One of my roles as a Certified Health Coach is to inform my clients about cooking oils. Olive oil and canola oil are two of the common oils mentioned. I’m often asked, is canola oil better than olive oil?
Olive oil is better than canola oil due to its higher percentage of healthy fats, minerals and antioxidants. Olive oil contains 15.4% more monounsaturated fats than canola oil. Olive contains nutrients canola oil doesn’t like potassium, calcium and iron. Olive oil is less refined than canola oil and has a stronger, more desirable flavor.
This article will describe the differences between the two oils including a side-by-side nutrient comparison and health benefits. In addition, I’ll examine their smoke points, whether one can substitute for the other, prices, tastes and storage.
I’ve purchased, researched and consumed both oils prior to, during and sometimes after writing this article.
Olive Oil vs Canola Oil: The Differences
Olive oil is made by extracting the oil from olives using heat and/or chemicals. Canola oil is made by extracting the oil from rapeseed of the rapeseed flowering plant. The finished olive oil is a blend of refined olive oil and extra virgin olive oil.
- Made from pressed rapeseeds from the rapeseed flowering plant.
- Has a mild, neutral flavor.
- Cost less money than olive oil.
- Has a slightly lower smoke point than refined olive oil but a higher smoke point than extra virgin olive oil.
- Typically lighter in color with a hint of yellow.
Canola oil is made by the following method:
- The rapeseeds are washed to remove unwanted products.
- The seeds are heated up and flaked before extraction so more oil can be released.
- The rapeseeds are then crushed or pressed to remove most of the oil from the seed.
- The crushed seed is put into an extractor and saturated with a solvent called hexane.
- The hexane carries the remaining oil away from the seed.
- The hexane is removed and the oil is filtered.
- The oil is steamed to remove unpleasant odors or compounds and then bottled for shipping and sale.
- Made from olives using heat and chemicals.
- Has a mild, peppery flavor.
- Cost more money than canola oil.
- Has a higher smoke point than canola oil.
Olive oil is made by the following method:
- It 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.
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.
Oil Nutrient Comparison
The following table compares the nutrients contained in one tablespoon:
|Olive Oil (1 Tbsp/13.5 grams)
|Canola Oil (1 Tbsp/13.5 grams)
They both contain many of the same nutrients, some in different amounts. After looking at the table above a common question asked is, which is healthier?
Olive oil is healthier than canola due to its higher percentage of heart healthy fats and minerals. Olive oil contains 15.4% more monounsaturated fat than canola oil. Olive oil provides some nutrients canola oil doesn’t like calcium, iron and potassium. Olive oil, especially extra virgin, contains more antioxidants.
Canola oil contains a higher percentage of vitamin K, vitamin E and omega-3 fats acids.
I always choose extra virgin olive oil over canola oil. I use it for salads, dipping and lower temperature cooking.
Let’s examine the nutrients of both oils and compare their percentages.
- They both contain 119 calories per one tablespoon.
- Canola oil contains 18.3% more vitamin K per one tablespoon.
- Canola oil contains 22% more vitamin E per one tablespoon.
- Olive oil contains more potassium per one tablespoon.
- Olive oil contains more iron per one tablespoon.
- Olive oil contains more calcium per one tablespoon.
- Olive oil contains 87.8% more saturated fat per one tablespoon.
- Olive oil contains 15.4% more monounsaturated fat per one tablespoon.
- Canola oil contains 167% more polyunsaturated fat per one tablespoon.
Which Oil to Choose Based on Your Goals
Choosing which oil may depend on your particular goal. The most common goals are examined in this section and determined which is better for each one.
This may be the most popular goal. If you’re trying to lose extra pounds from the stomach area, the number of calories may matter to you.
Therefore, let’s examine which is better for weight loss.
- Olive oil is better for weight loss than canola oil due to its overall healthy fat content, although they have the same number of calories. A diet based on the fats provided from olive oil, like the Mediterranean diet, is associated with weight loss.
- It contains a good number of medium-chain triglycerides which has been associated with weight loss and maintenance in studies 4.
- The monounsaturated fats has been shown to increase good cholesterol and both have been associated with weight loss in studies 5.
Even though it is considered a healthy addition to your diet, at 119 calories per tablespoon the calories can add up pretty fast.
It’s easy to add multiple tablespoons of oil into a salad. Four tablespoons of either one add 476 calories to the salad. Always be aware of the number of tablespoons added and try not to overdo it.
If you’re trying to gain muscle mass while staying lean, the amount of protein and carbohydrates may make a difference in your choice. Let’s take a look at both and determine which is better for bodybuilding.
Olive oil is better for bodybuilding than canola oil due to its higher percentage of healthy fats and antioxidants, although they contain the same amount of protein and carbohydrates.
- One of olive oil’s antioxidants, oleocanthal, is an anti-inflammatory that also reduces pain in joints. Pain in the joints may affect workouts or the amount of weight lifted.
