There are a lot of cooking oils on the market and walking down that aisle in the grocery store can result in confusion and even fear. What if you choose the wrong one? How do you know which one is healthiest?
What about ones you’ve not heard of as much, like grapeseed? Let’s explore what grapeseed oil is, it’s health benefits and more.
What is Grapeseed Oil?
Grapeseed oil is produced as a byproduct of making wine. After the grapes are pressed to extract the juice, all that’s left behind are the seeds from the grapes.
Grapeseed oil is made when the oil is extracted from these seeds. Some proponents of grapeseed oil like it because it is a byproduct of something that is already produced and therefore leads to “less waste.”
Companies like it because they can increase profit from something that they would have otherwise thrown away.
Grapeseed oil is a light yellowish color that is about the same consistency as vegetable oil. It is thinner than olive oil and has a milder scent and taste.
It is often used interchangeably with vegetable oil, olive oil, and avocado oil for baking; can be used for frying or high-heat cooking, and can also be used for marinades and dressings.
It’s also popularly used topically for beauty and skincare routines and DIY recipes. Most people compare it in taste to canola or vegetable oil.
Nutritional stats for grapeseed oil per serving include:
- 14 grams of fat
- 120 calories
- 19% daily value of vitamin E
While grapeseed oil might look good on a nutritional front, it contains almost no other vitamins or minerals and doesn’t contain omega-3 fatty acids.
Health Benefits of Grapeseed Oil
Grapeseed oil has a number of health benefits and nutritional advantages. While it won’t replace olive oil or avocado oil in your diet because of the nutritional differences, it can safely be used in moderation and is definitely healthier than vegetable, corn, or canola oils.
Let’s explore the health benefits of grapeseed oil.
Grapeseed oil contains both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. What does this mean? These unsaturated fats can have positive health benefits for things like the heart, brain, and body tissues.
If you’re cooking with grapeseed, it’s important to get cold-pressed versions so that they’re minimally processed and not subjected to the type of production damage that unstable unsaturated fats are subjected to.
Grapeseed oil naturally contains vitamin E, which is an antioxidant vitamin that helps prevent free radical damage within cells and tissues. Grapeseed oil contains more vitamin E than even olive oil does.
Vitamin E fights against cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic illness and supports a balanced immune system.
It also promotes brain health and may slow the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Vitamin E is also absorbed and used in the body best when it comes from whole food sources versus supplemental form.
High Smoke Point
High quality grapeseed oil has a high smoke point and is good for cooking without risking oxidation as much as olive oil would. It’s best for moderate to high temperatures, but not for sustained cooking at very high temps.
It can be used interchangeably with corn oil, cottonseed oil, canola oil, and vegetable oil. When contrasted with those oils, grapeseed is by far the healthiest choice.
Are There Problems with Grapeseed Oil?
While grapeseed can appear quite healthy when compared to vegetable and other highly processed oils, there are some problems with it.
Grapeseed is a controversial oil, unlike olive oil, which seems to be universally loved. There aren’t many downsides, but there are a few major ones to consider before making grapeseed oil your daily staple.
Fatty Acid Profile
Grapeseed is mostly omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids, which are needed for health in moderation. The problem comes in when they significantly outnumber the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in the diet. When this happens, inflammatory processes can go unchecked in the body.
Consuming high amounts of grapeseed oil regularly, and not also consuming large quantities of cold water, fatty fish like salmon, cod, anchovies, and sardines could result in unbalanced fatty acid ratios. This can exacerbate inflammatory conditions, autoimmune disorders, and chronic disease.
When you compare grapeseed oil to other vegetable oils, it actually contains the highest amounts of PUFAS, or polyunsaturated fatty acids.
These are problematic because they compete with omega-3s for conversion molecules in the body. It isn’t necessarily the amount of fats that you eat that matters, but the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6/omega-9.
Grapeseed oil is 70 percent polyunsaturated fatty acids, so even a small amount each day can stack up to a high level of omega-6 intake.
The fine balance between omega-3 and omega-6 isn’t just for heart health. It’s literally tied to every aspect of physical wellness. Without the right amount, the brain, metabolism, neurotransmitters, hormones, thyroid, cardiovascular system, and even detox organs won’t work as they should.
Too many omega-6s unchecked by omega-3s results in inflammation which can impact any area of the body, usually many of them at the same time.
Excessive levels of omega-6 fatty acids can be tied to:
- Systemic inflammation
- Heart disease and heart attack risk
- Blood vessel disorders
- Brain disorders like Alzheimer’s and dementia
- Blood clotting problems
- Premature aging
- Skin problems
- Liver and kidney disorders
- Thyroid problems
- Metabolism issues
- Fatigue and mental fog
- Reproductive disorders
- Mood problems, including depression and anxiety
- Gut problems
- Inability to lose weight
- Cholesterol imbalance
The ideal omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is 1:1 which is what ancient hunter-gatherers would have eaten. They existed in a day before heart disease and chronic disorders.
In the modern age, it’s normal to consume more omega-6s than perhaps our cave person ancestors did, and many experts agree that a 4:1 ratio can be perfectly healthy and still avoids the inflammatory imbalance.
In modern society, however, the most common ratios are closer to 10:1 or 25:1, and this is definitely part of the reason why chronic and inflammatory disorders are significantly on the rise.
Several diets offer side effects of balanced omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acid intakes. The Mediterranean diet focuses on lots of olive oil and other healthy fats, like salmon, which are rich in omega-3s.
A Paleo or ancestral diet skips vegetable oils and processed foods and focuses on lots of omega-3 rich foods like grass-fed beef and grass-fed butter, in addition to cold water fatty fish.
