During my health coaching sessions, many clients inquire about the different types of olive oil. One of the popular questions asked is, which is better, extra virgin olive oil or olive oil?
Extra virgin olive oil is better than olive oil due to its higher percentage of antioxidants and health benefits resulting from no heat or chemicals in its processing. Extra virgin olive oil has a stronger olive taste than the more neutral olive oil. For these reasons more people prefer extra virgin olive oil in their dishes and recipes.
This article will include a side-by-side nutrient comparison and examine all the differences between the two oils including, tastes, which oil is better for different cooking methods and price. In addition, I’ll take a close look at how each olive oil is made and how that affects its health benefits.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil vs Olive Oil: The Differences
Extra virgin olive oil is made by cold-pressing olives and extracting the oil. There is no heat or chemicals used during the process and the finished extra virgin olive oil has no other ingredients. Olive oil is made by extracting the oil from olives using heat and/or chemicals. The finished olive oil is a blend of refined olive oil and extra virgin olive oil.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Made from cold-pressed olives.
- Extra virgin olive oil is not made with any heat or chemical processing.
- Has a strong, olive like flavor.
- Cost more money than olive oil.
- Has a slightly lower smoke point than olive oil.
- Retain more antioxidants and benefits than olive oil.
- Typically darker in color.
Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is made by the following method:
- Olives are crushed into a pulp using only force without the use of heat or chemicals.
- Once the pulp creates a paste, it’s kneaded to release the liquid from the pulp.
- The liquid consists of oil, water and residue.
- The liquid is place into a centrifuge which separates the oil from the water and residue.
- The oil is filtered and bottled as extra virgin olive oil.
All olive oils are held to certain USDA grade standards 1. Extra virgin is certified as having the highest grade standards for excellent flavor, odor and free fatty acid content. It must not exceed 0.8 grams of oleic acid per 100 grams.
- Made from olives using heat and chemicals.
- Has a mild, neutral flavor.
- Cost less money than extra virgin olive oil.
- Has a higher smoke point.
- The additional processing results in fewer antioxidants and benefits.
- Typically lighter in color.
Olive oil is made by the following method:
- Olive oil is made by using the leftover paste from making extra virgin olive oil.
- The leftover paste is heated and kneaded with chemicals to release more oil, water and residue from the paste.
- The oil is separated from the water and residue.
- The oil is filtered and bottled as olive oil.
As far as USDA grade standards, olive oil is certified as having acceptable flavor, odor and free fatty acid content. It must not exceed 1.0 grams of oleic acid per 100 grams.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil vs Olive Oil: Nutrient Comparison
The following table compares the nutrients contained in one tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and olive oil:
|Olive Oil (1 Tbsp/13.5 grams)||Extra Virgin Olive Oil (1 Tbsp/13.5 grams)|
|Protein||0 g||0 g|
|Carbohydrates||0 g||0 g|
|Fiber||0 g||0 g|
|Fat||13.5 g||12.6 g|
|Sugar||0 g||0 g|
|Vitamin K||8.13 mcg||8.13 mg|
|Vitamin E||1.94 mg||1.94 mg|
|Potassium||0.135 mg||0.135 mg|
|Iron||0.076 mg||0.076 mg|
|Calcium||0.135 mg||0.136 mg|
|Omega-3||103 mg||103 g|
|Omega-6||1,318 mg||1,318 g|
The nutrients slightly differ from one manufacturer to the other. This can be due to the olive variety used, time of year they were pressed and other factors.
Since most of the nutrients appear to be similar, a question asked is which is healthier?
Extra virgin olive oil is healthier than olive oil due to its higher percentage of antioxidants. Scientific research has shown extra virgin olive oil contains more polyphenols than regular olive oil. The heating and chemical process of olive oil reduces some of its antioxidants.
Extra virgin olive oil does not go through the heat and chemical process, therefore it retains more of its antioxidants.
Sometimes the taste and texture is all that matters to some people. After all, if someone doesn’t like how a food tastes, they will probably leave it on the shelf.
Therefore, let’s examine how the taste of each one compares.
Extra virgin olive oil has a stronger flavor than the milder olive oil. Extra virgin tastes more like an olive and is peppery with a hint of fruity. Olive oil has a hint of the same flavors but much less and more neutral.
I wanted to get the opinion of real people like you by conducting some original research. Therefore, I reached out to some members of food groups, my clients and readers. I asked, what tastes better, extra virgin olive oil or olive oil?
- 78% said they preferred the taste of extra virgin olive oil.
- 18% said they preferred the taste of olive oil.
- 4% said they had no preference.
In the battle of taste, extra virgin olive oil tastes better and was the winner in the poll.
Sometimes people will want to substitute one food for the other in a recipe. Reasons for doing this may include smoke point, availability, taste, price or just for variety.
