Avocado oil has a lot in its favor. Like extra-virgin olive oil, it is high (76 percent) in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats that won’t raise cholesterol. Avocado oil is pressed from the fruit of the avocado (not the pit), which contains chlorophyll in addition to its healthful carotenoids, so if you haven’t yet tried it, you may be surprised by its bright green color. Among the carotenoids avocado oil provides is lutein, which is beneficial for the eyes and has been shown to help reduce the progression of age-related macular degeneration. In addition, two studies from Ohio State suggested that avocados and avocado oil increase the absorption of other carotenoids such as beta-carotene in a meal and also help covert them to vitamin A. The researchers reported that study participants formed more than 12 times as much vitamin A from carrots and more than 4 times as much from tomatoes when they were eaten with avocado than when eaten alone.
Avocado oil also contains beta-sitosterol, a plant sterol that can prevent cholesterol from being absorbed from the digestive tract.
Extracts of soybean and avocado oil called avocado soybean unsaponifiables have been used for some time to reduce the pain and other symptoms of osteoarthritis of the hip. Research has shown that they help prevent severe cases from worsening.
You can use avocado oil instead of olive oil in salad dressings, salsas, marinades and dips. The taste is mild, nutty and buttery. And because its smoke point is higher than other plant oils, avocado oil can be used for high-heat cooking such as grilling, sautéing and pan roasting.
The only downside I can see to using avocado oil is its cost and availability. You may find that it is more expensive than your extra-virgin olive oil. And even if price is not a consideration, you may not be able to find avocado oil on your supermarket shelves. You can buy it online and should be able to find it in specialty stores and high-end markets.
I should mention that avocado oil is also used on the skin for cleansing and moisturizing and on the hair as a conditioner and to repair hair that has been damaged by coloring. These cosmetic uses have not been well studied, however. Some research suggests that an avocado and vitamin B12 cream may reduce the symptoms of psoriasis, but more clinical investigation is needed to confirm those findings.
Andrew Weil, M.D.
Marie Wong et al, “What is unrefined, cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil?” INFORM, April 2010, http://www.aocs.org/Membership/FreeCover.cfm?ItemNumber=1099