Superfoods available from the Burchell Nursery include almonds, apples, apricots, cherries, olives, oranges, walnuts and the category’s new star, pomegranates

Everyone points to olive oil as the reason why the Mediterranean region has historically shown low rates of heart disease, certain cancers and diabetes. Is it a superfood? Evidence indicates it is.

Olive oil contains monounsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants in the form of vitamins E and K, carotenoids and polyphenols. Some studies indicate that olive oil has the effect of lowering the “bad” LDL cholesterol while raising the level of “good” HDL cholesterol.

Indeed, none other than the US Food and Drug Administration has allowed a strong health claim to be placed on olive oil product labels for the past five years: Limited and not conclusive scientific evidence suggests that eating about 2 tbsp. (23g) of olive oil daily may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease due to the monounsaturated fat in olive oil. To achieve this possible benefit, olive oil is to replace a similar amount of saturated fat and not increase the total number of calories you eat in a day.

The demand for olive oil and its health benefits may be why the olive is most extensively cultivated fruit crop in the world. Global consumption of olive oil stands at nearly 500 million gallons a year. Demand in the US is increasing at roughly 20 percent annually, and California olive oil production has increased 168% from 1996 to 2004, according to the University of California Cooperative Extension in Sonoma County.

The growth in the industry is tied to the new super-high-density varieties and techniques. A study conducted by Nicole Sturzenberger at the UC Davis Olive Center found that more than 10,000 acres of
super-high-density olives have been planted in California between 1999 and 2008, and an additional 10,000 acres are expected to be planted in 2009.

Burchell Nursery offers growers the popular varieties
of Arbequina IRTA® i-18, Arbosana IRTA® i-43 and Koroneiki IRTA® i-38 olives.

Oranges are synonymous with vitamin C. Just one orange provides 116.2% of the recommended daily value of vitamin C, according to the George Mateljan Foundation for the World’s Healthiest Foods. But many of us may not realize the connection between vitamin C and good health.

The World’s Healthiest Foods website ( explains that vitamin C is a water-soluble antioxidant that disarms free radicals and prevents damage in the aqueous environment both inside and outside cells. The site gives these details, “Inside cells, a potential result of free radical damage to DNA is cancer. Especially in areas of the body where cellular turnover is especially rapid, such as the digestive system, preventing DNA mutations translates into preventing cancer. This is why a good intake of vitamin C is associated with a reduced risk of colon cancer.”

The site goes on to describe how free radical damage can result in painful inflammation, so vitamin C can help reduce the severity of inflammatory conditions, such as asthma, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. And as free radicals oxidize cholesterol, vitamin C can help reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke. Further evidence of this benefit can be found on the WebMD site, which lists oranges as one of the top 25 heart-healthy foods.

If you’re looking to harvest the demand for the health benefits
of oranges, Burchell Nursery offers the Tango Seedless Mandarin and Clementine de Nules varieties as well as others.