All fats and oils are a mixture of fatty acids; however, solid fats -- like butter and stick margarine -- contain more fats that raise blood cholesterol -- specifically saturated fats or trans fats -- than oils. Olive oil and grape seed oil are widely available cooking oils rich in unsaturated fatty acids --- the fats associated with health benefits when consumed in moderation. Although oils are not a food group, they provide some essential fatty acids and nutrients that are necessary for health. Therefore, they are included in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's dietary recommendations for Americans.
All oils and fats are nutrient-dense, meaning they provide many nutrients -- and in particular fat and calories -- per serving. Both olive oil and grape seed oil contain approximately 120 calories per tablespoon. Thus, the amount of oil consumed needs to be considered in the context of total calorie intake for weight management. Measuring out the amount of oil used during food preparation and cooking is equally important for olive oil and grape seed oil.
Olive oil and grape seed oil contain the same amount of total fat -- 13.6 grams per tablespoon. Both oils provide approximately 1.5 grams of saturated fat and 12.1 grams of unsaturated fat. They differ in the types of unsaturated fats within them. The unsaturated fat in olive oil is primarily from monounsaturated fatty acids, while grape seed oil is mostly made of polyunsaturated fatty acids. Both types of unsaturated fatty acids are associated with better health, so the majority of your dietary fat should come from healthy oils -- opposed to solid fats.
Because olive oil and grape seed oil are plant-derived, neither contains cholesterol. Both oils provide vitamin E, which helps boost your immune system and protects against cell damage. Each tablespoon of grape seed oil contains 3.9 milligrams of vitamin E -- about one-third the daily requirement for adults -- which is twice the amount in a tablespoon of olive oil. Olive oil has 8.1 micrograms of vitamin K -- a nutrient important for blood clotting -- in each tablespoon, but grape seed oil has none. The adequate intake of vitamin K is 90 micrograms for adult women and 120 micrograms for male adults.
Olive oil and grape seed oil have differing flavors, and this may determine how you use them. Grape seed oil is mild and a good choice when cooking foods with subtle flavors, selecting a base for salad dressings or baking. Olive oil has a very distinct flavor that can vary widely depending on how refined it is. Unrefined oils tend to have stronger tastes and aromas. Although both grape seed oil and olive oil have higher smoke points -- over 320 degrees Fahrenheit -- and can be used for baking, sauteing and frying foods, grape seed oil may be better option due to its mild flavor. On the other hand, olive oil is a great dipping oil for bread due to its strong flavor. When selecting oils, the decision really depends upon personal taste preferences.
- ChooseMyPlate.gov: Oils
- USDA Nutrient Database: Olive Oil
- USDA Nutrient Database: Grape Seed Oil
- National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: Vitamin E
- NIH Office of Dietary Supplements: Vitamin K
- Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine, National Academies: Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) - Recommended Dietary Allowances and Adequate Intakes, Vitamins
- Good Eats Fan Page: Cooking Oil Smoke Points