What's my take on avocado oil?
This is one of the most frequently asked questions I get.
Understandably, it's hard for some people to determine whether or not it's a healthy fat, and also whether or not to us it or to cook with it. And, for as long as this product has been available, I have held an unpopular opinion on it.
From the first time I smelled avocado oil, it smelled rancid to me.
And as we've now learned from a recent study out of UC Davis, this novel food isn’t yet well regulated/standardized enough yet for me to use it as a stand-alone ingredient in our home.
I don't use avocado oil for cooking, nor as a salad dressing.
One exception currently: we do keep some avocado mayo on hand for lack of any other options we like better in terms of healthfulness. That said, given the recent research I link to below, I've contacted the brand we currently buy (Sir Kensington's) to see if they have 3rd party testing to prove that it is 1) pure avocado oil, and 2) not rancid. I'll update this post when I find out.
Why I do not recommend avocado oil.
Years ago, I received several bottles of avocado-oil based salad dressings and some of the oil itself to try.
Now, I'm not generally one to want or need a salad dressing made with anything other than EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) in the first place, but I received them so I thought, alright, let me open these up and give them a try.
I took one sniff of the avocado oil based dressings said to myself, NOPE THAT SMELLS RANCID.
And no, the dressing was not past its date.
Recently, a study on avocado oil was conducted at UC Davis and published in the journal Food Control.
UC Davis also released this summarizing article in response: “Study Finds 82 Percent of Avocado Oil Rancid or Mixed With Other Oils: Food Scientist Says Standards Needed to Protect Consumers and Industry.”
This research was released from UC Davis and I am not at all surprised.
I saw it and thought “my nose told me that 5 years ago!”
From the article:
“I was surprised some of the samples didn’t contain any avocado oil,” said Selina Wang, Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Food Science and Technology, who led the study recently published in the journal Food Control. “Most people who buy avocado oil are interested in the health benefits, as well as the mild, fresh flavor, and are willing to pay more for the product. But because there are no standards to determine if an avocado oil is of the quality and purity advertised, no one is regulating false or misleading labels. These findings highlight the urgent need for standards to protect consumers and establish a level playing field to support the continuing growth of the avocado oil industry.”
Test samples included oils of various prices, some labeled extra virgin or refined. Virgin oil is supposed to be extracted from fresh fruit using only mechanical means, and refined oil is processed with heat or chemicals to remove any flaws.
Fifteen of the samples were oxidized before the expiration date. Oil loses its flavor and health benefits when it oxidizes, which happens over time and when exposed to too much light, heat or air. Six samples were mixed with large amounts of other oils, including sunflower, safflower and soybean oil.
Only two brands produced samples that were pure and nonoxidized. Those were Chosen Foods and Marianne’s Avocado Oil, both refined avocado oils made in Mexico. Among the virgin grades, CalPure produced in California was pure and fresher than the other samples in the same grade.
Does this mean I'll be throwing away the avocado oil mayonnaise we have?
No. I'm currently awaiting a response from Sir Kensington's on the quality of the oil used in their avocado oil mayonnaise.
But I'll maintain the fact that I won't be using avocado oil itself or dressing made with it in my home.
Why bother? It's a cheaper-cost product than EVOO for a reason. Further, the production of avocado oil for food consumption is very new, and it currently has no standards set for what's in your bottle.
How do you know if your avocado oil is rancid?
It's hard to know on your own, but according to the UC Davis article, a few ways (aside from 3rd party lab testing) are:
- smell and taste – it should have a fresh, slightly grassy / buttery smell and taste, it shouldn't smell rancid or stale (often compared to the smell of Play Dough, but if you've ever kept an opened bag of trail mix or nuts for too long in a pantry, you may have smelled it there, too as the oil in nuts can become rancid easily when not refrigerated)
- it should be either green in color for virgin avocado oil, or light yellow if it's refined avocado oil
- it should be in a dark bottle, to prevent oxidation by light – store it away from heat and sealed to protect it from air (light, heat, and air all contribute to oxidizing oils)
- buy an oil with a relatively recent harvest/production date (not a “best by” date)
If avocado oil can be regulated, graded, tested, and proven to be fresh and not rancid or adulterated, it's chemically-speaking a good choice.
Avocado oil does have similar chemical properties to olive oil, and, if it's fresh and unadulterated, it can be a healthy choice.
I am a skeptic by nature, and untrusting of cheap food in general (sadly, as I know how this disproportionately affects those who cannot access more expensive options).
But there are other, better-bets out there.
What can you use instead of avocado oil?
We choose extra virgin olive oil or ghee.
Those are our go-to cooking fats and I exclusively use extra virgin olive oil in salad dressings.
I've come around on EVOO as a solid option for cooking based on deeper learning about the protective nature of polyphenols in the oil itself that keep it from oxidizing as well as how food like vegetables that release water while cooking / roasting actually keep the temperature of the oil lower than previously thought in the pan or oven.
Be aware that even though EVOO does have standards for grading, what is found in stores is also often adulterated and not what the labels claims it is.
So, while it is a very old, long-made and healthful oil when done right, it would still behoove us all to source it well.
I shared this post on avocado oil now in light of the recent UC David study, but I recommend doing your own personal research on an olive oil company from which you choose to buy.
Many of you know that I have been personal friends with the Kasandrinos family since 2011. I know and trust the source, quality, and processing of their oil – it's truly the best quality olive oil you can find.
Bottom line: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Cheap food is unfortunately usually not high quality food, and oils are not where you want to go cheap.
My recommendations for healthy fats/oils for cooking if high quality EVOO is out of your budget or you're unsure of the source/trustworthiness:
- any butter, clarified if you can’t do cow dairy proteins
- coconut oil, even refined is okay since it can stand up to the treatment as a mostly saturated fat
- any lard, tallow, or fat from meat you cooked
Remember: any saturated fats are stable and won't oxidize/become rancid and unhealthy as easily. I say “any” as in I don't need it to be organic/grass-fed, etc. I am talking about stable fats versus unstable / damaged fats. Learn more about healthy fats in episode #272 of the Balanced Bites podcast here.
If you don’t eat animals and can’t tolerate coconut oil but cannot afford a high quality olive oil, I’m sorry but I don’t have a trusted option for you at this exact time.
Damaged fats are unhealthy/ inflammatory, period.
Unless you can be sure that the avocado oil you're consuming is pure, unadulterated with poor quality oils and is not rancid, I don't recommend consuming it.
To learn more about choosing healthy fats, refer to Chapter 5 in my book, Keto Quick Start, for a lot more information.
If you have more questions, please leave a comment below!