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Whether you're an experienced chef or consider yourself a kitchen newbie, one common ingredient in dishes both savory and sweet is vegetable oil. While most recipes tell you which type to use in certain entrees, you still may be confused about which type of vegetable oil to use in certain types of cooking. Two common vegetable oils may have stored in your pantry are olive oil and avocado oil.
Olive oil: "You can find olive oil used a lot in Mediterranean diet recipes such as in hummus, or as the base in salad dressings, used as a dip or marinate, used to cook with when cooking veggies, meats, seafood, tofu or eggs," says Roxana Ehsani, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and National Media Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Avocado oil: "Avocado oil is very versatile, and may not be as well-known or used as much as olive oil, but has a very similar nutritional profile and a neutral taste which may make it even more versatile when cooking, baking and preparing food than olive oil," says Ehsani. "Due to its neutral taste, avocado oil can be easily incorporated into all types of dishes, like baked goods instead of olive oil which has more of a distinct taste and flavor."
So, avocado oil vs olive oil? Which should you be using for certain dishes and is one healthier than the other? We asked nutritionists to lay it out.
Should you cook with avocado oil vs olive oil?
To answer this question, you need to know the smoke point of each oil.
"For example, if you plan to grill, sauté, roast, sear or bake a certain food, avocado oil is best to use, as it won’t start to smoke or burn as quickly," says Ehsani. "Avocado oil’s smoke point is 482 degrees Fahrenheit, while olive oil is 375 degrees Fahrenheit."
On the flip side, olive oil has a lower smoke point and should be used in lower temperature cooking.
"It also has a stronger taste than avocado oil and may add a little more flavor to salad dressings, pasta tossed with garlic and oil or for drizzling over grilled veggies," adds Keri Gans, MS, RDN, CDN, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and author of The Small Change Diet.
However, there’s also a difference between pure olive oil and extra virgin olive oil.
"Extra virgin olive oil is cold-pressed and more delicate to heat than pure olive oil. It’s best to not heat up or use extra virgin olive oil when you're cooking, as it has a low smoke point and its delicate oils are more susceptible to heat and goes rancid more quickly," says Ehsani. "It’s best to use extra virgin olive oil as a dip, in salad dressings or drizzle onto food when the food has already been cooked, such as steamed veggies."
Related: 10 Health Benefits of Avocados
Is avocado oil better than olive oil nutritionally?
If you want to choose the "healthier" oil of the two, it's going to come down to minuscule amounts of nutrients, because avocado oil and olive oil provide a similar nutritional breakdown.
"For 1 tablespoon of avocado oil and olive oil, both provide 120 total calories, 14 grams of total fat (2 grams are saturated fat, 10 grams are monounsaturated fat)," says Ehsani. "The only a slight difference in polyunsaturated fat breakdown. Avocado oil provides 2 grams while olive oil provides 1.5 grams."
However, one notable difference between the two has to do with vitamin E. Both provide vitamin E, but olive oil contains a bit more. "Olive oil provides 33% of your daily value of vitamin E, while avocado oil provides 23% of the daily value of vitamin E," adds Ehsani.
Overall, both oils are great heart-healthy options that can help reduce the risk of heart disease and inflammation in the body.
"Both are rich sources of monounsaturated fat, which can help increase the good HDL type of cholesterol in the body and lower the bad LDL cholesterol and even lower blood pressure," says Ehsani. "They also both provide high amounts of antioxidants like lutein, which supports skin and eye health."
And finally, both oils can help you absorb fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins D, E, K and A) found in other foods.
"For example, when you are eating salad or veggies without oil, you are missing out on absorbing the fat-soluble vitamins found in those foods if you use an oil-free dressing or skip the oil," says Ehsani.
Ultimately, it also comes down to portion size. "Either one is a healthy option, but at the end of the day, you should still watch the quantity you use," adds Gans. "One serving is a tablespoon, and the more you use, the more the calories will add up and potentially lead to excess calories and weight gain for some individuals."
Related:11 Best Foods for Your Brain
How can you tell if your avocado oil and olive oil are rancid?
If you've had oils sitting in the pantry for a while, you may wonder if they're still good. An easy way to tell is to give it a whiff. "If it has a sweet or fermented odor, chances are it has gone rancid," says Gans.
It also may taste off or have a change in color or texture. "You might notice a bitter taste or off-smell," says Ehsani. "Be sure to check the expiration date, and if you notice any visual changes, such as color change or texture change, it might be rancid."
To help your oil last longer, Ehasani has a few tips to keep in mind.
"When purchasing extra virgin olive oil, make sure you choose a bottle that’s dark. This dark glass protects light from going bad as quickly," she says. "Once you bring the oil home be sure to store it away from heat and light in a dark cool cabinet. Avoiding leaving it out on a countertop or in a cabinet above the stove."
Next up: What Is MCT Oil?