This makes people wonder if they can substitute one for the other.
Extra virgin olive oil and olive oil can substitute for each other in recipes not involving cooking, although the flavor will be less strong when using olive oil. Olive oil can substitute for extra virgin when cooking due to its higher smoke point. Extra virgin can substitute for olive oil when cooking in temperatures less than 375°F.
Olive oil has a higher smoke point than extra virgin olive oil. At higher temperatures the flavor of extra virgin begins deteriorating, and an acrid burned taste develops.
Olive oil substitutes for high temperature cooking include the following:
- Refined avocado oil
- Safflower oil (refined and neutralized)
- Extra virgin avocado oil
- Pecan oil
Extra virgin olive oil substitutes include the following:
- Extra virgin avocado oil
- Pecan oil
- Virgin olive oil
- Refined avocado oil
- Soybean oil
- Sesame oil
- Peanut oil
The following are the oils with the highest smoke point to the lowest:
|Type of Oil & Fats||Smoke Point
|Avocado Oil – Refined||520°F|
|Safflower Oil – Refined||510°F|
|Sunflower Oil – Neutralized||489°F|
|Extra-Virgin Avocado Oil||480°F|
|Olive Oil – Refined||470°F|
|Palm Oil – Fractionated||455°F|
|Peanut Oil – Refined||450°F|
|Rice Bran Oil – Refined||450°F|
|Sesame Oil – Semi refined||450°F|
|Sunflower Oil – Refined||450°F|
|Vegetable Oil – Refined||428°F|
|Olive Oil – Virgin||410°F|
|Coconut Oil – Refined||400°F|
|Canola Oil – Refined||400°F|
|Olive Oil – Extra virgin||375°F|
|Corn Oil – Unrefined||352°F|
|Coconut Oil – Unrefined||350°F|
|Flaxseed Oil – Unrefined||225°F|
Smoke point source 4
How to Incorporate Them Into Your Diet
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
It tastes better and most people like to use it as often as possible, especially in dishes uncooked. Using it results in better flavor and nutritional quality.
- Use extra virgin olive oil when cooking in temperatures below 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Finishing oil
- For dipping bread and similar items.
- Use olive oil for any cooking in temperatures above 375 degrees up to 470 degrees.
Find out how olive oil compared to grapeseed oil in my article, Grapeseed Oil vs Olive Oil: Which is Better? Let’s Compare.
The supermarket shopping was expensive to begin with, but lately the price at checkout keeps increasing. I’m sure the prices of food matters to most people, so let’s examine the prices of each.
Extra virgin olive oil costs 28% more than olive oil per ounce. Extra virgin olive oil average cost per ounce is $0.23 and the average price for olive oil per ounce is $0.18.
To conduct my own research, I checked two different supermarkets located in my area. Both supermarkets are on different levels of pricing. Walmart is the most economical and Shoprite being more expensive.
Here are my findings:
- Extra virgin olive oil (Store brand) – 17 ounce $3.94 ($0.23 per ounce)
- Olive oil (Store brand) – 17 ounce $2.52 ($0.15 per ounce)
- Extra virgin olive oil (Store brand) – 51 oz $11.99 ($0.24 per ounce)
- Olive oil (Store brand) – 51 oz $10.99 ($0.22 per ounce)
Find out how vegetable oil compares to olive oil in my article, Olive Oil vs Vegetable Oil: Which is Better? Let’s Compare.
How to Store
Both oils can be stored the same.
Store olive oil or extra virgin in a cool, dark location away from light. It’s best to store olive oil in a tinted glass container. Olive oil should be kept at a temperature between 55-60℉, although it can be refrigerated or frozen if needed.
Store either one in the refrigerator if the room temperature rises above 70℉. Leaving them in warmer temperatures affects shelf life and lessens the quality of the oil.
Which to Choose Based on Your Goals
Many people have particular goals which food plays a huge role in. Which one you choose may depend on your particular goal.
Therefore, in this section I examine the most common goals and determine which one is the better choice.
If you’re looking to shed some extra pounds from the mid-section, the number of calories will matter to you.
Therefore, let’s examine which is better for weight loss.
- Extra virgin and regular olive oil are similar for weight loss because they contain a similar number of calories per tablespoon.
Low Carb or Keto Diets
The goal of any low-carb diet is to take in few carbohydrates and more protein and fat. The numbers can be so limited every carbohydrate can make a difference by the end of the day.
Therefore, let’s examine which one has fewer carbohydrates or more fat.
- Extra virgin olive oil and olive oil are both beneficial for low-carb diets due to their similar amount of fat and carbohydrates. Both oils don’t contain any carbohydrates and are a healthy source of fats.
If you’re trying to gain lean muscle mass, the amount of protein and carbohydrates make a difference.
