My favorite varieties of Extra Virgin Olive Oils are from Spain, particularly the Andalusian and Catalonian regions. It has been more evident in recent research that the health benefits of Olive Oil are due in part to their concentration of polyphenols.
Polyphenol content is mainly dependent upon the production process, but it has also been shown that the origin/region of the olive plays a factor as well. Whether the higher concentrations of health benefiting polyphenols is dependent upon the region which the olives are grown or lies solely within the production process is up for debate. (I have read that the Spanish regions mentioned above have the added impact of soil integrity that may affect the oils’ health report of higher antioxidants, polyphenols, and oleic acid profile.)
Also, I always opt for Extra-Virgin First Cold-Press Olive Oil using Organic Farming methods. It is the healthiest type of Olive Oil you can buy. Researchers have shown that the polyphenol ppm (parts per million) values are vastly different. Extra Virgin comes in at about 50 -80 ppm and regular olive oil comes in at about 5 ppm. That’s huge.
Another interesting tidbit you might not be aware of is that Spain is the world’s largest producer of olive oil and that many of the “Italian” olive oils are actually blended or even 100% Spanish that has simply been “bottled” in Italy.
So if you use olive oil for more than flavor and would like to also enjoy the health benefits you should make an effort to buy the best olive oil available. One of my very favorites is L'Estornell. The name is derived from a bird that frequently is seen around the olive harvest in the region of Catalonia, Spain. The terrior (soil, terrain) and climate of the area are ideal. The production process employed by the manufacturer is superb, rising above the standards set by the International Oil Council. In the states it can be found at most gourmet markets. I personally have found the oil in retail markets like: Williams Sonoma and Whole Foods.
They also produce some other varieties that are awesome, like the Lérida Veá, which is the first cold extraction of the buttery, flavorful Arbequina Olive.
The health benefits of EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil) are numerous.
Some Of the Health Benefits Include:
Protective against heart disease
Lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol and increases HDL (good)
Lowers blood sugar levels and helps to prevent insulin sensitivity
Stimulates immune cells
Gobbles up free radicals (through enzyme activation)
Protects DNA from free radical damage
Lowers blood pressure
Functions as an anticoagulant (platelet aggregation)
Oleic Acid, found in Olive oil can initiate cell death of aggressive breast cancer cells
Helps prevent bone loss
Protective against peptic ulcers
Promotes gastrointestinal health
Monounsaturated fats in Olive oil can help to break down stored fat in cells
The link below is for further, more in-depth information about the above referenced statements concerning the health benefits of Olive Oil. It is from one of my favorite sites, WHFoods.com.