These cooking oils both provide some impressive health benefits.
No pantry would be complete without a handful of cooking oils to choose from. Aside from keeping food from sticking to your cookware, the oil used in a recipe can carry flavors throughout the dish and even provide some healthy benefits—depending on the oil and cooking method. But with so many options to choose from, how is anyone supposed to know what the healthiest cooking oils are to use? Avocado oil and olive oil are two top choices, thanks to their versatility in the kitchen and their impressive nutrient density.
How do avocado oil and olive oil compare nutritionally—and is one a healthier choice overall?
Avocado Oil and Olive Oil Nutrition Facts
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), these are the basic nutrition facts for avocado and olive oil, respectively.
Avocado Oil (1 Tablespoon):
Calories: 124 calories
Fat: 14 grams (g)
Saturated Fat: 1.6 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 9.9 g
Polyunsaturated Fat: 1.9 g
Vitamin E: 1.8 milligrams (mg)
Olive Oil (1 Tablespoon):
Calories: 119 calories
Fat: 14 g
Saturated Fat: 1.9 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 9.9 g
Polyunsaturated Fat: 1.4 g
Vitamin E: 1.9 mg
Avocado Oil and Olive Oil Health Benefits
A side-by-side breakdown shows that these two oils are practically nutritionally identical in terms of calorie, fat, and vitamin E content.
“Both [avocado oil and olive oil] also contain polyphenols, including lutein, which are powerful antioxidants,” says Krista Wale, RD, LDN, founding registered dietitian of Louisiana Nutrition Associates.
Here are several more ways both avo and olive oil can support your health.
Consuming both avocado and olive oil help benefit heart health, largely due to their high mono- and polyunsaturated fat content. These healthy fats actually help to reduce cholesterol levels, lowering the risk of plaque build-up on veins and arteries, also known as atherosclerosis. Mono- and polyunsaturated fats are anti-inflammatory, too, further helping to drive down the risk of heart disease.
Thanks to their vitamin E and fatty acid content, both avocado and olive oil can support healthy skin. Fat is a key component of our cells and can help enhance the skin’s natural oil barrier. The anti-inflammatory nature of vitamin E and unsaturated fats found in both oils will also help to support vibrant, glowing skin. As an antioxidant, vitamin E has even been shown to offer photoprotective effects against solar radiation from ultra violet (UV) light rays.
The anti-inflammatory nature of the mono- and polyunsaturated fats, combined with the antioxidant properties of vitamin E and plant compounds found in both oils, also help optimize immune health to stave off both acute and chronic illnesses. Further, the nutritional properties of olive oil, in particular, have recently been found to benefit the gut microbiome, which plays a major role in immune health (among many other important body systems). And seeing as avocado oil has nearly an identical nutrient breakdown, the same benefit can be applied.
Lutein, which is found in both avocado and olive oil, is a carotenoid—a type of plant compound that has been found to boost eye health. In fact, research suggests that it may protect against or alleviate symptoms of several eye-related disorders including macular degeneration, myopia, cataract, and diabetic retinopathy.
Both types of oil also aid in the absorption of a few key vitamins that require fat to be absorbed. Vitamins are primarily broken down into either water-soluble and fat-soluble varieties. In order for either kind of vitamin to be properly absorbed, it needs to be consumed in the presence of its preferred solvent—water or fat. So, in the case of the fat-soluble vitamins—A, D, E, and K— both avocado and olive oil will aid in their optimal absorption, so we can reap the most benefits from them.
Avoid excessive consumption of both oils.
And while there are next to no cautionary health notes for avocado oil or olive oil, “it's important to note that it is a calorie-dense fat source,” Wale adds. “Compared to protein and carbohydrate foods, fats contain more calories per serving,” so it’s important to avoid extreme, “excessive consumption of [oils] without dietary balance.” It's best to stick as close as possible to about one tablespoon of oil per serving.
Avocado Oil Health Considerations
It’s also worth noting that there are a few differences between these two oils when it comes to their health impacts.
