Avocados and avocado oil had a slow road to popularity, starting with a rebranding of sorts. There’s a bit of an internet debate around the origin of the word avocado. Some reports say that it came from the word ahuacatl, which is Aztec slang for testicle. As the fruit became more popular, that association wasn’t great for marketing, so farmers changed the name to “avocado” and even petitioned dictionary publishers to update the entry. 1 Good move on their part, because “avocado toast” sounds much more appetizing than … the other thing.
Is Avocado Oil Good For You?
Back in the ‘80s when low-fat diets were lauded as the sure path to losing weight, people shunned avocados because of their fat content. About a decade and a half later when word got out that different fats do different things in the body, avocados were regarded as a welcome addition again because of their monounsaturated fat content. With the growth of the Primal and keto movements, people now embrace these fats, and avocados are regarded as a beneficial food that fits into a healthy lifestyle.
With naturally-occurring nutrients and a range of fatty acids, it’s no wonder that the skin loves avocado oil. As demand for natural products rises, avocado oil becomes a more and more common ingredient in skincare products from moisturizing creams to facial oils and treatments.
There’s not a tremendous amount of research on avocado oil benefits for skin, but a few studies show its potential as a worthy skin ingredient:
Rats that were fed avocado oil for a period of time showed increased collagen in skin. 2
A skin cream containing avocado oil combined with a few other oils showed antimicrobial effects, specifically against Staphylococcus pseudintermedius and Malassezia pachydermatis3
Avocado oil seemed to increase increased collagen production and reduced inflammation during wound healing 4
Avocado oil is being explored as a treatment for psoriasis 5
If you would like to experiment, try it as a base in a DIY facial. Fill a small bottle with three tablespoons of avocado oil and one tablespoon of a lightweight oil, like MCT oil. Add one drop of essential oil like frankincense or rose. Shake to combine, and apply one drop at a time to your skin. (Always patch test new products before using them all over.)
Avocado Oil Nutrition
One tablespoon of Primal Kitchen® Avocado Oil contains 120 calories and 14g fat. It is not a significant source of sodium, carbohydrates, or protein.
Fatty Acid Composition of Avocado Oil
One of the main avocado oil benefits is its fatty acid composition. Most brands of pure avocado oil has approximately:
11% saturated fat
13% polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA)
Over 70% monounsaturated fat (MUFA)
Saturated and monounsaturated fats are stable fats that your body can use; polyunsaturated fats tend to oxidize easily.6
If you’re curious of the fatty acid composition of other culinary oils, you can find them in this article.
Avocado Oil vs Olive Oil
Avocado oil and olive oil are similar in a lot of ways, but the differences may help you decide which one to pull out of your cabinet for different applications.
Avocado oil and olive oil are both high in oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat, which is the compound that research has shown may help reduce blood pressure, 78 may benefit the immune system,9 and is potentially blood-lipid friendly. 10
Both avocado oil and olive oil contain a range of antioxidants. High-quality, extra-virgin avocado oil contains lutein,11 a carotenoid that may benefit eye and skin health.12 Olive oil contains vitamin E, beta carotene, lutein, and others that have a range of benefits. 13 The benefits of lutein depend on how much lutein is actually in the avocado oil, which varies depending on lots of factors – the quality of the avocado, processing methods, etc.
Both olive oil and avocado oil make incredible salad and finishing oils when used straight from the bottle. The difference comes in once you heat the oils. Avocado oil begins to burn just over 500 degrees Fahrenheit, whereas extra virgin olive oil can only withstand temperatures just over 400 degrees Fahrenheit. As long as you use both oils appropriately, you can reap the benefits of either.
Avocado Oil: Regular or Extra Virgin?
There are a few key differences between avocado and extra virgin avocado oil.
Avocado oil has a neutral taste. Extra virgin avocado oil tastes rich, buttery, and can have earthy or mushroom-like undertones.
