Olive oil is an important product in Morocco and a healthy food that adds a rich flavor and a unique taste to traditional Moroccan delicacies.
Morocco is widely known for its use and production of virgin olive oil. Moroccans consider olive oil to be one of the healthiest foods they consume daily; it is also a key ingredient in many famous traditional Moroccan dishes.
Following a plant-based Mediterranean diet, Moroccan cuisine focuses on the use of vegetables, fruits, herbs, nuts, beans, whole grains, and a moderate amount of dairy and meat. Olive oil, a major component of the Moroccan Mediterranean diet, is rich in antioxidants and healthy fat.
Moroccan virgin olive oil
Moroccan extra virgin oil has a bitter flavor because it goes under little processing and keeps most of its healthy components and antioxidants that help strengthen the immune system.
According to the International Olive Council, Morocco is the sixth-largest producer of olive oil in the world, producing up to 145,000 tons in 2019. Moroccan olive growers manually harvest an average of 224,500 hectares of the crop.
The majority of Morocco’s olives, 65%, are destined for pressing into oil while 25% are set for canning. The country has a modern and semi-modern sector for pressing olives, with 948 units and a capacity of 1.8 million tons per year. Morocco’s traditional sector boasts 11,000 “ma’asras,” the traditional Moroccan olive press. Ma’asras operate intermittently depending on the size of the harvest and generally meet individual or local consumption needs.
Moroccan virgin olive oil is mainly of the Picholine olive variety, an important variety with many healthy components including high levels of hydroxycinnamic acids that can help prevent Alzheimer’s.
Besides its many health benefits, virgin olive oil adds a rich flavor and unique taste to many delicious Moroccan dishes. Olive oil is essential in Moroccan dishes such as couscous, roasted chicken, tagine, different pasta recipes, seafood, and as a dressing for different salads.
This year, Morocco witnessed a good production of virgin olive oil as well as international acclaim. Moroccan olive oil factories won several international medals and prizes, including the Noor Fes estate. The estate earned the gold medal and a special jury prize for the best olive oil from the Picholine variety in the Athena International Olive Oil Competition.
Zouitina Prestige is another Moroccan extra virgin oil producer that earned many prizes this year, including a Gold Award at the NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition and a gold medal at the Athena International Olive Oil Competition.
Benefits of virgin olive oil
Many studies have shown that the Mediterranean diet has several health benefits that should encourage everyone to integrate virgin olive oil in their diet to avoid numerous illnesses and strengthen the body in the long term. These are five benefits of Moroccan virgin olive oil.
Rich in antioxidants
Besides its healthy amount of fatty acids and Vitamin E, extra virgin olive oil is rich in antioxidant properties that help reduce the likelihood of developing some chronic diseases.
The antioxidants in Moroccan virgin olive oil are biologically active and can help protect blood cholesterol from oxidation and lower the risk of heart disease. The compounds in the antioxidants, including Phenolic and Squalene, can reduce free radicals in the body and prevent damage to the cellular membrane, mitochondria, and DNA, which can help decrease cancer risks.
Integrating Moroccan virgin olive oil into your diet will help your body become stronger as well as reduce the risks of different health conditions.
Extra virgin olive oil can also have anti-inflammatory properties that help the body fight against many diseases linked to chronic inflammation, such as heart disease, metabolic syndrome, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, and type 2 diabetes.
Key anti-inflammatory elements such as oleocanthal exist in the antioxidants of extra virgin oil. Oleocanthal plays an important role in reducing inflammation as it has similar properties to the anti-inflammatory drug Ibuprofen.
Studies have shown that 50 grams of extra virgin oil equal an intake of about nine milligrams of oleocanthal, which has the same effect as 10% of the Ibuprofen dosage doctors recommend for adult pain relief.
Controls body weight
Many people try to avoid consuming oils including olive oil because they believe an excessive amount of fat will lead to weight gain and obesity. However, extra virgin olive oil contains healthy fatty acids that experts recommend the average person include in their diet.
Not all fat causes excessive weight gain. In fact, studies have shown that consuming olive oil, even excessively, was not related to weight gain. For a healthy and balanced diet, health guidelines recommend that a person get 20 to 35% of their calories from fat, mainly polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) and monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA).
These healthy fats exist in certain oils, seeds, nuts, and some plant sources. Moroccan virgin oil is a rich source of MUFA, and integrating it into your diet will help you reach the recommended fat intake you need while maintaining your body weight and boosting your health.
Mental health benefits
You will be surprised to know that Moroccan virgin olive oil does not only have physical health benefits but mental health benefits as well! In fact, many recent studies have found that several foods have certain components that help to boost mood and reduce symptoms of depression, and olive oil is one of them.
A 2013 study found that elements in virgin olive oil can be very beneficial in treating depression and anxiety. A 2017 study also showed that the Mediterranean diet and consuming at least two tablespoons of extra virgin oil per day helped 30% of participants fight their depression.
A similar study in 2019 that supported the previous research found that the Mediterranean diet helped in reducing symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress in a young adult after only three weeks.
You might have only recently heard about the beauty benefits of virgin olive oil, but Moroccans and other North African countries have been using olive oil for centuries as a treatment for hair and skin.
With its anti-aging antioxidants and squalene properties, you can use olive oil as a natural body moisturizer and apply it directly to your skin. You can also use it as a makeup remover and to cleanse excessive face oils while keeping your face moisturized and soft without clogging your pores.
You can also use olive oil can as a pre-shower hair mask by applying it to your hair either at room temperature or heated for 20 minutes or more before your shower. The hair mask helps keep your hair soft and shiny. You can also use olive oil as a lip scrub by mixing it with sugar.
Read also: Five Benefits of Drinking Moroccan Mint Tea
Olive oil is a rich component in the Mediterranean diet, a diet that Moroccans adhere to while adding their own flavor, with traditional cuisine and culinary techniques that focus not just on taste but on health benefits, as well.