page!

In the Mediterranean:

  • The world of books is very diverse among the various Mediterranean coasts. If we go back to 1999, the last year of which we have data of the whole Mediterranean scope collected by UNESCO, we see that it goes from the 133 titles published in Algeria or the 386 in Morocco, up to the more than 30,000 published in Italy of the almost 60,000 published in Spain, whereas in Tunisia were published one thousand, two thousand in Croatia and three thousand in Slovenia.
  • In general, in the Arab World, publishing industry has a modest production, as stated the president of the Association of Arab Publishers in 2003. That is because reading has not been popular at the Arab world during the last generations; even there has been a low or very low literacy level (though the picture is changing in the last years. According to UNESCO data, if we adhere to the range of age between 15 and 24 years, we see there is only a 10% of illiterate or more in Algeria, Egypt and Morocco). In fact, traditionally there has been an important oral transmission of poems, of knowledge, of Quran…
  • On the other hand, on the other European side, we find a truly publishing madness: considering that books have small revenue, the more they publish the more they increase the possibility that any of them may be successful and therefore compensates the edition of all of them. This phenomenon has become a very quick vicious circle, for example in Spain where publishers explain that they have found themselves in a non-stop escalation of titles since at least one century.
  • It is thus very difficult to bring together information equally valuable for such different realities. The information you will find on the following tabs is of appliance especially in countries with the publishing and reading models more common at the northern shores of the Mediterranean.

If we are not short on money it is not unusual to buy books just like that. A book is never amiss; reading makes we grow up, it is necessary to support culture… But books are nonetheless consumer goods, and it is as convenient to limit their consummation as for any other product. Let us buy books when we really want them.

How can we go about it:

  • If I buy this book, when will I read it? How many books do I have that I have not yet read and I don’t know if I ever will be able to, although I would like to do so? Maybe I could start to read one of those, before I buy a new one?
  • Libraries are an excellent tool to have access to books without having to buy them.
  • We can also read books that other people lend us.
  • Electronic books and audio books let us save paper (please look on “the paper” tab).
  • Books (and records) are often very used as a wild gift when “we do not know what to give as a gift”. Let us assure ourselves that the person receiving it really wants that book, or that he/she will be able to read it. We can also give as a gift the possibility of reading that book, lending him or her books of ours, for example.
  • It’s often thought that authors need to sell books to keep on creating, but that's not so.
  • If we want to develop ourselves, reading is a way, but not the only one. There are people “officially uneducated” that have such a deep wisdom as a learned person. We can learn a lot from other people of our own experimentation, of talks, of some programs on the TV or the radio…
  • Let us buy a book when it really interests us or we like it so much as to want having it handy at any time. This way we will also keep place for shelves at home.

We want to read on a subject matter, a certain kind of novel… but we don’t know which book we’d like best. Let us seek advice.

How can we go about it:

  • The booksellers are some of the business branches who usually have more knowledge about what they are selling. They can guide us on the style of different authors, the suitability for the age if we want books for children, the contents of technical books, the deepness and line of essays… Let us explain them properly what we are looking for…
  • Knowing the marketing techniques with which books are offered helps us not to choose by impulse.
  • Let us talk about books with people of similar tastes and interests.
  • Let us consult press reviews and in the internet, but seeking different sources so as to contrast them.

Many big publishing groups are giant conglomerates with an enormous power on the public opinion because they own a great number of media (newspapers, magazines, TV, radio, cinema and entertainment…). The independent publishers are much superior in number; in Spain, for example a 75% of the publishers are independent and they publish a 43% of the titles. If we buy books from independent publishers we contribute to a wider plurality of ideas circulating (or, as it is also called, to bibliodiversity).

How can we go about it:

  • Most independent publishers are a minority and about specific themes, but some of them have a wide diffusion and international prestige, such as the Spanish one Anagrama. Let us look for them in our environment.
  • The copyright is the agreement by which an author or publisher reserves himself/herself the right to reproduce a work. The copyleft vision helps the books to move more freely among the public and is a great contribution to plurality.