- It contains oleic acid which has been shown to stimulate protein production and synthesis 6.
- The antioxidants help fight free radicals and prevent cell damage. It’s difficult to build and repair muscle cells with free radicals which damages cells 7.
- It’s associated with decreases in inflammation which can benefit the joints 8.
- The number of calories may prove beneficial when bulking up to build muscle.
Keto or Low Carb Diets
Consuming few carbohydrates while adding more healthy fat and protein is the goal of most low-carb diets. With such a restrictive carbohydrate intake, every gram of carbs may make a difference.
Therefore, let’s examine which one has fewer carbohydrates or more fat and protein.
- Olive oil is better for low-carb diets than canola oil due to its higher percentage of healthy fats. They both provide 13.5 grams of total fat per tablespoon. Both have an equal number of carbohydrates per tablespoon which is zero grams.
- A higher percentage of the fat contained in olive oil is the healthier monounsaturated fats (15.4% more than canola oil) making it the better choice.
Which of the Two Oils is Gluten Free
For those people with Celiac disease or wish to avoid gluten in their diets, avoiding all gluten is the main goal. Therefore, let’s examine which one is gluten free.
- Olive oil and canola oil are both gluten free and good for gluten free diets.
Vegan or Vegetarian
If you’re thinking about following a vegan or vegetarian diet consuming dairy products or animal-derived products is important. Knowing which one is vegan or vegetarian friendly may help you choose between the two.
Olive oil and canola oil are plant based and does not contain animal products making them both beneficial for vegans and vegetarians.
Comparing the Taste
Let’s face it, If you’re like me I won’t eat a food considered healthy unless I can tolerate the taste. I think if someone doesn’t like the flavor of a food they won’t purchase it.
Therefore, let’s examine how the taste of each one compares.
Olive oil has a stronger flavor than the milder canola oil. Canola oil has a neutral taste with no real flavor, while olive oil has a hint of olives and is peppery. The virgin olive oil has more flavor than the refined versions.
I wanted to get the opinion of real people like you by conducting some original research. Therefore, I reached out to some clients, members of food groups and readers. I asked, which one tastes better?
- 81% said they preferred the taste of olive oil.
- 14% said they preferred the taste of canola oil.
- 5% said they had no preference.
To conduct more research, I set up and participated in my own blind taste test. I tasted a teaspoon of olive oil and canola oil one after the other. I chose the olive oil.
In the battle of taste, olive oil tastes better and was the winner in the poll and my own taste test.
I think it’s happened to all us, at the last minute you find out you’re out of the food needed in a recipe. Unable to go out to the store or just don’t want to, you’ve probably wondered if you can use another one in its place.
Reasons why people will want to substitute one for the other in a recipe:
- Smoke point
This makes people wonder if it’s okay to substitute one for the other.
Olive oil and canola oil can substitute for each other in cold recipes although the flavor will be stronger when using olive oil. In hot recipes refined can substitute for each other up to 446°F. Refined olive oil can substitute for canola oil up to 470°F due to its smoke point.
The oils are suitable for pan frying and medium heat cooking.
The following are the smoke points for each one:
|Type of Oil & Fats
|Olive Oil – Refined
|Olive Oil – Virgin
|Olive Oil – Extra virgin
Smoke point source 9
How to Incorporate Them Into Your Diet
Canola Oil Advice
Some people like to use it because it doesn’t overpower the other flavors in a recipe. Using it results in a neutral flavor and more people use it for cooking or baking than for dipping, salads or drizzling.
Although when oil is needed in something cold, it will be used when oil is needed without the added flavor. A great example of this may be when making a mayonnaise.
Use canola oil for the following:
- Use it when cooking in temperatures above 375 degrees (the smoke point of extra virgin olive oil).
- Stir fry
Olive oil has much more specific uses:
- Use refined for any cooking in temperatures up to 470 degrees.
- Use extra virgin for cooking in temperatures up to 375 degrees.
Its seems every trip to the supermarket results with more money spent at the checkout. For this reason and others, I’m sure the prices of food matters to most people.
I checked the price of store brands to keep things on an even playing field. I divided the price by the number of ounces. Therefore, let’s examine the prices of each one.
Olive oil costs 84% more than canola oil per ounce. Olive oil average cost per ounce is $0.24 and the average price for canola oil is $0.13 per ounce.
To conduct my own research, I checked three different supermarkets located in my area. All the supermarkets are on different levels of pricing. Walmart is the most economical and Stop and Shop being more expensive.
