When it comes to cooking, often, attention is focused on the core ingredients, such as the type of veggies you want to pair with your seared salmon or the sriracha you just know will amp up the flavor in your shrimp tacos. Sometimes, not much thought is given to the type of oil you use at all; you may just go for whichever one is in arm’s reach.
But as any chef or dietitian will tell you, the type of oil you cook with absolutely matters and can either enhance or compromise both the taste and nutrition of your meal. Two of the most beloved on both fronts are avocado oil and olive oil. These two oils have similar nutritional profiles, but there are differences that set them apart.
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What is avocado oil?
Avocado oil is made by pressing the fruit of the avocado after it is peeled and de-pitted, explains registered dietitian Maggie Michalczyk, R.D. After pressing, the pulp is then heated and filtered to extract the oils. If an oil is “cold-pressed” or “cold extracted,” it means that heat or chemical solvents were not used to crush the seeds and extract the oil. Michalczyk explains that this cold-pressed or cold-extracted avocado oil is especially nutrient-rich because heat used during processing can lessen some of the nutrient value.
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From a nutritional point of view, Michalczyk likes avocado oil because of its many nutritional benefits, especially the high quantity of antioxidants and unsaturated fats. The nutritional information for avocado oil is listed below:
Serving size: 1 Tbsp
- Calories: 124
- Total fat: 14 g
- Saturated fat: 1.6 g
- Protein: 0 g
- Fiber: 0 g
- Sodium: 0 mg
What is olive oil?
Olive oil is made very similarly to avocado oil, according to registered dietitian Catherine Perez, R.D. “The main difference is that the skin and seed of the avocado is removed before pressing, but when making olive oil, the olives go through multiple pressing and separation processes,” she says. Like with avocado oil, she explains that olives are pressed to a pulp and then heated and filtered to extract their oils. “If needed, the oils can then be further processed chemically and even deodorized to refine the look and flavor of the oil,” she says. Also, just like with avocado oil, Michalczyk says that cold-pressed or cold-extracted oils are available and these olive oils are more nutrient-rich than when heat is used.
When shopping for olive oil, you will likely see some labeled as “virgin” or “extra-virgin.” What’s the difference? Perez explains that extra-virgin oil is less processed than virgin olive oil. “It has a stronger flavor and tends to retain a majority of its nutrients because [it’s processed less],” she says.
Both dietitians say that, like avocado oil, olive oil is high in antioxidants and unsaturated fats. Below is a full run-down of its nutritional information:
Serving size: 1 Tbsp
- Calories: 120
- Total fat: 14 g
- Saturated fat: 2.5 g
- Protein: 0 g
- Fiber: 0 g
- Sodium: 0 g
What do avocado oil and olive oil have in common?
1. Both oils may be good for heart health
Both dietitians reiterate that the major nutritional benefit of both oils is that they are high in unsaturated fatty acids. “Both contain very similar amounts and when consuming fats it’s encouraged to choose options that contain more of these unsaturated fats over saturated fat,” Perez says. “Research has shown that replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats can lower the risk of heart disease and other chronic diseases.”
Michalczyk adds that both avocado oil and olive oil are good for heart health because a diet high in unsaturated fats is linked to lowering LDL cholesterol and lowering blood pressure.
2. They both may be good for brain health
Avocado oil and olive oil aren’t just good for your heart; Michalczyk says that consuming them regularly supports brain health too. This, she says, is because of both the unsaturated fat and antioxidant content. Scientific reviews back her up, showing that regularly consuming extra-virgin olive oil can prevent and even stop the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Since avocado oil is structurally so similar to olive oil, it follows that it may have this same benefit as well.
3. Consuming avocado oil and olive oil may be good for your gut
The same scientific review showing that extra-virgin olive oil supports brain health also shows that it’s good for gut health too. Researchers say this is because it increases the amount of good bacteria in the gut. Again, since avocado oil has these nutrients too, your gut will benefit from either oil you decide to cook with.
