Vegetable Oil vs Olive Oil: Which Is Healthier?

Updated on September 28th, 2020
Vegetable Oil vs Olive Oil

When you walk down the kitchen supplies aisle at the supermarket, you may be overwhelmed and amazed by the selection that is now available in most markets regarding oils–canola oil, olive oil, safflower oil, and so on. There may be exotic options, such as coconut oil or sunflower oil, and the standard olive and vegetable oils.

Read below to help you understand each of these items’ benefits and when to use which specific kind of oil.

About Oils

All oils seem to tout different cooking and health benefits, but what exactly are these outstanding benefits? Oils are composed of heart-healthy, or good fats, and artery-clogging, or bad fats.

Good fats include polyunsaturated fat and monounsaturated fat, both of which lower total cholesterol and lower LDL cholesterol, the bad type of cholesterol. Bad fats contain trans fat and saturated fat, both of which spike LDL cholesterol.

What is Olive Oil?

It is a natural juice that is extracted from the olive. Olive oil can be consumed freshly pressed from the fruit and is the only natural vegetable.

Olive oil is dense in monounsaturated fats, which minimizes cholesterol. Virgin olive oil is also rich in polyphenol, an antioxidant that protects the body from free radical damage. Olive oil has the most considerable amount of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat compared to all other naturally-derived oils.

For individuals suffering from gastritis or ulcers, olive oil helps activate pancreatic and bile hormones, helping to relieve symptoms. Moreover, olive oil has been proven to minimize the occurrence of gallstones.

Olive oil has a low smoke point, making it the favored oil when requiring medium to high heat, such as when you are pan searing or stir-frying foods. Olive oil has a distinctive taste that can add flavor to foods, like grilled vegetables or pasta.

[Also Read: Olive Oil for Weight Loss]

What is Vegetable Oil?

Vegetable oil is usually made by blending the oils from various fruits, nuts, and seeds. Common vegetable oil varieties include soybean oil, olive oil, safflower oil, corn oil, and peanut oil. Vegetable oil has similar heart-friendly benefits as olive oil since the oil is a blend of heart-friendly oils, such as olive oil and canola.

Vegetable oil has a more significant smoke point than olive oil, making it a preferable option when cooking at too high temperatures. Vegetable oil also has virtually no taste, making it a brilliant choice when cooking or baking foods. The flavor of the vegetable oil will not impact or overshadow the overall flavor of the dish.

[Also Read: Healthy Alternatives for Vegetable oil]

Nutrition

The magnitude of processing that an oil undergoes affects not only its nutritional composition but also its flavor. While both vegetable and olive oils contain unsaturated fatty acids, olive oil contains more significant quantities of monounsaturated fats like linoleic acid, oleic acid, and palmitic acid. Vegetable oil comprises mostly omega-6 polyunsaturated fats.

Monounsaturated fats have been found to have heart-health and anti-inflammatory benefits, whereas omega-6 polyunsaturated fats can be pro-inflammatory and harm cardiovascular health if taken in excess. 

It’s also worth mentioning that the more refining an oil undergoes, the fewer healthy compounds and micronutrients it retains.

Extra virgin olive oil — the minimally processed kind of olive oil — is high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds like carotenoids, tocopherols, and polyphenols. Least refined olive oil also maintains some micronutrients, like vitamins K and E.

On the other end, the refining process used to prepare vegetable oil kills antioxidants, micronutrients, and beneficial plant compounds, including phytosterols, tocopherols, coenzyme Q, and polyphenols.

Similarities between olive and vegetable oil

Vegetable oil and olive oil blends tend to have similar smoke points, hovering around 205°C (400°F). The temperature to which oil may be heated before its fat starts to break down into glycerol and free fatty acids is called the oil’s smoke point.

Just like vegetable oil, some kinds of olive oil are overly processed, including pomace oil. These kinds lack micronutrients and the distinctive flavor you get from extra virgin olive oil, having a more neutral taste [1].

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Refined olive oils don’t include “extra virgin” or “virgin” on the label, indicating their higher processing degree. Thus, a simple way to make sure you grab a flavor-packed oil from the shelves that also retain some nutrients is to look for these phrases.

Which oil is healthier?

Olive oil, particularly extra virgin, is among the least processed cooking oils on the shelves. This means it retains the most vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals. For instance, the polyphenolic and antioxidant compounds in olive oil have been painstakingly studied for their heart health benefits.

On the other hand, vegetable oil undergoes a lot of processing to blend several plant oils and neutralize its flavor. This means it has the least beneficial nutrients, leaving just zero calories. Swapping vegetable oil for olive oil can also benefit brain health.

One research found that replacing vegetable oil with extra virgin olive oil enhanced cognitive function in seniors[2].

If you prefer to consume oils, extra virgin olive oil tends to be a much better choice than most vegetable oil blends and vegetable oils.

Bottom Line

Olive oil and vegetable oil are both extensively used in cooking. While olive oil is extracted from olives and tends to be least processed, vegetable oil is typically a blend of multiple plant oils and overly processed into a neutral-tasting oil.

The processing of vegetable oil leaves it deficient in many plant compounds and healthy micronutrients that may otherwise be present in the plants used to prepare it. It’s also rich in omega-6 fatty acids, which can contribute to inflammation.

On the other end, extra virgin olive oil retains several trace minerals and vitamins. It is rich in anti-inflammatory monounsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants that can benefit the brain and heart health. If you prefer to include plant oils in your diet, minimally processed extra virgin olive oil is better than vegetable oil.

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