Canola vs Olive Oil: Which Is Heart Healthy?

As a dietitian specializing in heart health, I often encounter clients curious about the heart-healthy credentials of canola oil.

If you’re pondering the question “canola vs olive oil” as well, you’re in the right place.

I’ve gathered the essential information to help you understand the differences between canola and olive oil, empowering you to make an informed decision about which one is the best choice for supporting heart health.

Key Takeaways

  • Nutritional Breakdown: Canola oil contains higher levels of polyunsaturated fats, while olive oil is richer in monounsaturated fats. Both are considered healthy fats compared to saturated fats, contributing to heart health benefits.
  • Health Benefits: Olive oil, especially extra virgin olive oil, is linked to improved cardiovascular health due to its high content of monounsaturated fats and antioxidants. Canola oil is praised for its omega-3 content, offering similar heart-healthy effects. Both oils also have anti-inflammatory properties beneficial for overall health.
  • Culinary Uses: Canola oil has a neutral flavor and a high smoke point, making it suitable for high-heat cooking methods like frying and baking. Olive oil, with its distinct taste and lower smoke point, is preferred for dressings, sautéing, and Mediterranean dishes.
  • Considerations: Canola oil is more affordable and has a higher smoke point, while olive oil is often preferred for its flavor and rich antioxidant content. Personal health goals, cooking preferences, and environmental considerations should guide the choice between the two oils.

What Is Canola Oil?

Canola oil ranks as the third most produced oil in Canada, derived directly from the canola plant. This plant blooms with yellow flowers that mature into pods, each harboring seeds with up to 45% oil content.

Notably, the canola plant is a specially bred variant of the rapeseed plant, engineered to significantly reduce harmful substances found in traditional rapeseed oil, thereby making canola oil a safer option for consumption.

What Is Olive Oil?

Olive oil is produced by pressing whole olives, the fruit of the Olea europaea tree, which thrives in the Mediterranean. As a result, a liquid fat is extracted and is most commonly used for cooking for frying foods or salad dressings.

Nutritional Breakdown Of Canola vs Olive Oil

NutrientCanola Oil (1 tbsp)Olive Oil (1 tbsp)
  Calories    120 kcal  119 kcal
  Total Fats    14 grams  13.5 grams
  Saturated    1 grams  1.86 grams
  Monounsaturated    8 grams  9.85 grams (55-80% oleic acid)
  Polyunsaturated    4 grams  (9-11% omega 3)  1.42 grams

Table 1: Nutritional breakdown of canola oil and olive oil per 1tbsp. (All data are derived from UDSA Food Data Central (1)

As you can see, there are some evident differences between canola vs olive oil.

The comparison between canola and olive oil reveals some clear distinctions. Olive oil is notably richer in monounsaturated fats, while canola oil contains a higher proportion of polyunsaturated fats.

Both types, however, are categorized as healthy fats when compared to saturated fats, and thus, incorporating either into your diet can contribute to heart health benefits (2).

Vitamins And Antioxidants

This difference between canola and olive oil is that they both both offer essential vitamin E (also known as an antioxidant), and olive oil extends has the additional benefit of polyphenols.

Vitamin E, a crucial antioxidant, is particularly efficacious, operating as a fat-soluble shield that prevents the production of reactive species during the oxidation of fats (3). Intriguingly, canola oil is noted to contain a marginally higher concentration of vitamin E compared to olive oil.

Additionally, olive oil boasts a wealth of polyphenols, a category of antioxidants known for their profound health-promoting effects, including defense against cardiovascular disease, cancer, and obesity.

Due to its genetically modified structure of canola oil, it has lower polyphenol content than extra virgin olive oil.

Image of Veronica Rouse with Free 7 day heart healthy meal plan freebie.

Health Benefits Of Canola vs Olive Oil

Heart Health

Olive oil is a main component of the Mediterranean diet, and has been well researched for its benefit on cardiovascular disease and heart health.

For starters, olive oil has a high percentage of monounsaturated fats which is specifically good for keeping HDL (good) cholesterol high, and LDL (bad) cholesterol low (4).

By effectively managing cholesterol levels, we pave the way for a healthier heart and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

In addition, extra virgin olive oil has high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties which can help reduce blood pressure, which is a major indicator of your heart health.

Canola oil also displays heart healthy effects due to its high omega 3 content, and low saturated fat content. It is often recommended as a substitute for olive oil.

Omega 3’s, specifically, have been researched to support heart health through their ability to lower triglycerides, increase levels of our good, HDL-cholesterol, decrease platelet aggregation, and also reduce the risk of abnormal heart rhythm, further strengthening the heart (5).


Olive oil stands out for its ability to diminish inflammation, largely thanks to oleic acid, which constitutes about 55-80% of its monounsaturated fat content. Recognized for its anti-inflammatory effects, oleic acid influences several inflammatory pathways, offering potential benefits in preventing inflammatory conditions such as IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease) and obesity (6).

