Olive oil vs avocado oil: Which one is better for you?

Among the pantry workhorse staples that have rightly earned their fame, it's hard to beat olive oil as an all-star. The golden oil has been used and revered for thousands of years, and the culinary world as we know it would be rocked without it. But there's a new kid on the block. Avocado oil has gained popularity in recent years, and chefs as well as nutritionists are singing its praises.

Nutritionally, olive oil and avocado oil share a very similar profile. Both are primarily composed of oleic acid, a monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid (via US News & World Report). The idea that monounsaturated fat could actually be healthful gained steam from the Seven Countries Study during the 1960s, where the dietary patterns of several Mediterranean regions was studied. It found that what became known as the 'Mediterranean diet' resulted in low rates of heart disease, in spite of a high-fat diet. The main fat used in the region was olive oil (Harvard Health Publishing).

Because the nutritional profiles of both oils are so similar, so are their health benefits. Both contain around the same number of calories per tablespoon (around 120) and both have 14 grams of fat. But the similarities don't end there. "Both oils have a high content of antioxidants — specifically vitamin E — which are supportive of skin and eye health," says Collette Micko, a registered dietitian nutritionist, to US News & World Report.

Choose based on flavor and use

Despite the similarities between olive oil and avocado oil, there is one notable difference. Avocado oil has a significantly higher smoke point — up to 520 F for refined avocado oil (via Masterclass), compared to 350 to 410 F for extra virgin olive oil, according to the North American Olive Oil Association. This is an important consideration when choosing which fat to use for high-heat cooking, such as frying and sauteing. The smoke point of an oil refers to the temperature at which it begins to break down, smoke, and release free radicals.

When choosing which oil to use, it largely comes down to personal preference, and what the oil will be used for. Avocado oil's neutral flavor and higher smoke point makes it a great choice for stir-fries and recipes where you want the taste of the food to shine through cleanly. Olive oil's richer flavor adds seasoning along with fat.

In both cases, though, choosing high-quality, extra virgin, cold-pressed oil offers the greatest benefit nutritionally. "The health benefits of both oils also varies depending on the quality of the product and the refining process. The refining process of the oils can sometimes strip them of a lot of the nutrients and antioxidants, so it's best to buy higher quality oils sold in dark glass bottles," says integrative medical specialist Dr. Rajsree Nambudripad.