Packed with antioxidants as well as vitamins B and K, grapes make for a great snack. This may lead you to think that grapeseed oil is a healthy cooking oil. However, not all oils are as nutritious as the plants they come from.
Here’s what you need to know about grapeseed oil, including its nutritional profile, pros, cons, and where to use it (hint: it’s not in the kitchen).
What is grapeseed oil?
If you’re wondering, “Doesn’t that mean grapeseed oil is essentially wine?” you’re not too far off. Grapeseed oil is a byproduct from winemaking.
When grapes are pressed for wine production, the seeds that are left behind can be used for grapeseed oil. As such, the oil is often produced in heavy wine-making regions, including France, Italy, and Switzerland.
Grapeseed oil has a neutral flavor and it's sometimes used for high-heat cooking due to its high smoke point of roughly 420 degrees Fahrenheit. This means it can withstand high temperatures without oxidizing or losing flavor.
The nutritional value of grapeseed oil.
- Calories: 120
- Fat: 13.6 grams
- Vitamin E: 3.92 milligram
- Saturated fats: 1.31 grams
- Monounsaturated fatty acids: 2.19 grams
- Polyunsaturated fatty acids: 9.51 grams
Grapeseed oil has a high polyunsaturated fat (PUFA) content. Most of its PUFA fatty acids are in the form of linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid. While the body needs both omega-6s and omega-3s, consuming high levels of omega-6 fats (and too few omega-3 fats) may tip the scales toward inflammation in the body.
Omega-6 fats are found in many packaged or processed foods, so most of us get plenty of them in our diets and would be better off with cooking oils that have a healthier fatty acid ratio.
Different forms of grapeseed oil.
Most of the grapeseed oil you'll find in stores is refined. However, you can also find less processed versions such as cold-pressed, organic grapeseed oil:
- Refined: To make refined grapeseed oil, once the oil is extracted from the seeds using pressure and friction, it's treated with chemical solvents that help preserve the oil and give it a higher smoke point. However, they tend to reduce the oil's nutritional profile in the process.
- Cold-pressed (or unrefined): Cold-pressed grapeseed oil is manually or mechanically pressed and filtered. Chemicals and heat are not introduced.
- Organic: Grapeseed oil that is organic is typically also cold-pressed. That’s because the chemical solvents used in refined grapeseed oil aren’t organic.
The health benefits of grapeseed oil.
Here’s a look at some of the health benefits of grapeseed oil.
It may improve your skin health and appearance.
“Many of the benefits of grapeseed extract are derived from its antioxidant effects, which can be used to target inflammation, oxidative damage, and even cancer cells,” says Kobets. “Grapeseed oil has been studied for its use in antiaging, melasma, photoaging or UVB damage and skin cancer, as well as wound healing3.”
When grapeseed oil is used in skincare products, the polyphenols and flavonoids can help increase collagen production. Kobets says these ingredients will be listed on labels as procyanidin and resveratrol. “Polyphenols in particular are known to inhibit damaging enzymes that break down collagen, protein, and elastin in the skin, which may keep our skin looking younger and plumper longer,” she says.
Emerging research has also found that a grapeseed oil emulsion improved pigmentation, redness, oil production, as well as pores and skin elasticity4 when tested on 15 individuals for 12 weeks in a split-face, blinded, placebo-controlled study. “This is important because it means that grapeseed oil can potentially be used on acne-prone skin,” says Kobets.
It may help with hair loss.
It may support heart health.
Most research on grapeseed oil has been preclinical and conducted on animals or targeted cells. This means that more clinical research on humans is needed to validate claims.
However, early research shows that some of the components in grapeseed oil are beneficial for heart health.
In one review, researchers stated that the composition and nutritional profile of grapeseed oil, including tocopherol, linolenic acid, resveratrol, quercetin, procyanidins, carotenoids, and phytosterols, offer cardioprotective benefits, as well as protecting against inflammation (and thus over time, chronic diseases) and cancer6. Yet, it’s worth noting that the amount of grapeseed oil needed to yield such benefits would likely need to be substantial (i.e., more than what you get cooking with it once in a while).
It may help lower cholesterol.
Grapeseed oil contains a high amount of linoleic acid, and for those with elevated cholesterol levels, this can help reduce total cholesterol and LDL “bad” cholesterol7.
Preclinical trials8 have found that winery residues have reduced cholesterol in rats by half, while increasing HDL “good” cholesterol. This has led researchers to believe that grapeseed extract can help reduce the risk and protect against cardiovascular disease by improving LDL levels as well as the function of blood vessels, reducing the risk of plaque buildup and blood clots, and lowering blood pressure, too.
It may be helpful for those with diabetes.
In pre-clinical trials, the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of grapeseed extract (specifically proanthocyanidins) have been found to help control malondialdehyde (MDA), a polyunsaturated fatty acid associated with oxidative stress in rats with diabetes.
The downsides of grapeseed oil.
There’s not enough research.
The preclinical studies on grapeseed oil and grapeseed extract look promising, but more work needs to be done to determine if these benefits are applicable for humans. In many cases, the large quantities of oil needed to see improvement may not be worth risking the omega-6 to omega-3 imbalance in the body. Plus, it’s likely these benefits can be achieved through other dietary means.
Potential allergies and chemical exposure.
If you are allergic to grapes (or wine) then grapeseed oil isn’t a fit for you. Likewise, if you’re concerned about limiting your solvent or chemical exposure, many of the refined, store-bought grapeseed oils contain these. As such, you may be better off choosing a different seed and plant oil that can be more easily found cold-pressed, like walnut oil or sesame oil.
Omega-6 content and inflammation.
Possible irritation to your hair and skin.
“Topical cosmeceuticals have been specifically formulated to be used on the skin, so using pure oil that may not have been tested on the skin will not have the same benefits or be as stable and safe as a specially formulated emulsion,” Kobets advises.
“Pure grapeseed oil may not have the same benefits or may even be damaging by clogging pores and worsening acne," she says. Using grapeseed oil on the scalp may be a bit more forgiving, but it can still cause irritation so you should always do a small test patch first.
So, is grapeseed oil healthy?
Frequently Asked Questions
Is grapeseed oil good for cooking?
Grapeseed oil’s neutral flavor and high smoke point make it good for cooking. However, it’s far from the most nutritious choice in the kitchen.
Is grapeseed oil good for frying?
Colleen Travers is a freelance writer and editor who specializes in health, nutrition, diet, fitness, and wellness trends for various publications and brands. Her work has appeared in Reader's Digest, SHAPE, Fit Pregnancy, Food Network, and more. She lives on Long Island with her two kids, two rescue pets, and husband.