4. Both oils may support eye health
“Avocado oil and olive oil both contain lutein, an antioxidant that is associated with protecting your eyes,” Perez says. Scientific studies show that this nutrient has anti-inflammatory properties that can help prevent age-related macular disease linked to blindness and vision impairment. Drizzle your avocado or olive oil on leafy greens, cooked squash or eggs to up your lutein intake even more!
5. Consuming avocado oil and olive oil may lower inflammation
Both Perez and Michalczyk say that the antioxidants in the oils are linked to preventing or lowering chronic inflammation. This is important because, over time, chronic inflammation can lead to diseases including some types of cancer.
How avocado oil and olive oil are different from each other
1. Olive oil is higher in vitamin E
While both oils contain the antioxidant vitamin E, Perez says that olive oil is slightly higher in the nutrient than avocado oil. Vitamin E is an especially beneficial nutrient for skin health, helping to protect the skin from UV exposure. Besides olive oil being higher in vitamin E, Perez says that the oils don’t have any noteworthy differences when it comes to nutrition.
2. Avocado oil has a higher smoke point than olive oil
“Avocado oil has a higher smoke point than olive oil which is better suited for cooking at high temperature,” Michalczyk says. For this reason, if you’re using an oil to sauté, roast or bake with, she recommends going for avocado oil instead of olive oil. But if all you have is olive oil at home, that’s okay; both oils have a high smoke point and can withstand high temperatures. The smoke point of avocado oil is 482℉ and the smoke point of extra-virgin olive oil is 376℉.
3. Avocado oil has a more neutral taste than olive oil
If you don’t want the oil you’re using to alter the flavor of your food, you may want to go for avocado oil when deciding between the two; Michalczyk says it has a more mild flavor than olive oil. While avocado oil is mild and slightly nutty, she says that olive oils can vary in taste and many can be quite bolder and even a bit peppery. This taste can often enhance your food, adding another layer of flavor to it.
Which one to use comes down to a personal decision and what you’re making: Do you want your oil to add more flavor to your food or would you rather keep it neutral and allow other ingredients to stand out?
Other tips to keep in mind when using avocado oil and olive oil
While both oils bring a lot to the table in terms of nutrition and taste, Perez says the rule of too much of a good thing applies here. “These are still oils and many of the benefits from them can be obtained in even greater quantities from fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds,” she says. These food sources also contain other nutrients you may not get from the oils. For example, besides unsaturated fats, nuts and seeds also contain protein and fiber, two nutrients that the oils do not have.
That said, Perez says when you choose avocado or olive oil over an oil that’s high in saturated fat, like coconut oil or palm oil, you’re making a healthy swap by decreasing the saturated fat content and upping the unsaturated fat content in your meal.
When buying either oil, Michalczyk says to go for one in a dark, glass bottle. “The dark glass protects and preserves the oil better than plastic,” she says. When you get your oil home, she says to store it in a dark place that doesn’t get much sunlight, such as your pantry. This is because light and heat can break down the nutrients in the oils. That also means you don’t want to store them right by the oven where it tends to get hot.
The bottom line
Since both oils are nutrient-rich and you’ll get almost exactly the same health benefits no matter which one you use, both dietitians say it may make more sense to choose the one based on your taste preference and what you’re cooking. (Again, the smoke point for avocado oil is slightly higher than olive oil and it’s more neutral in taste.) Because they’re both useful and healthy, Perez and Michalczyk recommend having a bottle of each in your pantry. Why pick a favorite when you can have both?
Emily is a freelance writer and certified health coach who specializes in writing about mental health, fitness, healthy food, and social justice issues. Emily spent six years as an editor and writer at Well+Good, covering everything from food trends to serious issues like the opioid crisis in America and gun violence. She has also worked at Seventeen, Elle, and Twist magazines. She regularly writes for publications including Forbes, Parade, Shape, and The Huffington Post. Emily lives in Raleigh, North Carolina with her cat Evie.