There’s no question that high quality olive oil is super healthy—and delicious. This liquid gold has been used for thousands of years, bringing a unique depth of flavor and peppery finish to countless dishes. It’s also been researched like crazy (particularly extra virgin olive oil), with upwards of 11,000 scientific studies published on its various health benefits, from reducing risk of diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s to curbing pain, inflammation, and cholesterol.
But if you’ve flipped through an issue of Bon Appétit lately or if you follow any health-oriented food bloggers and influencers, you know there’s a new cooking oil in town that’s getting loads of hype: Avocado oil.
While avocado isn’t nearly as well researched as olive oil—only about 200 scientific studies mention it on PubMed—nutritionists sing its praises as a minimally processed oil that supports overall health, and that also happens to be way better for you than highly processed vegetable oils like soybean, corn, or canola oil.
But is avocado oil healthier than olive oil? What about taste and smoke point?
At first glance—or first Google—it’s hard to say for sure. Both of these green-to-golden hued oils contain antioxidants and other bioactive compounds, plus a range of healthy fats, including monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats.
There are some subtle differences, though. Here, we unpack everything you need to know about avocado oil vs olive oil, including how they’re made, their nutrient profiles and antioxidants, science-backed health benefits, flavor characteristics, and more.
Olive Oil Vs. Avocado Oil: The Basics
Both olive oil and avocado oil are natural oils made by centrifuging the pulp of fatty fruits—olives and avocados, respectively—and removing the solids and water. Each oil available in unrefined (i.e. extra virgin, cold-pressed) and pure/refined varieties, which indicates the relative level of processing. (Here’s a full breakdown of all the different types of olive oil.)
The good news: Even pure/refined olive oil and avocado oil are still quite healthy compared to most vegetable oils, as they require less heat and fewer chemical solvents.
However, with both oils, the level of processing does affect the levels of polyphenols and other bioactive compounds, flavor, and smoke point—which, in turn, influences their uses in the kitchen. In general, less processing equals more bioactives, more flavor, and potentially a lower smoke point; more processing equals fewer bioactives, less flavor, and a higher smoke point.
Nutritional Breakdown Of Olive Oil Vs. Avocado Oil
Most of the major nutrients in olive oil and avocado oil are actually the same—regardless of the level of processing. (The main differences lie in their composition of polyphenols and other bioactive compounds, which almost never appear on the nutrition label.)
Glance below and you’ll notice that both oils have an incredibly similar fatty acid breakdown: Both are low in potentially harmful saturated fats and high in anti-inflammatory, heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs).
Olive Oil Nutrition
In general, one tablespoon of olive oil contains the following, according to the USDA:
- Calories: 119
- Total fat: 13.5 g
- Saturated fat: 1.9 g
- Polyunsaturated fat: 1.4 g
- Monounsaturated fat: 10 g
- Cholesterol: 0 mg
- Total carbohydrate: 0 mg
- Protein: 0mg
Olive oil also contains a variety of healthy plant compounds, including polyphenols (oleuropein, hyroxytyrosol, and oleocanthal), vitamin E, phytosterols, squalene, chlorophyll, and carotenoids such as lutein. Many of these compounds are most abundant in extra virgin olive oil.
Avocado Oil Nutrition
In general, a tablespoon of avocado oil contains the following, according to the USDA:
- Calories: 124
- Total fat: 14 g
- Saturated fat: 1.6 g
- Polyunsaturated fat: 1.9 g
- Monounsaturated fat: 10 g
- Cholesterol: 0 mg
- Total carbohydrate: 0 mg
- Protein: 0 mg
Avocado oil also contains a variety of healthy plant compounds, including polyphenols, vitamin E, phytosterols, squalene, chlorophyll, and carotenoids such as lutein. Many of these compounds are most abundant in extra virgin avocado oil.
So Which Is Healthier: Avocado Oil Or Olive Oil?
This is a tricky question. As you can see from the nutritional breakdown above, olive oil and avocado oil are very similar.
Here are some of their shared benefits:
- Anti-inflammatory: These oils share a nearly identical breakdown in fatty acids. In fact, both avocado oil and olive oil predominantly consist of a particular MUFA called oleic acid, which has potent anti-inflammatory properties that likely contribute to its anticancer and heart health benefits.
- Heart-healthy: The oleic acid present in both of these oils has been shown to help reduce blood lipids, including overall cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides. It may also help lower blood pressure. Additionally, olive oil and avocado oil both contain phytosterols, compounds that are similar in composition to cholesterol and help block it from being absorbed.