The type of binding will influence the duration and good preservation of the book. Those with American binding (the loose sheets are glued directly to the spine) get loose very easily. Let us buy strong books.

How can we go about it:

  • The books which are more durable are the rebound ones, having several signatures sewn, glued or sewn to the spine. If we look the spine from above or below the book we will see the different “booklets”.
  • Let us take this into consideration especially for books that we will use a lot, like recipes or dictionary ones, those for library use…

According to the FAO, 40% of wood that is felled for industrial uses is destined to make paper. The paper industry uses more water to produce a ton of product than any other industry, is the fifth largest consumer of energy and one of those which release more toxic pollution to air and water. Let us look for books printed on recycled paper, which besides saving trees is manufactured with a lot less of water and power than virgin paper and releases far less pollutants.

How can we go about it:

  • Nowadays there is paper of the same quality that the virgin one for most uses, even for photocopiers. Only some printings that must have very specific qualities, as for examples full colour very brilliant photos, cannot be made out of recycled paper. Recycled paper has the same durability as virgin one.
  • Let us look for in our environment those publishers that are printing on recycled paper.
  • Greenpeace is working with many book publishers so that they commit to the campaign Ancient Forest Friendly’ Book papers, but progress is slow. Some authors that have committed to choose recycled paper or FSC for their books are Andrea De Carlo, José Saramago, Isabel Allende, JK Rowling, Ian Rankin, Günter Grass or Marlene Streeruwitz.
  • One option to save paper might by electronic books, but so far to read on the screen for many people is much more uncomfortable than reading on paper, and so, maybe after we have read some pages we will be eager to print the book also, and then it will be a more uncomfortable book that one printed as usual. The screen book makers may make it easier. The Gutenberg Project offers us for free almost 20,000 titles, for which the copyright reservation has expired.
  • The audio books are spoken books to be listened to. They are easy to find in the internet (for example here).

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is an international organization that grants a stamp of guarantee to products derived from forests or plantations managed in environmental standards and without causing social damage. When printing on virgin paper, that it be FSC.

How can we go about it:

The points of sale of books are not competing as much in price as in variety and services (in some countries, such as Spain, France or Greece, the retail price is fixed by the editor). Hypermarkets are selling mostly impulse and text books, they do not buy to small publishers and there is no specialized vendor than can advise us. Most bookshops besides vending books are cultural facilitators. Let us buy in bookshops.

How can we go about it:

  • Let us give priority to independent bookshops, the neighbourhood ones or the big ones that are not owned by big groups (even that there are less and less of these ones. For example in Italy 600 out of 2,000 bookshops are owned by some group).
  • Big bookshops have a good list of titles including books of small publishers.
  • Small bookshops take the books throughout the country and can bring us any title we may want.

The better we keep the books, the more people will be able to read them after us. It is not necessary that a book is in a faultless condition to be able to read it, but it helps if we keep them in a good state.

How can we go about it:

  • Let us cover the books while we are using them.
  • For those who have a paper jacket to protect the book, it is better to have it off while we read, so that it does not bend nor break.
  • Don’t use too thick bookmarks, as they may cause the book to get unbound. We can easily do one of card or paper.
  • Don’t open completely the book, so that it does not get unbound. The study books or consultation titles that have to be opened to 180º are edited in thick books in which the pages do not touch the spine on opening it. If we have it open on a surface, do not load thereon.
  • Do not write therein if it cannot be well rubbed out.
  • When we carry a book in a backpack or any other pack, we can put it in a plastic or fabric one, to diminish the impact of hits, to prevent the scratches and spots and avoid that the edges bend.
  • Let us arrange them on the shelves in a quite vertical position; if they are crooked they get distorted. Do not pile them up horizontally because the weight of those upon would distort those below.
  • Don’t let them in humid places; they could be attacked by fungus. Do not lay them either on places where they can be reached by sunshine directly.
  • Dust spots them. We should regularly dust the books or keep them inside a glass cabinet.
  • Bacteria are “eating up” paper of the oldest books. Let us apart them from the new ones, so that they don’t spread.