Avocado and extra virgin avocado oil both have similarly high smoke points, though avocado oil’s smoke point is slightly higher than its extra virgin counterpart. Both work well for cooking, baking, frying, grilling, and more.
Since avocado oil has a neutral taste, it works well in most recipes as a cooking oil. Extra virgin avocado oil works for cooking, but its rich flavor is best showcased as a finishing oil or alongside a few simple ingredients for a quick-toss salad dressing.
Avocado oil uses
You can use avocado oil in place of any neutral-tasting culinary oil. Cooking applications include:
Greasing pans before baking and grill grates before grilling
As research emerged about the dangers of oxidized oils, people started to pay attention to which oils could be heated, and how hot they could get without degrading. A lot of healthy fats are delicate and oxidize quickly. Some oils should not be heated at all.
Avocado oil is unique in that it contains predominantly monounsaturated fats that can be heated over 500 degrees Fahrenheit. That makes it an ideal oil for the stovetop, as frying and sautéeing can exceed the smoke points of a lot of other oils.
Because avocado oil can be heated to such a high temperature without damage, it makes a fantastic frying oil. As long as the temperature doesn’t exceed 520 degrees, you’re good to go.
Avocado Oil for Hair
Some people use avocado oil as they would any other hair oil or pomade, to combat frizz and tame flyaways, creating smoother, more manageable hair. Everyone’s hair is different, so it’s best to give it a try when you have time to wash it out and restyle if it doesn’t work with your hair type.
Avocados naturally contain biotin. Since biotin deficiency is associated with hair thinning, people have done avocado oil-based scalp treatments to help stimulate hair growth. This hasn’t been researched, but try it if you want to, and monitor your hair for changes. Others combine it with other ingredients, such as coconut oil or shea butter, and use it as a moisturizing hair mask or hot oil treatment. There’s no measurable amount of biotin in avocado oil, so if people are seeing an effect with these hair masks, it’s probably more due to the skin-happy effects of the fatty acids.
How to Choose the Right Avocado Oil
A lot of avocado oil on the shelves may be either rancid (heavily oxidized), or adulterated (cut with cheaper, less desirable oils like soybean). It’s up to the consumer to do their homework and find a trustworthy brand so that you know the oil inside the bottle matches what it says on the outside of the bottle.
To ensure your avocado oil is high quality, look for these attributes:
Minimally heated. Excessive heat destroys the beneficial compounds in avocado oil, which opens up the opportunity for oxidation. That could turn a healthy oil into one that may potentially cause harm.
Non-GMO. Depending on how it’s done, genetically modified avocados could shift the balance of fatty acids and nutrients in the final product.
Mechanically extracted. Centrifuge is the best way to extract avocado oil as temperatures can be kept low and there is no need for solvents.
Processed without solvents. You want to avoid solvents like hexane, which are removed at the end of extraction, but many solvent-extracted oils have traces of hexane left behind. You probably don’t want to eat chemical solvents.
Extra virgin, if you want to add richness. Extra virgin avocado oil is extra rich with a subtle earthy flavor that adds something special to salads or steamed vegetables.
Aroma. Rancid oil takes on a faint smell of plastic or paint thinner. Virgin avocado oil can smell grassy or earthy, which is a good thing.
Smoking. If avocado oil smokes in a pan under 520 degrees Fahrenheit, it may not be pure. Avocado oil can withstand pan frying on medium-high heat.
Color. Avocado oil should range from pale yellow to green, depending on region and processing.
Date. Buy avocado oil that you can use up before the expiration date printed on the bottle.
Don’t hesitate to contact avocado oil producers and inquire about their processes.
How to Buy and Store Avocado Oil
Again, check the expiration date before you buy, and make sure you’ll use it well within that time frame. Look for avocado oil in dark glass containers, as light will degrade the oil more quickly. You can store avocado oil in a dark cabinet or pantry, away from direct sunlight and heat.