Avocado Oil vs. Olive Oil: What Is the Difference?

You have a lot of options when it comes to which oil to use when making salad dressings, baking, roasting and in any other kind of cooking that requires a source of fat. While there are many oils to choose from, not all offer the same health or flavor options. Two of the healthiest options are olive oil and avocado oil. But which one is better? Well, that depends on what you’re aiming to do with it.

What Is Olive Oil?

Olive oil is one of the most widely used oils in cooking in the U.S. It’s made from pressed olives, which are small stone fruit produced by a tree native to the Mediterranean region. As such, olive oil is a cornerstone component of the Mediterranean diet. It’s used to dress salads, in cooking vegetables and meat and even in some baking.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that one tablespoon of olive oil contains:

— Calories: 120.

— Protein: 0 grams.

— Carbohydrates: 0 grams.

— Fiber: 0 grams.

— Sugars: 0 grams.

— Fat: 14 grams.

— Monounsaturated fat: 10 grams.

— Polyunsaturated fat: 1.8 grams.

— Saturated fat: 2.2 grams.

— Cholesterol: 0 milligrams.

— Sodium: 0 milligrams.

[SEE: Camelina: The Heart-Healthy Oil You’ve Never Heard Of.]

What Is Avocado Oil?

Avocado oil is pressed from avocados, which are also a stone fruit native to Mexico and Central America. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that a tablespoon of avocado oil contains:

— Calories: 124.

— Protein: 0 grams.

— Carbohydrates: 0 grams.

— Fiber: 0 grams.

— Sugars: 0 grams.

— Fat: 14 grams.

— Monounsaturated fat: 10 grams.

— Polyunsaturated fat: 2 grams.

— Saturated fat: 2 grams.

— Cholesterol: 0 milligrams.

— Sodium: 1 milligram.

[WATCH: Which Olive Oil Is Best?]

Comparing Health Benefits

As the nutritional information above shows, these two oils have very similar nutritional profiles. Dana Ellis Hunnes, senior dietitian at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and adjunct assistant professor at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, says there’s not too much difference between avocado oil and olive oil except for their vitamin E content. One study found that a tablespoon of olive oil provides 33% of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin E, while a tablespoon of avocado oil contains about 23% of the recommended daily value of vitamin E. Both are considered good sources.

Otherwise, the two oils have similar properties. “They have basically the same proportion of oleic acid and other fatty acid components,” Hunnesekh says. Fatty acids are the building blocks of fat in food and in the body. “Other more minor differences may also be present, especially if comparing cold pressed versus more processed forms.”

These two oils are “equally excellent sources of monounsaturated (good) fats and antioxidant polyphenols,” says Dr. Rajsree Nambudripad, an integrative medical specialist with St. Jude Medical Center in Southern California. “Diets high in monounsaturated fats, such as the Mediterranean diet, are associated with a lower risk of heart disease, better cholesterol profile and lower blood pressure. Good fats are also very important for hormone health, joint health and good quality skin.” Both olive oil and avocado oil contain lots of antioxidants, which are compounds that “help your body neutralize free radicals and reduce inflammation,” she adds.

“Because the nutrient profile of avocado oil and olive oil are so similar, so are the health benefits,” says Colette Micko, a registered dietitian nutritionist with Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center Torrance in Torrance, California.

Specifically, both oils offer:

Heart-health benefits. “Both oils have a high content of oleic acid, a type of monounsaturated fat that has been proven to support heart health, including lowering blood pressure and reducing total body inflammation,” Micko says.

Cholesterol level reduction. “When saturated fat is replaced with monounsaturated fat, cholesterol levels typically improve,” Micko says.

Skin and eye health benefits. “Both oils have a high content of antioxidants — specifically vitamin E — which are supportive of skin and eye health,” Micko says.

All that said, quality makes a difference, Nambudripad says. “The health benefits of both oils also varies depending on the quality of the product and the refining process. The refining process of the oils can sometimes strip them of a lot of the nutrients and antioxidants, so it’s best to buy higher quality oils sold in dark glass bottles.” Extra-virgin and cold-pressed oils are the least refined and the healthiest options.

