The Difference between Olive Oil and Canola Oil

The Difference between Olive Oil and Canola Oil

Olive oil is made by extracting the oil from pressed or crushed olives. It's a fruit oil that's been used for thousands of years, and it has a number of known benefits. Canola oil is made from a specially bred rapeseed plant; it was invented in Canada, and its name is short for "Canadian oil." Here's how to two oils compare.

Comparing the Nutritional Value of Olive and Canola Oils

Olive oil is made from olives, so it's a fruit oil. Canola oil is a vegetable oil made from the rapeseed plant, which is related to the mustard plant. Olive oil possesses a distinct, fruity olive flavor, but canola oil has no taste, making it a favorite for baking and cooking.

Both canola and olive oils are marketed as being healthy. Both oils are high in omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fats, though canola oil contains more polyunsaturated fats than olive oil. While canola oil is heart healthy, it doesn't contain the antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, polyphenols and phytonutrients that make olive oil so healthy.

How Olive and Canola Oils Are Processed

Olive oil is more expensive than canola oil, making canola oil a more popular choice. Canola oil is often used in processed foods. However, unlike olive oil, canola oil is extracted using a chemical solvent like hexane. Traces of this solvent remain in the oil even after it's processed. 

Canola oil is processed very differently from olive oil. It's bleached, deodorized, degummed and refined at high temperatures. Olive oil, on the other hand, is made from pressing ripe olives mechanically and collecting their juices. Virgin and light olive oils may be filtered to remove the nutrients that give extra-virgin olive oil its strong flavor, but most olive oils aren't processed using chemicals. Cold pressed olive oils are extracted at low temperatures.

There are different types of olive oil; extra virgin olive oil is made from the first pressing of the olives, and this oil isn't filtered, so it contains all the vitamins and other nutrients found in olives. Virgin and light olive oils are filtered, so they don't contain as many nutrients, but they have a lighter flavor that's more suitable for cooking, frying and baking.

Cooking Oils and Your Diet

When choosing between olive and canola oils, extra virgin olive oil is always the better choice nutritionally. While both oils contain high levels of monounsaturated and omega-3 fatty acids, extra virgin olive oil also contains vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and polyphenols that strengthen your immune system, slow the signs of aging and protect against cancer. Olive oil can even help you lose weight and prevent type 2 diabetes, because it stimulates your body to produce adiponectin, a hormone that reduces insulin resistance. Numerous studies have shown that olive oil protects against heart disease and cancer. It can even prevent depression and ease anxiety.

However, canola oil is more affordable and does offer some protection against heart disease. Olive oil comes at a high price, so you may want to use canola oil for cooking and baking, and reserve olive oil for salad dressings and dipping sauces.