Slightly higher in monounsaturated fats.
Avocados, the fruit of the Persea americana tree native to Central America, have soared in popularity all over the world with a particularly strong following in North America. The same can be said for avocado oil. And while avocado and olive oil largely measure up the same in terms of nutrient density, “certain varieties of avocado oil may contain higher concentrations of monounsaturated fats,” Wale says. Though these concentrations will be minimally greater than olive oil, they still will further champion heart, skin, and immune health.
A bit higher in anti-inflammatory plant sterols.
Additionally, avocados are one of the best sources of plant sterols (an anti-inflammatory plant compound) available. This means that avocado oil will have a higher concentration of this phytonutrient compared to olive oil, further benefiting immunity and overall health.
Olive Oil Health Considerations
Olive oil has been a cornerstone of the Mediterranean diet for centuries. Again, while olive oil’s nutritional makeup and benefits are largely equivalent to that of avocado oil, Wales explains that some olive oil varieties may be slightly higher in plant compounds, especially the less-processed varieties. “So when shopping [for olive oil], opt for an extra virgin olive oil for maximum health benefits,” she says.
Taste and Culinary Comparison
The biggest differences between these two oils can be found in their taste and culinary applications.
Cooking With Avocado Oil
Avocado oil is considered a neutral oil because it hardly tastes like anything, though some can taste a mild avocado-y, almost grassy flavor. It has a very high smoke (or burning) point, somewhere between 420 and 520 degrees Fahrenheit (there’s some debate on the exact temperature).
These two attributes combine to make avocado oil the perfect, healthy substitute for other neutral, high-heat cooking oils like canola or vegetable. Avocado oil is excellent in dishes where you want the flavor of the primary ingredients to really shine—not the oil they’re cooked in. Asian, Indian, and Mexican cuisines are a few that classically utilize neutral oils like avocado oil.
Avocado oil is also well-suited for high-heat cooking applications like roasting and stir frying, no-cook recipes like dressings and mayonnaise, and even baked goods like breads and desserts.
Cooking With Olive Oil
Olive oil, on the other hand, tends to have a stronger, more distinct taste. This smooth, rich oil can impart many different flavor notes depending on the variety, growing region, and other variables. Its flavor can range from fruity and nutty to buttery and floral—some distinctive olive oils will even have a subtle, spicy bite to them. The less refinement it undergoes, the more flavor the olive oil will have. This means that extra virgin olive oil, which is less refined, has a more intense flavor than a non-extra virgin olive oil variety. This makes flavorful, high-quality olive oils sensational when you want the oil itself to shine.
Olive oil has a lower smoke point compared to avocado oil, around 400 degrees Fahrenheit, though the nicest extra virgin olive oils shouldn’t be heated at all to preserve their delicate, delicious taste. Affordable, everyday olive oil (including extra virgin varieties) are great for sauteing and baking while the expensive, high-quality, flavorful options are best suited for no-cook applications like dipping, drizzling, and dressing.
What to Look For When Buying Avocado or Olive Oil
When shopping for either type of oil, look for options stored in dark-colored, glass bottles. Dark bottles (and storing them in a dark place once you bring them home) will protect your oils from damaging UV light that can degrade the nutrients in your oil, and the taste. Also, look for bottles that say "cold-pressed" or "cold-extracted" on the label, because this heat-free processing method further maintains the nutrient density in both varieties.
The Bottom Line
Ultimately, both avocado and olive oil are incredibly healthy ingredients to include in your everyday diet. While there are minute nutritional differences in the micronutrient content of these two popular cooking oils, both offer plenty of healthy fats, vitamin E, and anti-inflammatory plant compounds to boost heart, skin, gut, immune, and metabolic health.
However, the contrasts in taste and physical properties (like their smoke point) are important to note so you can best utilize and take advantage of them in the kitchen.
“Incorporating both oils into your diet can help diversify your nutrient intake and promote overall nutritional balance," Wales concludes.
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