Some types of grapeseed oil are cold pressed, which is the healthiest way to buy it. But others, and most of what you’ll see for sale, is produced by chemically extracting the oil from the grape seeds.
This is done with a chemical known as hexane, which is a known air pollutant and neurotoxin. When you eat grapeseed oil that has been processed using this chemical, you’re also at risk for ingesting trace amounts that have remained in the oil. This damage worsens if you cook with this grapeseed oil on high heat.
The other part of grapeseed oil processing is that it might be heated to very high temperatures which can oxidize the final product. The oil you’re buying “fresh” from the shelf might actually be damaged, oxidized, and filled with toxins. And none of this is necessarily reflected on the label.
So how can you know if what you’re purchasing is good or not? Look for the term cold-pressed as a baseline of quality grapeseed oil, but you can also look at other factors, like whether a company is known for producing high-quality cold pressed products.
Some trusted producers of grapeseed oil that do not use hexane and process using high-quality, cold pressed standards include:
- Plant Guru
- Nature Certified
- Botanical Beauty
Keep in mind that certain types of grapeseed oil are designed for cooking while others are intended for topical use only. Carefully read labels before purchasing to ensure that the product you get can be used for your desired purposes.
Uses for Grapeseed Oil
Grapeseed oil is frequently seen in natural beauty products because it is especially soothing and moisturizing for hair, skin, and nails. While the omega-6 fatty acid profile may not make it the best option for regular dietary intake, it can be quite healthy for topical use.
It’s also inexpensive compared to other body oils, even when purchased cold pressed, and can be a great addition to your natural health regimen.
Grapeseed oil is rich in vitamin E, which is a skin nourishing nutrient. Vitamin E can help to combat signs of aging and sun damage, and can also ease irritated skin.
Grapeseed oil can help to neutralize free radical and environmental factors that are harsh on the skin like sun exposure, wind damage, and even chemicals and toxins from the polluted air.
By slathering on protective vitamin E oil, like grapeseed, you can put a barrier layer between your tender skin and the harsh environment around you.
While vitamin E consumed internally can also nourish the skin from the inside out, you also need omega-3 fatty acids for lubricated and healthy skin.
Grapeseed for skin health is best used topically versus internally. The skin absorbs a great deal of what it comes in contact with, including nutrients, and this is where grapeseed’s high vitamin E content can really shine.
Grapeseed oil also contains a fatty acid known as linolenic acid which is vital for skin barrier function and appearance. It can help to cut down on surface forms of inflammation on the top three or four layers of the skin.
Grapeseed offers many benefits to the skin, including but not limited to:
- Moisturizing (apply before bed for a wonderful nourishing moisturizer that is lighter than coconut oil)
- Acne care (application can reduce the inflammatory aspects of breakouts that struggle to heal)
- Lightening skin (vitamin E can help to even out skin tone and pigmentation)
- Skin elasticity (helps to tighten pores and reduce size, also reducing wrinkles and fine lines over time with regular use)
- Make-up remover (it can be used to remove foundation and other forms of cosmetics without irritating the skin or drying it out)
Because grapeseed oil is light and relatively thin, it doesn’t leave a greasy film on the surface of the skin, which is a big complaint about using coconut oil for this purpose.
You only need a few drops of the oil to be effective, meaning that a bottle will last you many months even if you use it for all of the above. Grapeseed oil won’t clog pores and will help increase the vibrancy and youth of your skin.
The benefits of grapeseed oil aren’t limited to the skin, but are also equally as effective on hair! Whether you suffer from dry or itchy and flaky scalp or dry or brittle hair, grapeseed oil can be a therapeutic tool for improving the appearance and health of your hair.
If you want to nourish your hair, try using grapeseed in the following ways:
- Dandruff (apply several drops to the scalp and massage regularly, before washing)
- Shine (grapeseed isn’t as heavy as other oils so can be used as a hair mask or conditioner to help restore shine)
- Moisture (if you have dry or brittle hair or ends, apply grapeseed oil as a mask before washing, and then again to the damaged areas after. Depending on your hair texture and length, it can be used as a leave in conditioner and detangler)
- Balding (linolenic acid, which is found abundantly in grapeseed oil, is a natural remedy against baldness and can help to stimulate new hair growth)
There are many carrier oil options for use with essential oils, but many of them can be problematic. Almond oil, for example, can be an issue for people with tree nut allergies, and castor oil can be too heavy.
Avocado oil can irritate people who have latex sensitivity, and coconut oil has its own strong scent.
Grapeseed oil is an excellent carrier oil option because it contains no scent, is lightweight, and won’t stain clothes with grease or leave you feeling weighed down with that oily feeling that is hard to wash off your hands.
Aromatherapy and topical use of essential oils, when paired with a carrier oil, can be used for many different things like:
- Dry skin
- Fine lines and wrinkles
- Healthy nails and cuticles
Grapeseed oil is also a great product for massage since it absorbs easily and is packed with vitamin E that the skin so desperately needs in our chronically polluted and dried-out environment.
Bottom Line About Grapeseed Oil
While grapeseed oil contains too much omega-6 fatty acids to make it your go-to cooking oil, it can be cooked and used in moderation. It’s especially perfect for recipes, like cake, where you don’t want your cooking oil to alter the flavor of the recipe.
For skin and hair health, however, grapeseed oil offers plenty of benefits with no downsides. It’s an excellent addition to your aromatherapy and essential oils routine.
Aimee McNew, MNT, CNTP, is a certified nutritionist who specializes in women’s health, thyroid problems, infertility, and digestive wellness. She ate her way back to health using a Paleo diet, lost 80 pounds, and had a healthy baby after numerous miscarriages. She focuses on simple nutrition practices that promote long-lasting results.