Similarly, canola oil is praised for its substantial omega-3 fatty acid content, known to lower inflammation risk. Omega-3 fatty acids exhibit anti-inflammatory properties by competing with omega-6 fatty acids, thus hindering pro-inflammatory responses (7).

This mechanism underlines the recommendation to increase omega-3 intake, aiming for a balanced dietary ratio with omega-6 fatty acids, which are prevalently consumed through the diet.

Brain Health

Olive oil may play a beneficial role in one’s cognitive health due to its high content of oleic acid.

It has been researched that it is an essential regulation of actions that control learning, memory, and proper mood regulation (6). A very interesting and relevant finding also suggests that daily intake of oleic acid has a beneficial effect on the negative decline on cognition in elderly individuals (6).

The omega 3 content in canola oil is a critical protector for brain health such that it has also been linked to improved memory, cognition, and a reduction in overall neurodegenerative diseases (7).

As mentioned before, omega-3 are great anti-inflammatories, therefore they can help prevent chronic inflammation associated with many diseases associated with the brain. They are found in the MIND diet, as well as chia seeds, hemp seeds and flaxseeds.

Both olive oil and canola oil contain high amounts of vitamin E, although higher in olive oil. This particular antioxidant can help protect against oxidative damage towards cells in the brain. Too much oxidative stress in the brain can put one at risk of cognitive decline and neurodegenerative diseases.


Olive oil, a cornerstone of the Mediterranean diet, is closely linked to better glucose management and a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. This diet is highly recommended for its role in enhancing insulin sensitivity, a critical factor in managing type 2 diabetes, indicating more efficient glucose clearance from the bloodstream (8).

Moreover, olive oil and other components of this diet have a low glycemic index, contributing to more stable blood glucose levels and offering additional protection against diabetes.

Research on canola oil indicates it too can enhance insulin sensitivity, thereby offering a degree of protection against diabetes. Thanks to its content of omega-3 polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats—considered “healthy” fats—it supports overall health. However, for individuals with type 2 diabetes, substituting canola oil with olive oil is advised, as the latter is more effective at controlling blood glucose levels (9).

Which Is Better For Cholesterol And Heart Health?

When comparing canola vs olive oil in terms of their impact on cholesterol levels and overall heart health, both oils have their merits, but olive oil often comes out on top due to its rich content of monounsaturated fats and polyphenols.

This image is an infographic on the nutritional and main features of olive oil vs. canola oil.

Cooking Properties

Smoke Point

The smoke point of an oil is the temperature at which it begins to degrade and produce visible smoke, potentially releasing harmful compounds.

This is why selecting an oil appropriate for your cooking technique is crucial for ensuring safety, minimizing exposure to detrimental substances, and preventing unwanted flavors in your dishes.

Smoke point for olive oil: 375-410 °F

Smoke point for canola oil: 400-450 °F

Taste And Flavor

Canola oil has a relatively mild or neutral flavor while olive oil has more of a distinct and olive-y taste, hence why it is added to dressings, marinates as it adds vibrant flavors to dishes.

Culinary Uses

Canola Oil

Canola oil, recognized for its very high smoke point and neutral flavor, is ideally suited for high-heat cooking techniques such as sautéing, stir-frying, grilling, and baking.

These methods benefit from the high temperatures canola oil can withstand without breaking down or smoking.

Its mild taste ensures it doesn’t overshadow the flavors of the dish, making it a versatile choice for a wide range of recipes where you don’t want to taste the oil.

Olive Oil

In contrast, olive oil, with its robust flavor and lower smoke point compared to canola oil, is favored for applications such as dressings, medium-heat frying, and sautéing.

Its distinct taste enhances the flavor profile of dishes, making it a staple in Mediterranean cuisine, known for its rich and vibrant flavors. Olive oil’s unique characteristics lend themselves well to recipes that benefit from its full-bodied taste.

Processing And Quality

It is recommended to consume both cold pressed canola oil and olive oil.

In the cold-pressing process, canola oil is extracted purely through mechanical means, meticulously avoiding the use of high temperatures. The seeds are pressed slowly to minimize friction and heat generation, ensuring that they are not heated before, during, or after the pressing process. This method preserves the natural characteristics of the oil, resulting in a product with a stronger color, taste, and odor than oils produced through other pressing techniques (10). 

Cold-pressed canola oil retains more of its natural properties but is less common and more expensive than other processing methods like solvent extraction, hot pressing, and expeller pressing.

Olive oil also undergoes cold press as to be considered “extra virgin”, it cannot undergo any heat during processing (11).

Olive oil has different grades, as you may already know, and will alter the taste, quality and health attributes related to it which maintains olive oil’s natural flavor and healthful properties.

The grades are as follows:

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO):

It is considered the highest grade of olive oil with minimal processing and contains the highest amounts of antioxidants and vitamin E from the olive fruit. 

