Grapeseed oil and olive oil: Two of the world’s most famous crops that span across many cultures and traditions and make fantastic cooking fats.
In this ingredient matchup, we’ll be looking closely at Grapeseed oil vs. Olive oil, examining their different uses, flavors, and health benefits. Let’s jump on in!
What is Olive Oil?
Olive oil is one of the most widely used ingredients in household cooking and the food industry at large. With numerous health benefits, olive oil is a must-have ingredient in everything from marinades to salad dressings, and even beauty products.
The process of turning olives into olive oil is pretty simple. First, the olives are harvested, then they are crushed and mashed (pits and all) with large stones or stainless steel rollers. After they are pressed and mashed, they are put through a high-speed centrifuge to separate the liquids from the solids. The separated liquid is then spun one more time to separate the oil from the water of the fruit.
The oil that remains is what we call extra virgin olive oil, the least processed version of olive oil you can purchase. This EVOO is then bottled as is, or further refined.
Similar to the strictures of the European wine industry, olive oil is graded on certain criteria of quality and purity. It’s taken very seriously, and it should be! Generally speaking, “extra virgin” ranks highest on the scale, while “light” and “refined” or “pure olive oil” rank lower. You can learn more about the differences between these oils in my detailed comparison post.
What is Grapeseed Oil?
With the U.S. wine industry booming, nearly 75 million tonnes of grapes are produced annually. This production wave has brought some more attention to the long-ignored grapeseed.
Grapeseed oil is a byproduct of winemaking. After the grapes are pressed, the seeds are left behind, and we mean a LOT of seeds. Why let them go to waste when they can be turned into profit?
Most grapeseed oil is made in factories by crushing the seeds and mixing with solvents. Healthier versions, however, skip the chemical solvents and are cold-pressed or expeller-pressed.
A book titled The Revalorization of Grape Seed Oil for Innovative Non-Food Applications details that each individual grape seed contains between 13-19% oil, rich in fatty acids, antioxidants, beta-carotene, and vitamin E. That’s a lot of nutrition for a byproduct, not to mention potential profits.
There numerous health claims and benefits of both olive oil and grapeseed oil.
Let’s look at the facts to see how they measure up, and we’ll decide which one packs more nutritional value overall.
At a glance, there are few clear nutritional differences between grapeseed oil and olive oil.
In fact, the macronutrient profile is nearly identical. One tablespoon of each oil contains 120 Calories and 14 grams of fat, which is typical of most cooking oils.
A more detailed look at their fatty acid composition reveals the following differences:
- Saturated: 14%
- Monounsaturated: 73%
- Polyunsaturated: 11%
- Saturated: 10%
- Monounsaturated: 16%
- Polyunsaturated: 70%
The real distinctions are seen in their respective levels of monounsaturated fats (MUFA) and polyunsaturated fats (PUFA).
Monounsaturated fats simply indicate one double bond between fat molecules. From a health standpoint, these are considered liquid gold, and extra virgin olive oil has a whopping 9.9 grams as opposed to grapeseed oil’s 2.2 grams.
Research has shown that diets containing moderate-to-high amounts of monounsaturated fats can actually aid weight loss, granted you work to curb calorie intake (source).
I’m looking at you, keto folks! Yes, olive oil is an excellent fat to incorporate into a high-fat, low-carb diet. Monounsaturated fats are also known for being quite resistant to high heat, making extra virgin olive oil a better choice for cooking.
Grapeseed oil, while not necessarily unhealthy, lacks the benefit of having all those extra monounsaturated fat.
While olive oil takes the lead in monounsaturated fat content, grapeseed oil is the clear winner when it comes to polyunsaturated fats, also known as omega-6 fats. Unlike monounsaturated fats, it is still unclear if eating too many polyunsaturated fats, like omega-6 fatty acids, is harmful to the body (source).
Beyond core nutritional facts, both oils are high in vitamin E.
Grapeseed oil comes out on top in this category, with 19% of the daily recommended value at 9 mg per tablespoon. Olive oil contains just under 2 mg, 13% of our daily recommended value.
What Does Vitamin E Do?
The National Institute of Health claims that vitamin E protects cells from otherwise-damaging free radicals associated with cancer, heart disease, and other chronic illnesses.
Vitamin E also supports a healthy immune system.
With that in mind, is grapeseed oil or olive oil the best choice for health?
This ultimately comes down to your needs as a consumer. If you are looking to add more monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) into your ketogenic diet, then olive oil is the right choice for almost any dish imaginable.
However, if you want to increase your Vitamin E to achieve that outside glow from within, then grapeseed is your best bet.
How can you choose the right olive or grapeseed oil for your needs? There are several terms to help you decipher which oil to take home from the supermarket.
