Canola Oil vs. Olive Oil: Which is Healthier?

Article posted in: Experts’ Corner
pouring olive oil over a salad

Canola and olive oil are among the most popular cooking oils, but is one better to use to promote long-term health? People tout both as heart-healthy oils, but they impact your health differently. Let’s determine which is the best option.

What is Canola Oil?

Canola Oil

Canola oil, derived from the rapeseed plant, is a budget-friendly, versatile cooking oil. Its low cost and neutral taste make it a go-to ingredient in many of our favorite store-bought foods.

Considered a refined oil, canola oil is made by pressing and heating the seeds. Chemical solvents are then used to improve the oil’s color and remove any odors.

Another standout feature is canola oil’s high smoke point, meaning it can withstand the high cooking temperatures used for frying and searing without degrading and producing harmful free radicals.

Notably, although rapeseed naturally contains harmful compounds like erucic acid and glucosides, the canola oil on our shelves comes from specially cultivated rapeseed variants that have minimal levels of these compounds, ensuring safety.

What is Olive Oil?

Olive Oil

Originating from the pressing of ripe olives, the production of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) avoids both heat and chemicals. Instead, a combination of manual pressing and centrifugation yields this oil. This process protects the oil’s beneficial antioxidants that are linked to its many health benefits.

With its slightly lower smoke point, EVOO is ideal for use in cold dressings, or for sautéing and baking. EVOO also has a stronger flavor and aroma than the more neutral refined oils.

Due to the extra care in processing, EVOO is more expensive than canola oil. However, refined and “light” olive oils are available on shelves at more budget-friendly prices. These options contain a combination of virgin and refined olive oils and may have slightly different nutritional profiles.

Nutritional Comparison of Canola Oil vs. Olive Oil

Shopping for cooking oil

Both canola and olive oil provide around 100 to 120 calories per tablespoon, primarily from healthy unsaturated fats. However, there are differences in their compositions.

Canola oil provides a higher proportion of polyunsaturated fats, including essential omega-3s and 6s, while olive oil has a higher balance of monounsaturated fats. Both options can help improve heart health when used instead of saturated fats and refined carbohydrates.

However, EVOO tends to have a higher antioxidant count than canola oil. These plant-based antioxidants work to neutralize harmful free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that damage your cells when left unchecked, putting you at risk for chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes and obesity.

But, do these differences matter when it comes to our health?

Health Benefits of Canola Oil vs. Olive Oil

cooking with oil

Both canola oil and olive oil offer health benefits when used as substitutes for unhealthy saturated fats, such as butter or margarine.

A review of multiple studies found that replacing butter or margarine with canola oil significantly reduces the risk of dying from heart disease or diabetes. Choosing canola oil over these saturated fats also seems to help reduce bad LDL cholesterol, especially in older adults.

Similarly, a large study observed that people who regularly included olive oil in their diet were less likely to develop heart disease. Plus, those who replaced five grams of butter or margarine daily with olive oil reduced their heart disease risk by five to seven percent.

However, olive oil may have an edge when comparing these oils head to head.

One small study comparing the impact of using olive oil or canola oil as the only cooking oil for six weeks showed olive oil reduced markers of inflammation associated with disease, while canola oil had no effect.

Another study showed improvements in brain function in adults who replaced refined oils, like canola oil, with olive oil for one year.

Is Canola Oil or Olive Oil the Healthier Choice?

oil over a salad

Both oils can offer health benefits compared to saturated fat, but the minimal processing of olive oil seemingly preserves its nutrient-rich profile, enhancing its health potential.

Canola oil is considered a refined oil, undergoing processes that break down some of its nutritional components, potentially blunting its healthfulness.

Does this mean canola oil is bad for you? No. But you’re probably getting enough refined oils from the prepared and packaged foods you include in your diet. When given the choice between the two, choosing olive oil can help you maintain a balance of healthy fats in your diet.

Reach for olive oil when making salad dressings, pesto, or roasting and sautéing foods.

Still, there are some instances when you’ll want to consider canola oil instead of olive oil. For example, when frying or searing. Alternatively, peanut and avocado oils are also suitable for high-temperature cooking.


Replacing saturated fats from processed foods, butter and high-fat meats with vegetable oils can protect your heart health. Choosing less refined oils, like olive oil, over canola oil can further improve the nutritional content of your diet.

Looking for more guidance on healthy choices? All Nutrisystem plans include a healthy Grocery Guide, which shows you how to easily create a balanced diet, including plenty of healthy fats.


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