Can you substitute canola oil for olive oil?

In this article, we will answer the question “Can you substitute canola oil for olive oil?”, and what is the difference between canola oil and olive oil?

Can you substitute canola oil for olive oil?

Ys, you can substitute canola oil for olive oil. Estimate a 1:1 ratio for substitution. Olive oil is not the best substitute for canola oil when it comes to high-heat frying. 

Olive oil is best used when making something savory like a salad dressing or sauteing. You can also use olive oil in baking if the distinct flavor of the olive oil supports the flavor profile of the baked good.

Europe produces about two thirds of the worldwide olive oil production with a high share of the remaining volumes coming from the other countries of the Mediterranean basin. Italy follows Spain, the first world producer in terms of volumes, with an average 20% of the total European olive oil production. About two thirds of total Italian production is represented by extra virgin olive oil (3).

What are canola oil and olive oil?

Canola oil is extracted from rapeseed (Brassica napus L.), which has been selectively bred to contain a lower amount of erucic acid and glucosinolates. Canola oil is characterized by the following: low level (7%) of saturated fatty acids (SFAs); substantial amounts of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), including 61% oleic acid, 21% linoleic acid, and 11% alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)2,10; plant sterols (0.53–0.97%); and tocopherols (1).

The manufacturing of canola oil involves heating, pressing, chemical extraction, and refining. However, expeller and cold-pressed canola oil and bleached and deodorized canola oil are also available (2).

Olive oil is made by pressing olives. Out of all the available olive oil varieties, regular and extra virgin olive oil are the most popular. Unlike regular olive oil, extra virgin olive oil does not undergo extensive processing due to which it is considered the most nutritious olive oil.

Extra virgin olive oil is obtained from the fruit of the olive tree solely by mechanical processes or other physical means under conditions, particularly thermal conditions, which do not lead to the alterations in the oil, and which have not undergone any treatment other than washing, decantation, centrifugation and filtration, and whose acidity content does not exceed 0.8 % (in oleic acid) (4).

Similar nutritional profile

The nutritional profile of canola and olive oil is quite similar. 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of canola and regular (refined) olive oil provide the following key nutrients.

Canola oil Olive oil
Calories 124124
Fat 14 grams 14 grams 
Saturated 714%
Monounsaturated 6473%
Polyunsaturated 28% 11%
Vitamin E 16% of the RDI 13% of the RDI
Vitamin K 8% of the RDI 7% of the RDI 

Antioxidant content 

Both olive oil and canola oil contain powerful antioxidants. Antioxidants are compounds that protect the cells against free radical damage. Antioxidants found in canola oil are tocopherols. Free radicals cause chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and certain cancers (1,4).

Polyphenols are the most prominent antioxidants in olive oil. Olive oil contains over 200 different antioxidant compounds. The number of polyphenols or antioxidants varies with the processing method of olive oil. The main phenolics of olive oil are tyrosol, hydroxytyrosol and oleuropein (4).

Lightly refined extra virgin olive oil contains the highest number of antioxidants. The great processing of regular olive oil significantly reduces its antioxidant content.

Culinary uses

Frying 

Smoke point is the temperature at which a fat or oil produces a continuous wisp of smoke when heated. For frying purposes, the smoke point should be above 392°F. This provides a useful characterization of its suitability for frying. The smoke point of regular olive oil is 410℉ (210℃) and that of extra virgin olive oil is 383℉ (195℃) (5). Canola oil has a higher smoke point than any of these two varieties of olive oil i.e 460℉ (238℃) (6).

When oil is heated above its smoke point, its glycerol and fatty acids start to decompose and produce toxic compounds such as aldehydes, ketones, and alcohol.

Even at the smoke point, olive oil is much less likely to produce toxic compounds as compared to canola oil. But the overheating destroys the oleocanthal antioxidants of the olive oil, reducing its nutritional content. 

When heating oils, the process of fat oxidation is accelerated. Fat oxidation is where fat molecules interact with oxygen, leading to the potential formation of harmful compounds. Non-volatile polar compounds, triacylglycerol dimers and polymers are the main deterioration products of cooking oils. Several studies have associated these substances with certain types of cancer and neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease (5).

The bottom line is that canola oil is a better option for high-heat frying, including deep frying and searing. However, you can use any of the two oils in pan-frying and other moderate-heat frying methods.

Other uses

Olive oil is mostly consumed raw, drizzled over finished or uncooked food. Extra virgin olive oil has a savory flavor profile and imparts a rich Mediterranean flavor to whatever food it is added to. Extra virgin olive oil is best used in making dips, salad dressing, and drizzled-over meta dishes.

Some people do not like the raw and distinct flavor of extra virgin olive oil. Such individuals should opt for neutral-flavored regular olive oil.

Refining is an important step in canola oil processing as it deodorizes and bleaches the oil. So, there isn’t anything special about the flavor of canola oil due to which it is best suited for baking and frying. 

Which one is healthier?

Extra virgin olive oil is the healthiest option when compared with canola oil and regular olive oil. Religious use of olive oil is linked with decreased heart disease risk factors, improved blood sugar levels, and a lower risk of death.

Olive oil reduces the risk of heart diseases and stroke by lowering the blood LDL and Triglyceride levels. All of these health benefits of olive oil are ascribed to its rich antioxidant profile. The presence of oleic acid, phenolic compounds and bioactive molecules in olive oil, especially in the extra-virgin type, makes it less susceptible to oxidation reactions. Thus, the consumption of olive oil can improve the lipid profile of the body, reducing the risk of chronic non-communicable diseases and, despite being a food with a high caloric value, it is not associated with an increase in body weight (4).

Canola oil, due to extensive processing, loses most of its essential fatty acids and antioxidants (7). The health benefits of olive oil are well-known and scientifically proven. But the same cannot be said about canola oil. More research is needed to prove the claimed health benefits of canola oil. 

The bottom line is that you should opt for olive oil if you are concerned with your health, especially if you have any underlying health conditions. 

Other FAQs about Oils that you may be interested in.

Can you use oil in an instant pot?

Can you use olive oil in ceramic pans?

Can you make a cake with olive oil?

Conclusion

In this article, we answered the question “Can you substitute canola oil for olive oil?”, and what is the difference between canola oil and olive oil?

References

  1. Lin, Lin, et al. Evidence of health benefits of canola oil. Nutr rev, 2013, 71, 370-385. 
  2. Dunford, N. Oil and Oilseed Processing I, II and III. Oklahoma State University, 2019.
  3. Carbone, Anna, Luca Cacchiarelli, and Valentina Sabbatini. Exploring quality and its value in the Italian olive oil market: a panel data analysis. Agric food econ, 2018, 6, 1-15.
  4. Silva, Bruna Sanches, and Marcio Schmiele. From olive to olive oil: a general approach. Res Society Develop 10.3 (2021): e32210313408-e32210313408.
  5. de Alzaa, Ana Florencia, Claudia Guillaume, and Leandro Ravetti. Cooking with Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Olive Oil—New Perspectives and Applications, 2021, 1-13. 
  6. Przybylski, Roman, et al. Canola oil. Bailey’s industrial oil and fat products, 2005, 2, 61-122.
  7. Przybylski, Roman, and Ted Mag. Canola/rapeseed oil. Vegetable Oils in Food Technology: Composition, Properties and Uses. Blackwell Publishing Ltd., Hoboken. 2011, 107-136.