- Anti-cancer: Numerous studies have shown that the oleic acid in these oils may help suppress certain genes associated with breast cancer and cancers of the brain. Phytosterols have been shown to have anti-tumor properties as well.
- Nutrient-boosting: Both olive oil and avocado oil have been shown to increase the absorption of nutrients in other foods. For example, one study found that adding olive oil to tomato juice increased the absorption of the nutrient lycopene (a type of carotenoid), while another study found that using avocado oil on a salad boosted absorption of carotenoids in general. Carotenoids have been associated with loads of perks, like reduced risk and growth of cancers.
- Skin-soothing + vision-protecting: Both oils contain vitamin E and nourishing fatty acids, which help contribute to improved skin texture from the inside out! They also both contain lutein, a carotenoid known to benefit both skin and eyes. In fact, lutein may offer eye protection against the blue light emitted from computer and smartphone screens.
Still, it’s possible olive oil has a slight edge. Extra virgin olive oil delivers significant levels of hydroxytyrosol, oleuropein, and oleocanthal polyphenols (learn about them here), all of which have promising health benefits, while avocado oil does not.
Research also shows that olive oil tends to have slightly higher levels of vitamin E than avocado oil (about 36 mg vs 25 mg per 100 g of oil, according to one study). And overall, olive oil has much more scientific research to back up its wider variety of health benefits, which is why it will always rank at the very top of our list.
Is There A Difference In Taste?
Both olive oil and avocado oil can have a range of flavors, depending on factors such as when the fruit was harvested, the variety of olive or avocado used, and how the oil was processed. They can also range in color from vibrant emerald green to mellow yellow.
Olive Oil Flavor
Extra virgin olive oils made with green, unripe olives picked early in the growing season often have more intense, vibrant flavors described as pungent, grassy, herbaceous, or peppery; while ripe olives picked later in the season yield a smoother, more buttery olive oil.
Regular or light olive oils, on the other hand, feature a combination of refined and virgin oils, and have a relatively neutral flavor. (To experience olive oil's huge spectrum of flavors, try an olive oil tasting with your friends.)
Avocado Oil Flavor
Extra virgin avocado oils are described as having a subtle avocado flavor, with grassy and buttery/mushroomy notes. Refined avocado oil has a relatively neutral flavor, and is somewhat comparable to a regular olive oil in terms of how mellow it is.
What About Smoke Point?
Smoke point refers to the temperature at which an oil starts to break down and release free radicals, which are pro-inflammatory compounds that can promote oxidative stress and be damaging to health.
Many articles promote avocado oil over olive oil because it supposedly has a much higher smoke point—but this isn’t completely true. While a pure/refined avocado oil is your best bet for very high-heat cooking, an extra virgin olive oil has a surprisingly high smoke point (up to 410 F) that makes it suitable for most types of cooking, including sautéing, roasting, stir-frying, light frying, and baking. Here’s how the various smoke points break down:
- Extra virgin olive oil: 350 to 410 F
- Pure/ refined olive oil: up to 470 F
- Extra virgin avocado oil: 480 F
- Pure/ refined avocado oil: up to 500 F
How To Use Olive Oil & Avocado Oil
When it's time to decide between olive oil and avocado oil, it really comes down to personal flavor preferences and the type of cooking you’ll be doing.
- If you want an all-purpose oil with a relatively neutral flavor, go for pure/refined olive oil or pure/refined avocado oil. Both take a back seat to other flavors in your dish and can handle most high-heat cooking.
- If you want to add flavor to a dish, use extra virgin olive oil or extra virgin avocado oil—depending on which taste you prefer. The natural flavor of these minimally processed oils can really shine in homemade salad dressings, dipping or finishing oils, and in certain baked goods (like this gluten-free lemon olive oil cake).
Bottom Line On Avocado Oil Vs. Olive Oil
Both olive oil and avocado oil are very healthy oils. In fact, we’d be so bold as to say they’re the top two healthiest oils on the market right now—thanks to their composition of healthy fats. In their extra virgin versions, the bioactive compounds and minimal processing are also attractive characteristics. When they're incorporated into a healthy diet, either oil can contribute to a number of health benefits such as reduced inflammation, improved cholesterol levels, and smoother skin.
Each oil also has an option that’s best suited for infusing your dishes with more flavor (extra virgin) and that’s more neutral and all-purpose (pure/refined). And while avocado oil does have the highest smoke point, both oils are suitable for most types of cooking.
Ultimately, both avocado oil and olive oil can peacefully coexist in your pantry. But if we had to choose just one, it would be olive oil, considering its wider range of flavors, its more robust list of science-backed health benefits, and its wide availability.