With so many olive oil options out there, we need to pay extra attention to how bottles are labeled. This can mean the difference between purchasing a vitamin-rich EVOO or a blend of lesser quality oil that doesn’t deliver on flavor or nutrition.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil (label): The purest form of olive oil extraction using the best olives and no heat or solvents – only cold, hard pressure to extract the oil.
- Virgin Olive Oil (label): Can refer to a cold-pressed olive oil, but perhaps did not pass the acidity or flavor test. Possibly from a lower-quality harvest, or just not the producers’ finest crop.
- Refined: The oil has been extracted using solvents or heat methods, then processed further by bleaching or deodorization. This oil is typically blended with a small amount of higher quality oil to boost natural flavor and color.
- Pomace: Olive oil made from the left-over olive flesh after the first press has been completed.
- Olive Oil (label): A sneaky way of labeling a lower quality olive oil. It is likely that it has been refined through one or more of the following, degumming, neutralization, bleaching, and/or deodorization. The refined oil is then blended with 5% to 15% extra virgin or virgin olive oil.
- Pure Olive Oil (label): A mixture of oil from the second pressing, meaning it has been cold-pressed and exposed to heat and chemical treatments. Considered “pure” because no other types of oil have been mixed in (canola oil, for example), but lower in quality than extra virgin, virgin, or simply olive oil.
- Light or Extra Light Olive Oil (label): This is the lowest grade of olive oil that you can purchase. Contrary to its name, light olive oil is not lower in calories, it is, however, lighter in color (quite considerably, in fact). These oils are often mixed with vegetable oil giving it a more neutral taste and higher smoke point.
While olive oil has clear standards of quality printed on the label, we have to be a bit more careful with grapeseed oil.
The easiest and most affordable way to extract this oil from the tiny grape seeds is to use solvents, which act fast but significantly degrade the edible health benefits of the oil.
There are only two terms to look for when sourcing the best grapeseed oil:
- Expeller or Cold-pressed: This means that no heat, chemicals, or solvents were used to extract the grapeseed oil from the seeds.
- Refined: Like olive oil, refined is a bad word when it comes to grapeseed oil. Refined means that any method, chemical and/or heat, could have been used to obtain the oil.
So whether you are shopping for high-quality olive oil or grapeseed oil, your first step is to read the labels and look for this key information. Knowing these terms will help you make the right call.
There is no shortage of recipes featuring generous amounts of olive oil!
At the Forked Spoon, an easy search for olive oil will yield dozens of recipes and some informational posts to choose from as you broaden your bank of knowledge.
Grapeseed oil has more recently gained its reputation as a viable cooking oil in the 21st century.
However, its uses are limitless, and low-temp cooking is where it really shines. Mild in flavor, but rich in vitamins and minerals make this a go-to salad dressing or vegetable tossing oil for any home cook.
Ready to take the grapeseed plunge?
The light and mild flavor of grapeseed oil make it the perfect fat for cooking or finishing.
Our favorite recipes in this category often include a range of bright, flavorful ingredients brought to life by a light oil, perfectly summarized in this Asian pasta salad.
Another great way to highlight grapeseed oil is in this fresh cucumber salad with savory miso dressing.
Need some extra protein? Our Chinese chicken salad will delightfully expand your flavor comfort zone.
The right oil and seasoning can make any bland ingredients pop with flavor and texture. Give this chicken and cabbage salad a try if you don’t believe me! It’s a prime example of an easy and healthy dish that uses just a little bit of grapeseed oil to carry the flavors through every bite.
One of my absolute favorite grapeseed oil recipes is this shredded brussels sprout caesar salad with super-crunchy homemade croutons. This is definitely a case where the final product is way more than the sum of its parts. A recent classic side dish in my house has been miso roasted cauliflower. The grapeseed oil helps infuse the starch with all of the deep umami and savory flavors that miso has to offer.
Other Household Uses
These oils can help you out beyond the kitchen, as well.
Grapeseed oil and olive oil are widely used in beauty products, soaps, and scalp treatments. Their healthy antioxidant profiles and vitamin E content make them perfect for skin and hair care.
Because grapeseed oil absorbs fast into the skin, it is an ideal base for lotions and balms. The Today Show suggests the restorative properties of vitamin E to bring back brightness and elasticity to tired hands or the delicate skin of the eyelids and face.
While olive oil can seem a bit greasier on the skin, its texture is perfect for scalp and hair applications. Not only does it infuse the hair with moisture, but it’s known to strengthen roots and aid regrowth as well. It also adds body and shine to dull, dehydrated hair!
Home cooking is all about building up your internal database of information and applying that knowledge every day. That means knowing which oil is best for you, your family, and your health.
Grapeseed oil and olive oil may seem incredibly similar, but there are key differences in their flavor profiles and health benefits. Now you know!
Whichever oil you choose for your daily sauté, know that both grapeseed oil and olive oil each have a lot to offer, as long as you use them the right way.