Here are my findings, I first visited Walmart:
- Olive oil (Store brand) – 51 ounce $10.98 ($0.21 per ounce)
- Canola oil (Store brand) – 48 ounce $3.67 ($0.08 per ounce)
Stop and Shop:
- Olive oil (Store brand) – 25.3 ounce $6.79 ($0.27 per ounce)
- Canola oil (Store brand) – 24 ounce $3.99 ($0.17 per ounce)
- Olive oil (Store brand) – 25.5 ounce $6.49 ($0.25 per ounce)
- Canola oil (Store brand) – 24 ounce $2.49 ($0.15 per ounce)
Find out how the price of olive oil compared to avocado oil in my article, Avocado Oil vs Olive Oil: Which is Better? A Comparison.
Storing food often gets overlooked. The shelf life you get out of the oil is important, especially with the prices of a good quality brands. In addition, improper storage may lessen the taste and quality. Let’s examine how they should be stored.
They both can be stored the same way.
Store olive oil or canola oil in a cool, dark location away from light. It’s best to store either one in a tinted glass container. Both oils should be kept at a temperature between 55-60℉, although they can be refrigerated or frozen if needed.
If the temperature of a room rises above 70℉, they should be stored in the refrigerator. Leaving either oil in warmer temperatures affects shelf life and lessens the quality of the oil.
Unrefined oil or extra virgin can go bad quicker than refined oils. For this reason, many people store them in the refrigerator regardless of the room temperature.
Due to heat-creating appliances and heated ovens, kitchens tend to be warmer than most other rooms of the house. Therefore, be sure to monitor your oil and the temperature of the room.
I store my olive oil in the kitchen cabinet but its in a cool area and away from heat.
Find out how sesame oil compared in my article, Sesame Oil vs Olive Oil: Which is Better? Let’s Compare.
Both contain healthy fats and antioxidants. The fats and antioxidants provide many health benefits which I’ll examine in this section.
Olive Oil Benefits
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 it is beneficial for the heart including the following:
It is associated with decreases in inflammation which is a main component of heart disease. An antioxidant, oleocanthal, is an anti-inflammatory that also reduces pain 8.
Blood Vessel Health
It 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 10.
The following video compares olive oil and canola oil.
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 11.
Several studies conducted on humans have shown the Mediterranean diet may be associated with a reduced risk of cognitive problems and dementia 12.
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 olive oil to clear the beta-amyloid proteins from the brain helping to prevent Alzheimer’s disease 13.
The cancer rates in Mediterranean countries are lower than other places.
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 14.
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 oil 15.
Oleic acid has been associated with helping to reduce the risk of cancers.
More Oil Benefits
Canola oil has some benefits of its own and also some concerns if consumed too much.
Omega-3 fatty acids is beneficial for the heart. It is higher in omega-3s than any other oil except for flaxseed oil.
It’s because omega-3 fatty acids help keep arteries healthy. The omega-3s may help with the following:
- Keeping bad cholesterol low.
- Keeping good cholesterol high.
- Reducing inflammation.
- Reducing plaque build-up.
- Lowering triglycerides
- Help keep the heart rhythms more normal.
DHA and EPA, two of the fatty acids, are associated with lowering blood pressure and improving the health of blood vessels 16.
In addition, it contains a good number of monounsaturated fats. As noted above, they are extremely beneficial for the heart and increasing good cholesterol.
It is low in saturated fat and has a high percentage of polyunsaturated fat. Studies show replacing saturated fat with polyunsaturated reduces heart problems by 17% 17.
However, nutritionists have raised concerns about the high amounts of omega-6 found in vegetable oils. Moderation is the key and it’s better to use olive oil more often and when it makes sense.
Studies suggest omega-3s can help reduce joint pain and stiffness in people with rheumatoid arthritis. They may also boost the effectiveness of anti-inflammatory drugs.
Find out how olive oil compared to vegetable oil in my article, Olive Oil vs Vegetable Oil: Which is Better? Let’s Compare.
The following video explains things you need to know when shopping for olive oil.
If you have any questions about this article don’t hesitate to email us. You can find an email on our contact page.
Read More Oil Articles
- USDA: Grades of Olive Oil
- USDA: Oil, olive, salad or cooking
- USDA: Oil, canola
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Effects of medium-chain triglycerides on weight loss and body composition: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: High Fat Diet with a High Monounsaturated Fatty Acid and Polyunsaturated/Saturated Fatty Acid Ratio Suppresses Body Fat Accumulation and Weight Gain in Obese Hamsters
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: An overview of the modulatory effects of oleic acid in health and disease
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Free radicals, antioxidants and functional foods: Impact on human health
- National center for Biotechnology Information: Olive Oil-related Anti-inflammatory Effects on Atherosclerosis: Potential Clinical Implications
- Wikipedia: Smoke point
- (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: Virgin Olive Oil and Hypertension
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Mediterranean Diet and Risk of Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease in the EPIC-Spain Dementia Cohort Study
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Attenuates Amyloid-β and Tau Pathologies in the Brains of TgSwDI Mice
- 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: Marine Omega-3 Supplementation and Cardiovascular Disease
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Reduction in saturated fat intake for cardiovascular disease