Virgin Olive Oil (VOO):

VOO is made from pure, cold-pressed olives without the use of heat or chemicals, which preserves the natural flavors and health benefits of the olives. Unlike Extra Virgin Olive Oil, it may have a slightly higher acidity level and less intense flavor profile but still maintains a high quality (12).

Lampante Virgin Olive Oil:

Although naturally obtained, this grade does not meet the quality standards for human consumption due to its inferior quality parameters. Lampante Virgin Olive Oil is designated for refining or non-food purposes, adhering to a classification that reflects its limited use (12).


GMO, which stands for Genetically Modified Organism, refers to organisms whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques.

Canola oil is a crop that has been extensively genetically engineered, primarily to enhance its tolerance to herbicides. This modification allows canola plants to survive applications of certain herbicides that would otherwise kill the weeds around them without harming the crop itself.

In contrast, olive oil comes from olive trees that are GMO-free. These trees have a long history and have been cultivated for thousands of years, well before the advent of modern genetic engineering. Even the newer varieties of olive trees are essentially natural variants or selections from ancient stock, having been cultivated and adapted over decades or even centuries.


Canola Oil (1 L)Olive Oil (1L)
$3.39 Great Value$12.97 Great Value

 Table 2: Comparing cost of oils using the Great Value Brand in November 2023.

This comparison highlights the significant price difference between canola oil and olive oil, with canola oil being substantially more affordable per liter.

Sustainability And The Environment

Canola Oil is overall very efficient at reducing greenhouse gasses and isolating carbon within the atmosphere. It plays a beneficial role in enhancing water and soil quality by incorporating carbon and nutrients back into the earth, showing minimal negative impacts on the environment.

Olive oil, on the other hand, generates huge amounts of waste during extraction. It has an impact on land and water due to the phytotoxin that is made during extraction which is most commonly known as olive mill waste (13). Modern olive oil production increasingly employs methods to mitigate these effects.

In terms of sustainability, olive trees need a lot less water than the majority of other plants, offering an environmental advantage in terms of water conservation.

How Are They Used In The Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet puts a strong emphasis on plant-based eating, where a variety is coming from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, with of course a moderate use of olive oil as the primary fat.

Compared to canola oil, olive oil is used much more in this diet and considered a heart healthy substitute for butter and other oils.

Olive oil:

  • Cooking: Olive oil is used in a variety of cooking methods like sauteing, baking, grilling, which makes it quite applicable within the Mediterranean dishes.
  • Dressings and Spreads: Olive oil is a necessary ingredient within many Mediterranean dishes that involve dressings, vinaigrettes, spreads. Because of its vibrant flavor it adds to the richness of these dishes.

Canola Oil:

Frequently Asked Questions

Which Is Better: Canola Oil Or Olive Oil?

Both canola oil and olive oil have their unique benefits, making them good choices for different culinary uses and health considerations. Canola oil is high in both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which may be beneficial for heart health. Olive oil, on the other hand, is rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, offering benefits that may help in managing chronic diseases. The choice between canola oil and olive oil often depends on the specific health goals and cooking applications you have in mind.

Is It OK To Use Canola Oil Instead Of Olive Oil?

Yes, it’s perfectly fine to use canola oil as a substitute for olive oil in many cooking applications, such as baking, where its neutral flavor can be an advantage. Canola oil has a higher smoke point than olive oil, making it suitable for high-temperature cooking methods.

What Are The Pros And Cons Of Canola Oil?

Canola oil presents several advantages, such as being low in saturated fats and high in unsaturated fats, making it a heart-healthy option. Its high omega-3 content further enhances its health benefits. Additionally, canola oil’s high smoke point makes it versatile for various cooking methods, while its neutral flavor ensures it doesn’t overpower the taste of foods. However, there are downsides to consider. Canola oil is genetically modified (GMO), which some people might find undesirable. The processing methods used for canola oil can also strip away some of its natural antioxidants.


 Canola Oil  Olive Oil
Made from  RapeseedFruit (olive)
ManufacturingMechanically at high temperaturesCold pressing
Other uses  Cooking, biodieselCooking, hair and skin care, religious practices
Fat composition  7% saturated fats, 63% monounsaturated fat14% saturated fat, 73% monounsaturated fat
Calories  120 kcal/ 1 tbsp119 kcal/ 1 tbsp
Properties  Smoke point between 400-450 °FSmoke point between 375-410 °F
Ways used in food  Sauté, fry, deep fry, grill, bakeSalad dressing, light sauté, light fry

Final Thoughts

I hope this discussion has helped clarify the differences between canola and olive oil, especially regarding heart health. As we’ve seen, both oils offer unique benefits and have certain limitations. Deciding which one is “better” is not straightforward, as it largely depends on individual health objectives, dietary preferences, and lifestyle considerations.

An image of Veronica The Heart Dietitian cutting an apple, and an image of a book. The text on the image and book reads "FREE 4 steps to a happy heart without restriction ebook".

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