Once we have read them, there are several ways to make books reach other readers if we do not want to keep them.

How can we go about it:

  • To give them to some friend or take them to an exchange fair or to a second-hand shop.
  • To give them to schools, libraries or organizations that make them arrive to countries or communities with few resources.
  • To liberate them through the system of book crossing.
  • The last option would be to let them piled up beside the paper container; somebody always picks them up.
  • Let us demand and promote the reuse of text books at our children’ schools.

Olive oil

Taste, odour, colour, health, food… Olive oil does not need any presentation. Olive tree, mill, cruet, seasoning… Something vibrates well inside us with these sounds that our Mediterranean history has engraved, as when we savour the pleasure of a dash of virgin olive oil on a toasted baked in wood. Have a nice meal!

In the Mediterranean:

  • We all know that Mediterranean is the cradle of oil which has become jointly with wine, one of its great symbols. The most ancient oil amphora we know about was found in Crete. It seems that olive tree crop originated in the east (Turkey, Syria, and Palestine), but some scores of centuries before Christ it was extended towards Greece, Sicilia, and Maghreb… The Roman Empire promoted its arrival to all the corners of Mediterranean and the expansion of Arab world boosted it even more. For example, many Spanish words related with oil (the very same “aceite, aceituna, almazara“) are of Arab origin.
  • In the Hebraic culture, the oil unction conferred authority, power and glory before God. Today oil continues playing an important role in different rituals either Jewish, Christian or Muslim.
  • In Greek mythology, olive tree was a gift of gods. Goddess Athena made it emerge from the earth, and as appreciation for the gift, which was symbol of warrior resistance and nourishment, the city of Athens was called after her. Homer already referred to oil as liquid gold.
  • Besides being nourishment and a religious unction, the Mediterranean culture has used the olive oil as a cosmetic product, as fuel for lamps and to make soap.
  • According to the data of the International Olive Oil Council, in the campaign 2006/07, the 97% of worldwide olive oil was produced at the Mediterranean countries, although olive trees are grown up all over the world, in California, Chile, South Africa, Australia, China and Japan… Spain is producing almost half part of it (44% in the campaign 2006/07) and together with Italy and Greece, they reach 72%. The next productive countries are Turkey, Syria and Tunisia, with a 6% each. The main olive region is Andalusia, which was already an important supplier of oil to the whole Roman Empire.
  • The Mediterranean countries consume a 73% of the olive oil produced all over the world, although there are quite big differences in the consumption per inhabitant.

It is said that olive oil is very good for health because it helps to reduce cholesterol, but that is not exactly thus. Let us know the role of fat and olive oil in the organism.

How can we go about it:

  • We need to eat fat, animal or vegetal ones, because they are essential for the organism (it permits to assimilate certain vitamins, it operates on the formation of some hormones… and they supply energy). Olive oil, that mainly contains fat, is one of the options.
  • An excess of animal fat (a non-equilibrated diet, thus) can facilitate an accumulation of cholesterol in the blood vessels.
  • If we have an excess of cholesterol, to substitute in the diet animal fats for vegetal ones (except palm and cocoa) or those from fish will be beneficial, because we will reduce the quantity of cholesterol that we are consuming.
  • Olive oil also contains vitamins A and mostly E, which are antioxidant (they neutralize certain toxins that are formed by metabolism of the cells). It seems that those antioxidants also provide elasticity to the blood vessels.
  • So that the oil provides us all this nourishment it has to be virgin, because when it is refined (look at the following tab), nutrients disappear or get denatured.

In the conventional farming, plagues are fought with pesticide, in the ecological, mainly with other methods such as traps. Although olive tree are dry-land crops, since a fewer years. it has become usual to irrigate them for increasing the productivity, mainly in Andalusia and in conventional farming. This has the effect of weakening the resistance to plagues and the oil produced is milder. It is important to support the agriculture that adapts better to nature’s action.

How can we go about it:

  • Most of Mediterranean countries are members of AgroBioMediterraneo, an organization that promotes the ecological agriculture and the rural tourism to the Mediterranean. The main producers of ecological olive oil are Italy and Spain, but there are other countries like Tunisia where it is quickly expanding it.