[SEE: Best Food Sources for Omega-3 Fatty Acids]

Comparing Taste

“Avocado oil is a neutral-tasting oil, so it does not impart much flavor,” says Dena Champion, a registered dietitian with the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “This can be great if you want the flavor of the food you are cooking to shine.” It may make it easier to incorporate into a wider range of recipes, including breads or other baked goods.

Olive oil, on the other hand, has a stronger flavor that’s typically associated with savory foods. “Olive oil has a fruity and slightly peppery taste that some people love, but it can interfere with some recipes,” Nambudripad says. As such, it may be best left for dressing salads and in cooking meats and veggies, rather than used in sweet items like brownies or breads. A powerful polyphenol antioxidant called oleocanthal in olive oil is what gives it “that slight spicy taste you notice in high-quality, extra-virgin olive oils,” she explains.

Bottom line, avocado oil is likely more versatile, Nambudripad says. “Olive oil pairs well with dishes with garlic, lemon juice and herbs found in Mediterranean cuisine, such as oregano, thyme and parsley. Avocado oil is more versatile since it can be used in all types of ethnic dishes since it has almost no taste.”

Comparing Usage

Micko says that “avocado oil has a slightly higher smoke point than olive oil, meaning it can tolerate higher temperatures before breaking down and releasing free radicals.” This means it’s a good option for sauteing and roasting and can be used in baking too.

And this is an important distinction, Nambudripad says. “Olive oil is fine for salad dressings and low- to medium-temperature cooking. For high temperature cooking, it’s not advisable to use olive oil since it can actually change from a monounsaturated (good fat) to a trans-fat (very bad fat). In contrast, avocado oil is stable at high temperature, so it can be used safely for high-temperature frying, as well as baking.”

Comparing Cost

Cost-wise, the two oils are similar. “It depends on the type and how much they’ve been processed,” Hunnes says. “It’s possible to find super expensive olive or avocado oil that are cold-pressed and barely touched. It’s also possible to find less expensive versions. Generally though, it seems like avocado oil may run about 50% higher in price than olive oil for the same amount and/or relative quality.”

Across the board, avocado oil is usually a bit more expensive than olive oil, Nambudripad agrees. “But cost really depends on the quality of the oil. You can find cheap varieties of both avocado and olive oil. But it’s worth investing in high-quality avocado or olive oil.”

How Much Should I Use?

Though both olive and avocado oils are considered healthy, they’re still oils, which are fats that are liquid at room temperature. As such, they should be used sparingly. Champion notes that “no one actually needs to consume oils,” specifically. “Dietary fat is important in a healthy diet, but plenty exists in whole foods such as nuts, seeds, avocados and other foods.” However, oils are useful in cooking and baking, and opting for a healthy oil is always better. Oils can “certainly have a place” in a healthy diet, she says.

Use Both!

Nambudripad says that both olive and avocado oils are excellent additions to your pantry and certainly better options than some of the other popular oils out there. “Stay far away from vegetable oils such as corn, soybean or canola,” which can promote inflammation in the body. “Many of my patients see tremendous improvement in their health when they cut out all the vegetable oils and incorporate more monounsaturated good fats, such as avocado oil, olive oil and nuts to their diet.”

She says the results can be powerful. “Many of my female patients suffering from menstrual cramps find that their cramps go away completely after cutting vegetable oils out of their diet,” while others with autoimmune disease “find their symptoms improve and their blood markers of inflammation and antibody levels go down as well.”

This just shows that you really are what you eat, she says. “It is truly remarkable the power of food on the body to heal and reverse disease. In my practice, I use ‘food as medicine’ to help patients heal and reverse many common health conditions.”

More from U.S. News

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Keto-Friendly Meals With Cauliflower Rice

Nutrition Facts About Avocado Oil

Avocado Oil vs. Olive Oil: What Is the Difference? originally appeared on usnews.com

Update 05/13/21: This article was previously published and has been updated.

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