July 25, 2024

Avocado oil has gained in popularity and is more commonly used today than it was even a few years ago. You can find avocado oil and avocado oil dressings at most large grocery stores.

But what’s in avocado oil, how does it compare to pantry-favorite olive oil and does it deliver any health benefits worth touting? Let’s find out.

What Is Avocado Oil?

Avocado oil comes from the actual fruit that we eat (yes, avocado is technically a fruit). It’s mostly extracted from the green pulp and some from the seed. There isn’t a set definition for avocado oil, nor are there guidelines on how it must be made to be called “avocado oil.”

That said, there seem to be two main versions of avocado oil: refined and virgin. Refined avocado oil is the most neutral and can get very hot—it has a high smoke point at about 500°F. Virgin avocado oil is more akin to extra-virgin olive oil in that it has a lower smoke point—in the low- to mid-300s—and a more robust (avocado-y) flavor.

Is Avocado Oil Good for You?

Yes, avocado oil is a healthy oil. This isn’t surprising, considering all the health benefits of avocados.

About 70% of the fat in avocado oil is monounsaturated, according to a 2019 review in Molecules. Foods that are rich in monounsaturated fat are generally healthier than saturated fat-rich foods. The American Heart Association recommends that most of your fats come from monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. According to the National Library of Medicine’s resource MedlinePlus, monounsaturated fats help to lower LDL cholesterol—the waxy substance that clogs arteries. Monounsaturated fats also help in the development of new cells and keeping them healthy.

Getty Images / melecis

How Does Avocado Oil Compare to Olive Oil?

Here’s what you get in a 1-tablespoon serving of avocado oil, per the USDA:

  • Calories: 124
  • Protein: 0g
  • Fat: 14g
  • Saturated fat: 2g
  • Monounsaturated fat: 10g
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 2g
  • Carbohydrate: 0g
  • Sodium: 0mg

Here’s what’s in a 1-tablespoon serving of olive oil, per the USDA:

  • Calories: 119
  • Protein: 0g
  • Fat: 14g
  • Saturated fat: 2g
  • Monounsaturated fat: 10g
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 1g
  • Carbohydrate: 0g
  • Sodium: <1mg

These side-by-side comparisons show that there’s really not a lot of difference between olive oil and avocado oil on the surface. But looking deeper into their makeup shows some slight differences. For example, unlike olive oil, avocado oil contains some linolenic acid, according to the same 2019 review in Molecules and a 2023 review in Foods. This research also suggests that avocado oil is higher in phytosterols than olive oil. Phytosterols are compounds found in plants that help block the body’s absorption of cholesterol.

This isn’t to say that avocado oil is better than olive oil. Olive oil can also tout its own benefits, many of which are similar to avocado oil.

Health Benefits of Avocado Oil

While we need more studies on avocado oil that have used humans—most studies have been done using rats—both human and animal studies show some promising health benefits of avocado oil.

  • Heart Helper: A few studies have found that animals fed avocado oil can improve their cholesterol and blood pressure. What’s even more promising, though, are the findings of a small study of humans, included in the 2019 Molecules review. After just 6 days of substituting avocado oil for their usual butter, overweight adults improved their total cholesterol and “bad” LDL levels, in addition to some other valuable health measures.
  • Good for Skin: According to a 2018 review in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, avocado oil moisturizes dry or chapped skin. It’s also been shown—in animals, at least—to promote wound healing, quell inflammation during wound healing and even boost the synthesis of collagen—the protein that helps keep skin looking young and wrinkle-free.
  • Memory and Development Booster: In a 2019 study of pregnant rats published in Frontiers in Neuroscience, those who were fed avocado oil or pulp—the green avocado flesh—birthed babies who developed faster after birth. As these babies developed into adolescence and adulthood, they had better memory than their counterparts whose mothers didn’t eat avocado oil or avocado. It’s too soon to say if these effects will happen in humans too, but it certainly couldn’t hurt.

The Bottom Line

The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting saturated fat to 10% of your daily fat intake. You can reduce your saturated fat intake by replacing it with an oil, like avocado oil. Avocado oil is a great all-purpose oil with a fairly neutral flavor profile, which makes it delicious in everything from roasted vegetables to salad dressing. It’s definitely worth making it a staple in your pantry.

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