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Have you ever wondered what the healthier oil was: avocado oil or olive oil? Or what oil to use for cooking? In this article, we will take a deep dive into avocado oil vs. olive oil to find out which one is healthier and better suited for cooking.
Chosen Foods published a blog article the other day promoting the benefits of avocado oil. We use both avocado oil and olive oil a lot at home, and I decided to share with you the findings of my research.
Move over olive oil — avocado oil is the new favorite. It has grown in popularity this past year for so many reasons. (Chosen Foods)
Both olive oil and avocado oil consist mostly of fat, more specifically fatty acids. So before we jump into the comparison of olive oil vs. avocado oil, let’s take a look at the differences of the various types of fatty acids that make up those oils, including monounsaturated, saturated, and polyunsaturated fat.
Understanding the risks and benefits of each fatty acid category enables you to judge the health benefits of cooking oils better.
Fatty acids are molecules or the building blocks of fat. Most people use both terms interchangeably, and while that isn’t technically correct, it’s okay for the purpose of understanding the health benefits of cooking oils. To learn more about fat and fatty acids, check out this article on thepaleodiet.com.
You can find saturated fatty acids mostly in animals foods, such as dairy products and meats as well as in coconut- and palm oil.
Saturated fatty acids (and all fatty acids) are comprised of chains of carbon atoms connected to one another by chemical bonds.
There are different types of saturated fatty acids, based on their number of carbon atoms and each type has different chemical properties. The term “saturated” stems from the fact that their “carbon atoms are completely filled with hydrogen atoms.”
What is essential for us to remember is that not all saturated fats are the same when it comes to their impact on the human body. Moreover, different foods contain different types of saturated fatty acids.
I grew up being told that saturated fats are bad for your health and there appeared to be plenty of pseudo-scientific evidence to support that so-called “lipid hypothesis.” But based on recent scientific research, there is little indication that saturated fat is bad for your health. I have written about the “low-fat lie” in another article that goes into more details, so check it out if you are interested.
If you don’t have time to go into details, here is the conclusion of a study published in 2012, titled “Dietary intake of saturated fat by food source and incident cardiovascular disease”:
Although dietary recommendations have focused on restricting saturated fat (SF) consumption to reduce cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk, evidence from prospective studies has not supported a strong link between total SF intake and CVD events. Associations of SF with health may depend on food-specific fatty acids or other nutrient constituents in foods that contain SF, in addition to SF.
You can learn more about the various types of saturated fatty acids here.
You can find monounsaturated foods in nuts, olive oil, and avocado oil. The term “mono” comes from the single, double bond between two carbon atoms. You can learn more about the different types of monounsaturated fatty acids here.
There are two main groups of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA): Omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. The ration of those two types of PUFAs is a crucial factor in determining how healthy an oil (or other types of fat) is for your body. The term “poly” stems from the multiple double bonds between carbon atoms. You can learn more about PFUAs here.
Avocado oil contains over 70% monounsaturated, 16% saturated and 14% polyunsaturated fat. As a rule of thumb, saturated and monounsaturated fats are good for your health, but you should stay away from polyunsaturated fats when it comes to vegetable oils. Avocado oil scores well in that area because it has over 85% of those beneficial fatty acids.
Note: Fatty acids are sub-units of fats or in other words, fats are made up of fatty acids.
Avocados have a lot of nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Carefully processed Avocado oil retains many of those nutrients. Chosen Foods claims that their refinement process retains 80% of the beta-sitosterol found in virgin avocado oil, as well as 60% of the vitamin E! As a side benefit, you can also use Avocado oil for a hair mask to treat hair loss (more details). That is mostly thanks to its monounsaturated fatty acids, which are good for your hair.
High heat can destroy the chemical structure of oils, making them potentially toxic and dangerous for consumption. The temperature at which the breakdown process begins is called smoke point. Refined avocado oil has a relatively high smoke point, making it ideal for cooking at high heat. The avocado oil from Chosen Foods (Amazon) we use at home has a smoke point of 470-500 degrees Fahrenheit.
Refined avocado oil doesn’t have a very distinctive taste, unlike olive oil. That makes it a perfect candidate for cooking, frying or searing.
Just like with any other oil, the refinement process of olive oil is critical and not all olive oil is created equal. Some lower quality oils are extracted using high heat and chemicals, or they are even diluted with cheaper oils. For that reason, I highly recommend buying only extra virgin olive oil, which has to follow certain standards for purity and extraction method.
Olive oil is very similar to avocado oil in its fat composition and contains about 73% monounsaturated fats, 13.8% saturated fats and 13.2% polyunsaturated fats.
Olive oil contains modest amounts of vitamin E and K, but it is loaded with antioxidants.
Two of the primary polyphenols in olive oil have shown to protect LDL cholesterol from oxidation (1, 2). That’s critical because only oxidized LDL (Low-Density Lipoprotein) is harmful to your health. That’s a crucial factor that’s often ignored during the annual physical exam and blood work.
Depending on the brand of oil, most extra virgin olive oil has a smoke point of ~400 Fahrenheit, which is high enough, even for frying.
According to the International Olive Oil Council, “when heated, olive oil is the most stable fat, which means it stands up well to high frying temperatures. Its high smoke point (410ºF or 210ºC) is well above the ideal temperature for frying food (356ºF or 180ºC). The digestibility of olive oil is not affected when it is heated, even when it is re-used several times for frying“.
That is in contradiction to what you may have been told. But just like the lipid hypothesis, it’s a myth and science shows that it’s perfectly safe to cook with extra virgin olive oil.
Unlike avocado oil, olive oil has a distinctive taste that not everybody likes.
Both avocado and olive oil have a very similar fatty acid composition with over 70% of monounsaturated (healthy) fat. Both oils have a relatively high smoke point, and you can use them for cooking and frying. Avocado oil may fare a bit better in the vitamin department, but olive oil shines as a rich source of anti-inflammatory antioxidants.
According to thepaleodiet.com, both olive oil and avocado oil have less than favorable omega-6/omega-3 ratios of 11.7 and 13.5. That’s usually more of an issue with oils high in polyunsaturated fatty acids, which neither avocado nor olive oil has. But thepaleodient.com still recommends ensuring adequate intake of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids of 0.5-1.8 grams of EPA-DHA per day from either fish or fish oil capsules.
That leaves us with taste, arguably the biggest difference between the two oils. I like the taste of olive oil, but not everybody does. If you are not a fan of the taste of olive oil, I recommend sampling a few different oils. A couple of weeks ago, I tasted different olive oils (from olives grown in various countries and regions) at the Alpharetta Farmers market, and I was surprised by the variety in taste. If you don’t like one olive oil, you may very well like another. Otherwise, I’m afraid that you will have to stick to avocado oil or other types of healthy oils (macadamia nut, coconut, etc.). For frying your best option is probably coconut oil or ghee.
At the Kummer home, we use both avocado oil and olive oil for a variety of dishes, and we supplement with fish oil capsules.
I was born and raised in Austria. I speak German, English, and Spanish. Since moving to the U.S., I have lived and worked in Alpharetta, GA. In my twenties, I was a professional 100m sprinter. These days I do mostly CrossFit. I'm a technologist and Apple fan. I love science and don't believe anything unless there is proof. I follow the Paleo diet and intermittently fast every day. I'm married and have two trilingual kids. My goal with this blog is to share what I learn so that you can spend time on something else.