Journalists have been boasting grapeseed oil as the new super food. They say it is heart-healthy, it holds on well to heat, and even that it might prevent cancer! But when it comes to the grapeseed oil Vs olive oil question... Well, we really think there is no question there! Let's look at the facts against the hype and prove it once and for all: Olives are way, way better!
What Is Grapeseed Oil
Up until a few years ago, people didn't even know you could make oil from grapeseed. In what scenario do you even collect enough grapeseeds, to begin with? Winemaking, this is where. The grape seeds are a byproduct of the winemaking process. When you let the grapes ferment with the seeds, the taste of the final product is altered. Some harmful chemicals might even trickle into the wine. This is why, for centuries upon centuries, winemakers have treated grape seeds as an annoying by-product with no real use. In comes modern technology and now we can make use of the seeds!
How Grape Seed Oil Is ExtractedThere are many variations on the basic oil extraction technique. The majority of them, however, involve one of these three options:
- Crushing and heating to extract the oil
- Using chemical solvents to separate the grapeseed oil from the water-containing parts of the seed.
- Cold pressing or crushing through an expeller
The easiest but most controversial technique involves using solvents. Solvents are chemicals that can extract the oil with no extra force. Unlike cold presses, they don't require a lot of energy, they are cheap and effective. Unfortunately, all of these perks come with a downside. While most of the solvent is removed from the end product, trace amounts will always remain. One of the main concerns here is called hexane and it's a known carcinogen. Whether hexane traces in grapeseed oil can harm you over time is still up for debate. What we know for sure, though, is that hexane is one of the worst chemicals you can put in the environment. While some eco-friendly alternatives are currently being studied and even implemented, the vast majority of oil-extracting companies still favour hexane solvents. They are cheap and effective, what could go wrong?
Why You Don't Want Hexane In Your Food
Hexane is a solvent used to extract the vegetable oil from many plant seed, not just grapeseed. It is most frequently associated with canola and soybean oil, as well as some sunflower oil brands. Before the oil gets bottled and sold, most of the solvent is, of course, removed. Unfortunately, research has found that all hexane can't be removed from a plant oil. Up to 0.02% of the solvent remains in the oil even after extraction. But that seems like very little, right? It's actually not. While current toxicology research focuses on industrial exposure (i.e. if you work in a factory that extracts oil) or airborne exposure from accidents and spills, we are not clear on how much hexane we can safely handle on a daily basis. Foods are not normally tested for hexane residue and there is no FDA limit on it. Of course, part of the reason why food is not tested for hexane is the fact that you're not likely to receive a toxic dose of it from diet. But here is what bothers more and more health-conscious consumers: Chronic low-grade exposure to harmful chemicals can have devastating effects. How do we know how much is too much with hexane? Hexane has already been identified by FDA as potential neurotoxin and carcinogen. Granted, that applies to factory workers, but do we really want to learn about the dangers the hard way? Chemically, hexane is similar to hydrocarbon solvents such as benzene. Unlike hexane, benzene has tons of research that prove that it is harmful. Most notably, it has been associated with brain-related birth defects like a lower IQ, learning and memory deficits, and ADHD. Since hexane has been shown to also harm your nervous system many people worry that it might have the same effects.
Grapeseed Oil Vs Olive Oil Nutrition
Because we are comparing grapeseed oil Vs olive oil, it's only fair that we look into the nutrition information. Hexane-related worries aside, what can grapeseed oil offer us that olive oil can't. Here is a breakdown: According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, this is the composition of 1 tablespoon of grapeseed oil: Water 0.00 Energy 120 Protein 0.00 Total lipid (fat) 13.60 Carbohydrate 0.00 Fibre, total dietary 0.0 Sugars, total 0.00 A tablespoon of olive oil contains the same macronutrients. No surprises here - both are plant oils, what do you expect them to contain? Things get interesting when we start looking into what kind of fat these two oils contain. The fatty acid composition of grapeseed oil is:
- Saturated: 10%
- Monounsaturated: 16%
- Polyunsaturated: 70%
- Saturated: 10 to 20%
- Monounsaturated: 55 to 83%
- Polyunsaturated: 3.5 to 21%
As you can see, both oils contain heart-healthy unsaturated fatty acids. However, the polyunsaturated fats in grapeseed oil have on unexpected side effect...
Grapeseed Oil For Frying
Another common argument in the grapeseed oil Vs olive oil argument is smoke point. Advocates of grapeseed oil claim that the moderately high smoke point of this oil makes it better for cooking. But this is not the full story. Grapeseed oil is very high in polyunsaturated fatty acids. These type of fatty acids are potent antioxidants because they react with oxygen very easily. This is good news up until you put them in high heat. When you fry with grapeseed oil the fats react with oxygen and free radicals are formed. This is why, even though the smoke point is fairly high, the polyunsaturated fat content makes grapeseed oil one of the worst oils for high-heat cooking. The best type of fat to use for frying is coconut oil or butter. These are rich in saturated fats and while that is not ideal for your arteries, it means less free radicals and a much healthier end result.
Vitamins In Grapeseed Oil Vs Olive OilPlant oils are a great source of valuable fat-soluble vitamins. A tablespoon of grapeseed oil contains 3.92 mg of vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol). When we look at olive oil... Well, it has more vitamins and nutrients. One tablespoon of olive oil contains:
- 0.08 mg of iron
- 1.94 mg of vitamin E
- 8.1 mg of vitamin K
While grapeseed provides more vitamin E, olive oil gives you a more diverse nutritional profile. Vitamin K and iron are both very important for proper circulation and a healthy cardiovascular system. You will need more than olive oil to get your recommended daily dose but olive oil still gives you a more-than-decent portion of fat-soluble nutrients.
Omega 3's And Omega 6's
I know, I know. This is such a buzzword these days. But we must really talk about omega 3's. Yes, they are important. They are healthy. You want more omega 3's in your life. But it's not for the reason you think. You see, the total amount of omega 3's that you consume doesn't matter nearly as much as the omega 3 to omega 6 balance. Researchers have found that having more omega 6's in your diet, relative to the omega 3 can lead to a whole array of chronic diseases like cardiovascular problems and even cancer. The typical Western diet is very much out of balance on this matter. We eat up to 10 times more omega 6 fatty acids than we really should. Because we are grossly overeating omega-6 fatty acids, it's important to incorporate omega 3's as much as possible and to avoid pure sources of just omega 6. You might have guessed where I am going with this. Grapeseed oil is almost entirely made up of omega 6 fats. It destroys the omega 6 to omega 3 ratio even more! Olive oil, on the other hand, is rich in omega 9 and omega 3 fatty acids. It doesn't do wonders for providing omega 3 balance but at least it does not make things worse. This is yet another reason why the battle of grapeseed oil Vs olive oil ends in favour of olives...
Grapeseed Oil Vs Olive Oil: In Summary
Every time a new "fashion food" comes out, I always get a bit suspicious. Sticking to tried and tested things is no way to live but the media hypes things up so much these days... Here is why olive oil wins against grapeseed oil:
- It provides a better quality of fats.
- Olive oil is less likely to be damaged by the heat in cooking (even though it's still not optimal for frying).
- Unlike grapeseed oil, olive oil is not extracted using hexane and it is less likely to contain trace amounts of this harmful chemical.
- Olive oil contains more vitamins than grapeseed oil, which doesn't provide virtually anything other than vitamin E
Of course, grapeseed oil is still much better than canola oil or other highly processed plant oils. If in doubt, however, always choose extra virgin olive oil. It may not have the novelty factor of grapeseed oil but it has been shown to be healthier than the alternative. In short: olive oil wins, period.
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