Avocado oil, extra virgin olive oil, and coconut oil are all significantly healthier than many of the low-cost oils like vegetable, canola, and sunflower oils. But if you’re trying to determine which oil offers the most health benefits, you probably want to go a little deeper. Good news — so do we!
What is avocado oil?
Simply stated, avocado oil is the organic oil pressed from the pulp of the avocado fruit, which, unlike many fruits with high water content, contain approximately 60% oil. Avocado oil is available in two varieties: unrefined and refined varieties. The distinction is based on the extraction method.
Unrefined avocado oil, also known as virgin avocado oil, is produced by mechanical means without heat or chemicals. This cold-pressing method allows the oil to retain much of the avocado’s natural nutrients, flavor, and coloring. It produces an end product that is ideal for cooking and food preparation.
Refined avocado oil is also extracted by mechanically squeezing the oil from the fruit, but it undergoes additional production steps. It is often filtered, bleached, and heated to remove any impurities or natural residue that could lead to eventual degradation. While this process creates a more refined end product (hence the name), it also removes many of the avocado’s natural colors, flavors, and nutrients. Because of this, refined avocado oil is often used for high-temperature cooking, as well as a variety of cosmetic uses such as skin treatments, perfumes, and lotions.
Is avocado oil healthy?
High in monounsaturated fat and oleic acid, an Omega-9 fatty acid also found in olive oil, virgin avocado oil is one of the healthiest oils available. Multiple studies suggest that the fatty acids and natural nutrients found in unrefined avocado oil can have a positive effect on heart health, reduce bad blood cholesterol (LDL), and boost good blood cholesterol (HDL).
What is olive oil?
Olive oil is the natural oil extracted from the fruit of olive trees. Nutrient dense and high in healthy fats, olive oil has been a valuable source of nutrition and energy for centuries. Like avocado and coconut oils, olive oil is also classified as refined or unrefined, depending on the extraction methods used to produce it. Unrefined olive oil is more commonly known as extra virgin olive oil.
Extra virgin olive oil is extracted from the olive fruit by strictly mechanical means. After harvesting, the olives are milled and ground into a paste. The paste is then pressed and spun to separate any remaining water and solids from the oil. Since no heat or chemicals are used, unrefined olive is often labeled as “cold-pressed,” and it retains more of the olive’s natural aromas, flavors, and nutrients.
Refined olive oil starts with the same extraction process as unrefined oil, but once the solids and water have been removed, the oil goes through additional processing. In many instances, this refining is done to reduce flavor or color inconsistencies from lower quality olives. Heat and chemicals are applied in order to remove much of the natural color and flavors, which results in a mild (some would say dull, boring, or bland) product.
Refined olive oil, often labeled as “olive oil” or “light olive oil,” is suitable for cookware preparation or cosmetic use, but it lacks the flavor qualities to be enjoyed on its own. On the other hand, unrefined olive oil, which will be labeled as “extra virgin olive oil,” can be used for cooking, baking, or sauteing, but it also adds a fresh, vibrant flavor ideally suited for dressings, dips, and drizzles as well.
Is olive oil healthy?
Olive oil is an excellent source of monounsaturated fat. Thanks to the high levels of oleic acid, it also boasts impressive anti-inflammatory properties. And if that’s not enough, olive oil is packed with antioxidants and polyphenols. The combination of healthy fats, antioxidants, and polyphenols gives extra virgin olive oil an impressive list of health benefits. Studies have shown that regular consumption of EVOO can help reduce the risk of adverse health conditions like heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, and Alzheimer's disease. We’d say that counts as healthy. Wouldn’t you?
What is coconut oil?
As you would expect, coconut oil is exactly what it sounds like — oil extracted from coconuts. Like we’ve seen with avocado oil and olive oil, coconut oil comes in unrefined and refined options.
Unrefined — or virgin — coconut oil is produced by carving the meat from the inside of a coconut and pressing it mechanically. This process is very similar to the extraction methods used for unrefined avocado and olive oils. The resulting oil retains much of the fresh, natural coconut flavor and aroma.
Refined coconut oil is also called copra oil because it is produced by carving out and drying the coconut meat (copra). The copra is then pressed and refined using steam, a process that removes much of the natural aroma and flavor, producing oil that has neutral scent and flavor. While most coconut oil refining is done without the use of chemicals, the heat-based refining process tends to remove many of the coconut’s healthy natural compounds.
Is coconut oil healthy?
Coconut oil is widely considered to be a good source of beneficial fatty acids and ketones. While it does contain some saturated fat, the type of fatty acid is key to the oil’s health benefits. Unlike most saturated fats that are long-chain triglycerides, coconut oil primarily consists of medium-chain triglycerides, which the body breaks down and uses more efficiently. This has led some researchers to suggest that coconut oil can be a valuable energy source for weight loss. However, it is also worth mentioning that some health experts recommend limiting coconut oil intake due to the levels of saturated fat.
Avocado oil, olive oil, and coconut oil: A nutritional comparison
It is important to remember that all three oils are considered efficient energy sources, meaning they pack a lot of calories into a small serving size. As you will see below, one teaspoon of each oil will contain roughly 120 calories. With numbers like that, it’s essential to monitor your intake to avoid exceeding your recommended daily calories.
Avocado Oil (1 tsp)*
Fat: 14 g
Monounsaturated fat: 10 g
Polyunsaturated fat: 2 g
Saturated fat: 2 g
Sodium: 1 mg
Olive Oil (1 tsp)*
Coconut Oil (1 tsp)*
*Nutritional information courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Based on the side by side (by side) comparison, it is safe to say that while all three oils offer impressive health benefits in their unrefined forms, olive oil can be considered the healthiest due to its low levels of saturated fats and high levels of monounsaturated fat. When you add in the fact that it’s also packed with antioxidants polyphenols — not to mention robust, vibrant flavor — extra virgin olive oil is clearly the healthiest oil of the three.Before ending this article, we also think it’s important to point out that even the highest quality EVOO will start to degrade over time. If you’re using olive oil that was harvested, processed, and packaged more than one year ago, you’re not getting the optimal flavor or health benefits. When it comes to extra virgin olive oil, freshness matters! At La Panza, we are proud to share that our olives are processed immediately after harvesting and stored in our innovative pantry pouch, which protects the oil against air, heat, and light — ensuring that you always get the freshest olive oil possible.