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Edible vegetable oil: how does it differ from olive oil?

Olive Oil
Olive oil differs from vegeteble oils in terms of seeds and extraction. Lets have a look more precisely to their differences.


What are vegetable oils?


The term vegetable oil refers to oils derived from seeds, the main ones being soya, sunflower, rapeseed and linseed. There is no obligation to specify from which seed the vegetable oil is derived.

It is possible to extract vegetable oil by cold pressing, but most commercially available oils are derived from the so-called refining method. For information, manufacturers are not obliged to state the method of extraction. If it does not say "virgin vegetable oil", there is a good chance that the oil in question is refined.


How is vegetable oil made?


  • Cold pressing

Some vegetable oils are extracted by a mechanical process, cold pressed: these are known as virgin oils. This method is reserved for the noblest oils such as olive oil, walnut oil, hazelnut oil, etc. No chemical treatment is added.

In industry, in order to guarantee higher yields, the refining method is often preferred and comprises the following 3 successive stages:

  • Hot pressing

The first stage of the process consists of crushing the grains and heating them to a high temperature. The resulting paste is pressed to extract a first part of the oil, which is then dried. The residues are recovered and will be used for the second step, the hexane extraction.

  • Hexane extraction of the residues 

The residues are bombarded with this extremely toxic petroleum derivative and heated to 50 degrees, which absorbs the last traces of oil from the residues. The resulting liquid is then distilled at 95 degrees to separate the hexane from the oil. The problem with this substance is that it is too strong in colour and has an unpleasant odour. 

  • Refining 

The last step consists of refining the vegetable oil, involving the following chemical processes  

  1. treatment with hot water
  2. a possible addition of phosphoric acid
  3. neutralisation with soda
  4. decolourisation (passing over decolourising surfaces)
  5. filtering
  6. deodorising (by blowing steam at high temperature onto the oil).


Should vegetable oil be replaced by olive oil?


Which oil is healthier?


Imagine a fresh tomato and a boiled tomato, treated with petroleum, heated and then cooled, steamed and rubbed with bleaching earth. Which product do you think is better?


In addition, the role of temperature during the extraction process plays a significant role in the properties of the oil and its nutritional value.

The main vitamins present in cold-pressed virgin oils are vitamin E and vitamin K. These oils also contain free fatty acids (omega 3, 6 and 9) and taste compounds called polyphenols.

- At temperatures above 90 degrees, a large part of the vitamin E is destroyed. In the distiller or during decolourisation, temperatures can rise to 250 degrees...

- Vitamin K is also sensitive to heat.

- Free fatty acids and polyphenols are very highly oxidisable and do not tolerate heat very well.

As a reminder, the maximum heat in the extraction of a good olive oil is 27 degrees when vegetable oils go through refining phases at more than 95 degrees and are sometimes in contact with steam at 250 degrees, which destroys the natural components of the oil.

The vitamin E or omega 3 present in refined oils are therefore often synthetic products added to the refined oil to make it a marketing argument.


Is edible vegetable oil less healthy than olive oil?


In an extra virgin olive oil, there is the guarantee that there have been no additives such as colouring agents, preservatives, emulsifiers, antioxidants, synthetic thickeners, wetting agents, stabilisers, gelling agents, pseudo-natural flavourings, etc., which are sometimes found in refined vegetable oils.

As mentioned earlier, an extra virgin olive oil retains all its nutrients, but the multiple refining steps expose the vegetable oil to high temperatures. Its natural nutrients are therefore destroyed and sometimes reintegrated by synthetic additives.

Finally, for the pleasure of the eye, olive oil has a colour that can vary from apple green to golden yellow, whereas a vegetable oil will be translucent white (unless a colouring agent has been added to it!).



Is olive oil a vegetable oil?  


No, there is a difference in the seeds and the process:

  • Olive Oil: The name Olive Oil is reserved for edible oils made from 100% of this fruit only.

Olive oil sold in France is 95% EXTRA VIRGIN olive oil, i.e. an oil obtained from the first cold pressing (in temperatures between 15 and 27 degrees maximum) by mechanical processes which preserve the nutrients of the fruit and which meet precise physicochemical criteria.


  • Vegetable oils: a hot pressing, then a refining by cooking and chemical treatments which destroy the components of the seed

The name "vegetable oil" is reserved for oils obtained by blending edible vegetable oils. Generally, vegetable oils are obtained from seeds (soya, sunflower, rapeseed, linseed), but it is not compulsory to specify the seed from which the vegetable oil is obtained.

The benefits of vegetable oils 

Different vegetable and nut oils have different applications, flavours, textures and uses. Oliviers & Co produces the best olive oils in the world from the highest quality olives grown in the Mediterranean. We have found that vegetable oils such as olive oil offer the best option for cooking as well as many other beneficial health applications, and that the properties of each are complementary.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of other vegetable and nut oils that compare with or complement extra virgin olive oil for varied and healthy cooking:


  • Olive oil - is commonly used in cooking, for frying or as a finish such as salad dressing
  • Coconut oil - extracted from the kernel or meat of the coconut fruit
  • Corn oil - one of the most common oils sold in foods
  • Cottonseed oil - used as a salad and cooking oil, both domestically and industrially
  • Flaxseed oil - the queen of Omega 3s, with a fairly strong bitter taste.
  • Palm oil - the most widely produced tropical oil and also used to make biofuels
  • Peanut oil - has a high smoke point and is mainly used for frying
  • Rapeseed oil - one of the most commonly used cooking oils
  • Safflower oil - until the 1960s used in the paint industry, now used as cooking oil
  • Sesame oil - cold pressed and good as a light cooking oil, hot pressed for a darker, stronger flavour
  • Soybean oil - produced as a by-product of soybean processing
  • Sunflower oil - also a common cooking oil and used as biodiesel
  • Beech oil - from Fagus sylvatica nuts, can be used for salads and cooking
  • Brazil nut oil - is a good possible substitute for olive oil because of its sweet and pleasant taste
  • Cashew nut oil - also comparable to olive oil
  • Hazelnut oil - mainly used for its flavour in cooking
  • Macadamia oil - has a slight nutty flavour and a high smoke point for frying
  • Pistachio oil - a strong flavoured oil with a very distinctive green colour
  • Pumpkin seed oil - your prostate ally, rich in Omega 6
  • Walnut oil - also used for its specific flavour, and rich in Omega 3

Sources :

Photos: Enjin Akyurt & Daria Volkova