The flavour and the odour of virgin olive oil are very different depending of the variety of olive tree from which it is obtained. There are hundreds of them, and Greece is the country where the greastest number of varieties is produced. The traditional grinding method with millstones is quite kept in some countries (88% of mills in Lebanon, 51% in Syria) and almost abandoned in others (14% in Spain, 7% in Jordan), where they have been substituted by the extraction by centrifugation. The paste of olive can be heated so that more oil is obtained, but then it is not so tasteful and it is less nutritious. We will get more pleasure and nutrition if we look for oils extracted without heat.

How can we go about it:

  • We can recognize the oils extracted in millstones and without heating by its name, first cold pressed oil.
  • The oils obtained by centrifugation without heating the paste above 27º are identified as cold extraction
  • The virgin oil most appreciated (by its taste) is the one called extra, because it has less acidity. It is usual that it is sold filtered (or clarified), which is done so that it has a brilliant appearance and not muddy, but thus, it also loses antioxidants and aroma.

The oil that is too acid is not edible and thus, it is refined: a dissolvent is introduced and it is brought to high temperature, a solvent is added and borne at high temperature, so that is turns to a liquid without nutritional value. To make it edible it is mixed up with a small quantity of virgin oil and is sold as olive oil (that’s to say, without the word virgin). In the ecological production it is not permitted to refine the oil. The refined olive oil will be more nutritious the more contents it has of virgin oil. Let us look for the one having more acidity.

How can we go about it:

  • We will find the degrees of acidity on the label. It usually ranks between 0’4º and 1º.

Oil can reach us from the olive peasants via the agricultural cooperative where they are incorporated; in Spain a 33% of the oil is produced by agricultural cooperatives and the rest by enterprises. The cooperative where there is the mill, extracts the oil, packages it and sells it, either at the very same place (then it is called agrarian shops) or at other shops. Buying at the agrarian shops let us know in a very direct way the origin of the nourishment we are consuming and to enhance the rural world.

How can we go about it:

  • We go to an olive yard zone at harvest time (between November and January, it varies somewhat from year to year) and we look for some agrarian cooperative, there are usually some of them. At many of them they will let us take a walk at the mill zone and will show us how they are making the extraction. We can buy there the oil for all the year.

In Spain, France, Italy, Greece and Slovenia, the Protected Origin Denominations and the Protected Geographical Indicator identify products that cannot be produced with the same characteristics elsewhere than in the zone indicated by the DOP or IGP. Let us buy oil that offers us guarantees of quality and origin.

How can we go about it:

  • We can identify the ecological oil by its European label or other certifying entities of different countries.
  • The virgin olive oils have to indicate on their label where they come from and the origin denomination if it is established. In Italy, almost a half of the products with Origin Denomination are oils.

Waste is ever-increasing all over the world and few of it is recyclable. It is necessary to reduce as much as we can the use of packaging, mainly of materials more difficult to recycle.

How can we go about it:

  • Let us take packaging as big as possible. Glass and can are better than plastic (besides it is less recyclable, it is permeable to odours), and plastic better than “tetrabric”.
  • In the ecological production “tetrabric” is forbidden and plastic can only be used for packaging 5 litres or more.

On the contrary than wine, virgin oil loses quality with the passage of the time (it is optimum within a year). Let us keep it and use it so that it keeps its proprieties up to maximum

How can we go about it:

  • Let us keep the oil in a dark, cold and dry place. On the labels of ecological oils will be shown the year when olives were picked up.
  • When we fry, don’t let that it ever smokes because then toxic compounds are formed (even it endures more than other vegetable oils) It is said that it can be reused to fry 5 or 6 times.

Oil forms a film on the surface of wastewaters that does not permit that water gets oxygenated and therefore that it gets purified. Let us avoid such a contamination.

How can we go about it:

  • Do not throw used oil to the drain; let us keep and take it later on to the dump. We can also make soap of it, or biodiesel.