Extra virgin olive oil and olive oil are similar for bodybuilding because neither oil contains protein or carbohydrates. Both oils contain healthy fats and are a good addition to any bodybuilding diet.
For people who wish to follow a gluten free diet or have Celiac disease, the goal is clear cut, avoid gluten. Therefore, let’s answer which one is gluten free?
- Extra virgin olive oil and olive oil are both gluten free and good for gluten free diets.
Find out how olive oil compared to avocado oil in my article, Avocado Oil vs Olive Oil: Which is Better? A Comparison.
Extra virgin olive oil provides more benefits than olive oil due to its higher percentage of antioxidants. Even though, both contain a wealth of healthy fats and antioxidants. The fats and antioxidants provide many health benefits which I’ll examine in this section.
Heart disease and stroke are among the most common causes of death throughout the world. Studies have shown heart disease is lower in the Mediterranean countries where olive oil is a big part of their diets.
There are many ways olive oil is beneficial for the heart including the following:
Lowering Blood Pressure
Studies have shown an association between lower blood pressure and an increase in olive oil consumption. The Mediterranean diet has been linked to lower blood pressure and cardiovascular disease 5.
Blood Vessel Health
Olive oil has been shown to help improve the lining of blood vessels. A study published in 2015 showed blood vessels opened up and increased blood flow in people who included it in their diet 6.
It is associated with decreases in inflammation which is a main component of heart disease. An antioxidant in the oil, oleocanthal, is an anti-inflammatory that also reduces pain 7.
Reducing Blood Clotting
Unwanted blood clotting could contribute to heart attacks and strokes. A study in 2017 found weekly consumption of extra virgin was beneficial to help prevent unwanted blood clotting 8.
LDL (Bad) Cholesterol
Studies have shown the polyphenols to decrease oxidative stress biomarkers and improve LDL cholesterol 9
Find out if olive oil or sesame oil provided the most benefits in my article, Sesame Oil vs Olive Oil: Which is Better? Let’s Compare.
The cancer rates in Mediterranean countries is lower than other places. As noted earlier, extra virgin olive consumption is a huge part of the diet.
Antioxidants are believed to contribute to the killing of cancer cells. In a 2015 study, oleocanthal, a phenolic compound present in olive oil, helped kill cancer cells in less than one hour 10.
Another study published in 2015 evaluated the consumption of the Mediterranean diet and the incidence of breast cancer. For a six-year period, 4,282 women aged 60 to 80 years followed three different diets:
- Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra virgin olive oil
- Mediterranean diet supplemented with mixed nuts
- A reduced fat diet
After 4.8 years 35 of the women developed breast cancer. The lowest rate of breast cancer was seen in the women who supplemented with the olive oil 11.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia causing problems with thinking, memory and behavior. A common feature of the disease is the build-up of proteins known as beta-amyloid plaques in certain neurons in the brain.
Animal studies have shown extra virgin to clear the beta-amyloid proteins from the brain helping to prevent Alzheimer’s disease 12.
Several studies conducted on humans have shown the Mediterranean diet may be associated with a reduced risk of cognitive problems and dementia 13.
Find out how olive oil compared to sunflower oil in my article, Sunflower Oil vs Olive Oil: Which is Better? Let’s Compare.
Read More Oil Articles!
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- USDA: Grades of Olive Oil
- USDA: Oil, olive, salad or cooking
- USDA: Oil, olive, extra virgin
- Wikipedia: Smoke point
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Virgin Olive Oil and Hypertension
- (National Center for Biotechnology Information: Effects of Olive Oil on Markers of Inflammation and Endothelial Function-A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
- National center for Biotechnology Information: Olive Oil-related Anti-inflammatory Effects on Atherosclerosis: Potential Clinical Implications
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: A review on management of cardiovascular diseases by olive polyphenols
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Olive Oil Polyphenols Decrease LDL Concentrations and LDL Atherogenicity in Men in a Randomized Controlled Trial
- Taylor & Francis Online: (-)-Oleocanthal rapidly and selectively induces cancer cell death via lysosomal membrane permeabilization
- Jama Internal Medicine: Mediterranean Diet and Invasive Breast Cancer Risk Among Women at High Cardiovascular Risk in the PREDIMED Trial
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Attenuates Amyloid-β and Tau Pathologies in the Brains of TgSwDI Mice
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Mediterranean Diet and Risk of Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease in the EPIC-Spain Dementia Cohort Study
- USDA: Safeguarding Consumers from Olive Oil Fraud
- Wikipedia: Olive Oil
- International Olive Council: Trade Standard Applying To Olive Oils And Olive-Pomace Oils
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Health Effects of Phenolic Compounds Found in Extra-Virgin Olive Oil, By-Products, and Leaf of Flea europaea L.
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of Some Plant Oils
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: An overview of the modulatory effects of oleic acid in health and disease