Comparing Avocado Oil and Olive Oil: Nutritional Benefits, Users and More

You have a lot of choices when it comes to which oil to use in salad dressings, baking, roasting and in any other kind of cooking that requires a source of fat. While there are many oils to pick from, not all offer the same health benefits 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 cooking oils 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 of the Mediterranean diet. It’s used in dressing salads, when cooking vegetables and meat and even in some baking.

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

— Calories: 119.

— Protein: 0 grams.

— Carbohydrates: 0 grams.

— Fiber: 0 grams.

— Sugars: 0 grams.

— Fat: 14 grams.

— Monounsaturated fat: 10 grams.

— Polyunsaturated fat: 1.4 grams.

— Saturated fat: 1.9 grams.

— Cholesterol: 0 milligrams.

— Sodium: 0.3 milligrams.

[READ: What Are Seed Oils and Are They Bad for You?]

What Is Avocado Oil?

Avocado oil is pressed from avocados, a stone fruit native to Mexico and Central America. The USDA 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: 0 milligrams.

[WATCH: Which Olive Oil Is Best?]

Similarities and Differences

As the information above shows, these two oils have very similar nutritional profiles. Dana Ellis Hunnes, a senior clinical dietitian at UCLA Medical Center, assistant professor at UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and author of “Recipe For Survival,” says there’s not too much difference between avocado oil and olive oil, except for their vitamin E content.

Research suggests olive oil contains slightly higher levels of vitamin E than avocado oil. However, there can be variations within each type of oil. A 2019 study published in the journal Antioxidants, for instance, found variations in the vitamin E content of different species of olives used in olive oil. Nevertheless, both olive oil and avocado oil are considered excellent sources of vitamin E.

Candace Pumper, a registered dietitian at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, notes that avocado oil has higher levels of plant sterols (beneficial compounds such as the aforementioned antioxidants and phytosterols). “These compounds have been found to have cholesterol-lowering properties,” Pumper explains.

Hunnes adds that “other, more minor differences may also be present, especially if comparing cold-pressed versus more processed forms.” Cold-pressed oils are extracted by crushing the fruit (or seed or nut, depending on the type of oil) without the use of heat that can denature the components of the oil.

Overall Health Benefits

These two oils are “equally excellent sources of monounsaturated (good) fats and antioxidant polyphenols,” says Dr. Rajsree Nambudripad, an integrative medicine specialist with Providence St. Jude Medical Center in Southern California.

Both olive oil and avocado oil contain lots of antioxidants, which are compounds that “help your body neutralize free radicals and reduce inflammation,” Nambudripad adds. Free radicals are compounds that cause cellular damage and have been associated with an increased risk for chronic diseases.

Because avocado oil and olive oil are composed of similar compounds, they can provide many of the same health benefits, including:

Heart-health benefits. Both oils are rich sources of oleic acid, a type of monounsaturated fat that has been proven to support heart health and helps lower blood pressure and reduce total body inflammation.

Cholesterol level reduction. These oils are high in unsaturated fats, and they’re typically used to replace other oils and foods, such as butter, that contain high levels of saturated fats. As a result, they have been associated with lower cholesterol levels, which have in turn been associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.

Skin and eye health benefits. Because both oils contain lots of antioxidants and vitamin E in particular, they can be very helpful in supporting good skin and eye health.

Nutrient absorption. Both avocado oil and olive oil can help your body absorb more nutrients from the foods you eat alongside them.

Quality also makes a difference, Nambudripad says. “The health benefits of both oils also vary depending on the quality of the product and the refining process,” she explains. “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.” Darker bottles prevent sunlight from breaking down some of the healthy components of the oils. 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

A lot of the choice about whether to use avocado oil versus olive oil will come down to your own personal preference.

“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 also make it easier to incorporate into a wider range of recipes, including breads or other baked goods.

Pumper adds that high-quality, unrefined or extra-virgin avocado oil can have a “buttery and mushroom-like flavor with slight grassy notes.” This flavor profile, she says, is “ideal for simple dressings to complement cold dishes or used as a finishing oil for roasted vegetables.”

Refined avocado oil has a subtler taste, which is “perfect to complement any dish without overpowering or competing with the food,” Pumper adds.

Olive oil, on the other hand, has a stronger flavor that’s typically associated with savory foods. 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,” Nambudripad adds. This more astringent, bitter or peppery flavor makes unrefined or extra-virgin olive oil a good option for use in simple dressing, drizzled over seared meat or roasted veggies, in salads and on pasta. It can also be stirred into soup or used as dip for bread, Pumper says.

As with avocado oil, the more refined the olive oil, the milder the flavor, Pumper adds. This is because refined olive oil has a lower polyphenol content. Refined olive oil works well in salad dressings or in pasta sauces.

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,” she points out. “Avocado oil is more versatile since it can be used in all types of ethnic dishes (because) it has almost no taste.”

Comparing Usage

There are some variations in how these oils behave when heated that can influence your choice, depending on the recipe. 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 sautéing and roasting and can be used in baking too.

Pumper notes that avocado oil can withstand temperatures up to about 520 degrees Fahrenheit, but olive oil should stay beneath 350 to 410 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on how refined it is.

Generally speaking, “the higher the quality an oil is, the lower the smoke point,” Pumper says. This means that high-quality oil tends to be more delicate than its more refined counterparts. When it gets too hot, less refined oil can lead to the release of free radicals more quickly.

Comparing Cost

Megan Wroe, a registered dietitian and wellness manager with Providence St. Jude Medical Center says, but because avocados are more expensive to produce than olives, their oil also tends to be a little more expensive.

“It depends on the type and how much they’ve been processed,” Hunnes adds. “It’s possible to find super expensive olive or avocado oils 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?

Although 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.

“No one actually needs to consume oils (specifically),” Champion notes. “Dietary fat is important in a healthy diet, but plenty exists in whole foods, such as nuts, seeds, avocados and other foods.”

Oils are useful, however, in cooking and baking, and opting for a healthy oil is always better. Oils can “certainly have a place” in a healthy diet, Champion adds.

One word of caution about avocado oil: It’s more likely to cause an allergic reaction in some people than olive oil. If you have a known allergy to avocado or birch pollen, you should avoid avocado oil and food items or cosmetics products that contain it, Pumper says.

Use Both!

If you don’t have a known allergy, then you should consider using both of these healthy oils in your cooking. “I like them both,” Wroe says. “When I’m cooking at high heat or just want an oil that has zero taste, I reach for avocado oil. For my dressings and sauces, it’s olive oil.”

In the end, “there really isn’t a bad option,” Wroe adds. “Choose the one that’s available to you at the cost you can afford, and know that either one is a much better choice than any seed or vegetable oil they’re replacing.”

Nambudripad agrees that both olive and avocado oils are excellent additions to your pantry and better options than some of the other popular oils out there. “Stay far away from vegetable oils such as corn, soybean or canola.” These, she says, 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,” Nambudripad explains, adding that 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.”

Others with autoimmune disease, she adds, “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, Nambudripad says. “It is truly remarkable the power of food on the body to heal and reverse disease,” she notes. “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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Comparing Avocado Oil and Olive Oil: Nutritional Benefits, Users and More originally appeared on usnews.com

Update 03/10/23: This story was previously published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.

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