When it comes to healthy cooking, being thoughtful about your choice of oil has the potential to make a major impact. There are tons of choices and each offers a unique flavor and nutrition profile. Grapeseed oil and olive oil are both commonly used in the kitchen, so let’s take a look at how the two compare, and which one's better for various purposes.
Grapeseed oil (not to be confused with rapeseed oil, which is another name for canola oil) is made by pressing the seeds of grapes that are discarded during the winemaking process1. Most often, it is made using a process that involves chemical solvents and high heat, but you can find cold-pressed grapeseed oil for a higher cost.
- Calories: 120
- Fat: 13.6 grams
- Saturated fat: 1.3 grams
- Monounsaturated fat: 2.2 grams
- Polyunsaturated fat: 9.5 grams
- Vitamin E: 3.9 mg
The primary benefit of using grapeseed oil is that it's a source of Vitamin E (or tocopherol). Vitamin E is a fat-soluble nutrient that functions as an antioxidant in the body and protects cells from damage.
Grapeseed oil has a high polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) content. While we need to get PUFAs from our diet, they're less stable and more prone to degradation than monounsaturated fat (MUFAs).
The oil has a neutral flavor oil that can subtly blend into dressings or baked goods; another potential benefit. Its relatively high smoke point also means it can be used for high-heat cooking and deep frying.
There is a certain ratio that needs to be maintained in order to keep the body’s inflammatory response in check. Omega-6 fats are pro-inflammatory7 while omega-3 fats are anti-inflammatory8. We need both of them in our diet, but too much omega-6 without the counterbalance of omega-3 is thought to increase inflammation in the body. Most modern diets contain too many omega-6 fatty acids and not enough omega-3 fatty acids.
There’s a lot to love about olive oil, and there really are not a ton of downsides to it. It's important to know, however, that not all olive oils are the same. Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is considered a healthier pick than standard/refined olive oil, which is more heavily refined and acidic.
Experts also emphasize the importance of proper storage for olive oil. Ideally, you should find a brand that uses a dark-colored bottle, since light can cause the oil to degrade. Store it out of direct sunlight, perhaps in a cabinet, and at room temperature. While it may be most convenient to keep olive oil next to your stovetop, you'll ideally want to keep it away from heat sources, which can cause it to oxidize and go bad slightly faster.
- Calories: 124
- Fat: 14 g
- Saturated fat: 1.9 grams
- Monounsaturated fat: 10.2 grams
- Polyunsaturated fat: 1.5 grams
- Vitamin E: 1.94 mg
Several decades ago, the common understanding was that fat was bad for heart health. Well, now we know that it is much more nuanced than that. Each fat source is made up of some unique combination of saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats, and each of these has different effects on heart health.
The one thing to be careful of when consuming olive oil is the type. EVOO has the most benefits, though it is slightly more expensive.
What’s the difference?
So, now we know a bit about grapeseed oil and a bit about olive oil. What are the main differences?
Olive oil is primarily made up of monounsaturated fats—the “good fat” that can help reduce bad cholesterol and protect heart health.
On the other hand, grapeseed oil is mainly polyunsaturated fat. Our understanding of the benefits of polyunsaturated fats is a bit hazier. Some research suggests that how we respond to polyunsaturated fats is determined by our genetics18. More research is needed to fully understand how polyunsaturated fats impact our heart health, but in general, olive oil has a much healthier fatty acid profile than grapeseed oil.
The other distinction between olive and grapeseed oil is the vitamin E content, with grapeseed oil coming out on top. However, Naidoo points out that you can get vitamin E from plenty of other food sources, so this isn't a reason to choose grapeseed oil over olive oil.
The price of each oil depends largely on the quality of the particular kind you buy. But, if you compare cold-pressed grapeseed with extra virgin olive oil, olive oil will come out the more budget-friendly option. On the other hand, if you’re going for expeller pressed grapeseed oil, you’ll likely find you spend less than you would on the same size bottle of EVOO.
Grapeseed has a more neutral flavor, which may be beneficial for some applications. However, sometimes the richness of olive oil is exactly what you need to bring a dish to life. Olive oil has enough flavor to be its own star as a dip for bread or a drizzle over vegetables.
Cold-pressed oils are best enjoyed within a limited time frame—you don’t want to keep them around for years on end. EVOO is best used within 18-24 months (of harvest, not purchase). The same goes for grapeseed oil, so in this way the two are comparable.
Which is best for...
Olive oil—particularly extra virgin olive oil—is your best choice for day-to-day cooking. It's more nutritious than grapeseed oil, although it does have a more noticeable flavor.
Grapeseed may be slightly preferable from a flavor standpoint, but, again olive oil is favorable in terms of health outcomes.
For frying, you’ll want to choose grapeseed oil (or another oil that can withstand high heat) because it has a higher smoke point. But we recommend limiting your fried food consumption.
Grapeseed oil comes out a bit ahead in the skincare realm because it is slightly easier to spread, has less of a food smell, and may help smoothe and tighten skin6. It's high in nourishing vitamin E and is anti-inflammatory6 for skin. Grapeseed oil is also non-comedogenic, meaning it’s less likely to clog pores and cause breakouts.
However, olive oil certainly has its perks in this department too. It's less commonly found in cosmetic products, but it can easily be incorporated into a home skincare routine.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is grapeseed oil healthier than olive oil?
No. Olive oil has more research-backed health benefits and a better nutrition profile. But if you eat it in moderation, grapeseed oil is fine to keep in your kitchen—or at least your toiletry closet!
Is it better to cook with olive oil than grapeseed oil?
Yep, up to a certain heat. If you’re going to exceed 410 degrees Fahrenheit, consider switching to grapeseed, or better yet, choosing a healthier oil with a high smoke point, like avocado oil.
Johanna Modak, NTP is writer, educator, mom, and Nutritional Therapy Practitioner. Her work focuses on body literacy and women’s empowerment. When she’s not thinking about food or hormone balancing, she is probably watching a women’s soccer match or traveling with family.