Extra-virgin olive oil might be more coveted than standard olive oil, but nutritionally the two actually stack up fairly well. If you’re using olive oil as a source of monounsaturated fats, both varieties have plenty of the same healthy fats. More specifically, according to Jessica Gavin, both extra-virgin and regular olive oils typically have around 10 grams of monounsaturated fats, and 1.4 grams of polyunsaturated fats per tablespoon.
However, Medical News Today points out that the extra processing used to make standard olive oil lessens its nutritional benefits. Research has shown that extra-virgin olive oil tends to have a higher count of polyphenols (a type of antioxidant) compared to regular olive oil. Gobble also confirms that some nutrients and vitamins may be stripped during manufacturing, though it doesn’t detail which.
One of the key ways to get the most nutrition for your money comes down to how these oils are used. Medical Daily reports that heating extra-virgin olive oil may break down many of the nutrients — like phenol antioxidants and monounsaturated fatty acids — that you splurged on to get high-quality olive oil. It also has a lower smoke point, meaning that it will degrade at low temperatures (about 375 degrees Fahrenheit), so it generally isn’t great for frying or sautéing. Instead, it’s best to save extra-virgin olive oil for cases where it will be consumed raw, like in dressings and dips. For cooking and roasting, make sure to keep some regular olive oil around.