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Olive Oil vs Vegetable Oil: Which Is A Healthier Option?

There are many varieties of plant-based oils available today such as olive oil, soybean oil, corn oil, vegetable oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, and so on. These plant oils are the base for many cooking recipes. It plays a major part in the preparation of food by enhancing the flavour and adding texture to food.

Olive oil and vegetable oil are some of the most common plant oils found in the kitchen pantry, often used in a variety of dishes around the world.

In this article, we will talk about the differences and similarities of olive oil and vegetable oil.

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What Is Olive Oil?

Olive oil is the natural oil extracted from olives, the fruit of the olive tree. Olive oil is a primary ingredient in the Mediterranean diet. It is the main source of fat used in a variety of Mediterranean dishes such as stews, soups, fried food, salads and even desserts [1].

Apart from cooking, olive oil is used in soaps, medicines and cosmetics.

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What Is Vegetable Oil?

Vegetable oil is extracted from the seeds of sunflower, soybean, rapeseed, etc. It is often a blend of different types of oils. Vegetable oil is a general and most commonly used oil that many people use in their everyday cooking [2].

Now, let's take a closer look at the differences and similarities of olive oil and vegetable oil.

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Differences Between Olive Oil And Vegetable Oil

· Fatty Acids

When the oil undergoes processing, the nutritional composition of the oil is reduced. Olive oil requires minimal refining and some of the micronutrients like vitamin E and K are preserved [3] [4]. And when vegetable oil is refined most of the micronutrients, antioxidants and beneficial plant compounds are destroyed [5] [6]. Extra virgin olive oil is the least processed type of olive oil which retains most of the antioxidants and nutrients [7].

Olive oil is rich in healthy monounsaturated fats called oleic acid and contains small amounts of linoleic acid, palmitic acid, palmitoleic acid and stearic acid. Monounsaturated fatty acid such as oleic acid contributes to many of the health benefits of olive oil [8] [9].

On the other hand, omega 6 polyunsaturated fatty acids are predominantly found in vegetable oils [10]. Studies have shown that having excess amounts of omega 6 polyunsaturated fats can lead to an increased risk of chronic inflammatory diseases [11].

· Flavour

When the oil is extracted, it is cleaned and heated to eliminate impurities to extend its shelf life. As the oil undergoes more processing, the amount of nutrients and flavour decrease.

The minimal processing of olive oil helps retain the flavour of the oil and gives it a distinct olive taste, whereas vegetable oil is a blend of oils like sunflower, soybean, safflower etc. which requires more processing to remove the impurities. This gives a neutral flavour to vegetable oil.

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Similarities Between Olive Oil And Vegetable Oil

Every oil has a smoke point, the temperature at which the oil burns and smokes. The smoke point of refined olive oil is 390°F (200°C) and vegetable oil is 400°F (205°C). As extra virgin olive oil is least processed it has a smoke point of 191°C [12].

Both these oils can be used for cooking. However, when olive oil is overheated, it can lead to a decrease in antioxidants and can lose some of its flavour [13]. And when vegetable oil is overheated it can release some harmful compounds which can be detrimental to your health [14].

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So, Which Oil Is Healthier?

Olive oil, especially extra virgin olive oil, is least processed, which means extra virgin olive oil is extracted by manually crushing and processing olives, thus retaining most of the nutrients compared to refined olive oil that undergoes minimal processing [15]. On the other hand, vegetable oil undergoes more processing, which leads to loss of beneficial nutrients.

A study showed that replacing vegetable oil with extra virgin olive oil can improve cognitive function among the elderly people [16].

So, this brings to a conclusion that olive oil, especially extra virgin olive oil, is a much healthier choice for cooking than vegetable oil as it contains the most beneficial plant compounds.

Common FAQs

Q. Is olive oil healthier than vegetable oil?

A. Yes, olive oil, especially extra virgin olive oil, is healthier than vegetable oil.

Q. Is olive oil same as vegetable oil?

A. No, both come from different sources. Olive oil is obtained from olives, the fruit of the olive tree, whereas vegetable oil is extracted from the seeds of sunflower, soybean, rapeseed, etc.

Q. Can you use olive oil in place of vegetable oil?

A. Yes, you can use olive oil as a substitute for vegetable oil; however, you shouldn't use it for cooking foods that require high heat. Use olive oil in foods that require low to medium heat to cook.