Soon the best, plump South African grapes will be on our supermarket shelves, and we can’t wait. But the multifaceted grape has much more to it than just the sweet and juicy flesh. Deep within the fruit lies a heart of gold – the seeds.
Do you spit out grape seeds (in a genteel way, of course), or select seedless grapes? It’s time we realised how truly valuable these little powerhouses are! Grape seeds are packed with polyunsaturated fats and antioxidants such as vitamin E. Grape seed oil is great for skin care, and an excellent and versatile cooking oil. It is essential that you use cold, expeller pressed (unrefined and not chemically extracted) grape seed oil to reap nutritional and cosmetic benefits
The most popular use for grape seed oil is as a light, nourishing moisturiser and massage oil. It’s particularly popular among aromatherapists, as it leaves a silky feel on the skin but is quickly absorbed; it’s fine and light, making it ideal for massage, both on its own or as a carrier oil. It has a slightly astringent quality, helping to tighten and tone the skin, so it is a good choice for oily skins.
Grape seed oil is rich in linolenic acid, which, apart from being essential to the skin, acts as a precursor to other important chemicals such as gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), which promotes the production of hormone-like chemicals called prostaglandins which help to regulate and maintain healthy skin. In fact, studies are currently being conducted surrounding GLA, due to the fact that GLA seems to be one of the key fatty acids that’s deficient in persons suffering from skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.
Try giving your face a light oil treatment every so often – or use it as a night-time treat. A few drops go a long way. You’ll be in good company if you do: beautiful ‘The Help’ actress Emma Stone swears by it: ‘I’m seriously allergic to everything. So I just use natural grape seed oil from the grocery store on my face as a moisturiser. After the shower, I pat it on, and then I’ll use it throughout the day and at night.’
The beauty benefits of grape seed oil are not limited to just the ladies – men too can use plain grape seed oil as a shaving lubricant instead of highly scented chemical-filled commercial shaving preparations, or they can use it as an after-shave soother.
Researchers have found that grape seed oil can help to decrease LDL (‘bad’ cholesterol) levels and increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL-C, ‘good cholesterol’) levels¹ – exactly what you want if you are battling high cholesterol! This is key to supporting cardiovascular health. There are many medicines that reduce LDL levels, but there aren’t very many that actually raise HDL. Cholesterol is vital for normal body function, so stimulating the production of good cholesterol while reducing the production of the bad cholesterol is a very good thing indeed.
Among other nutrients, grape seed oil contains vitamin E – around 4 mg per teaspoon. Vitamin E is crucial to our health because it helps combat free radical damage (that’s why it’s even added to food products as a natural preservative). However, heating the oil will reduce the vitamin E, so if that’s what you’re after, you’ll have to use it in its cold-pressed form, or look out for a supplement. While most of us know by now that grape seeds contain antioxidants, the oil isn’t a very rich source – for that you’d need to drink a glass of red wine or grape juice, or take it in supplement form.
This under-appreciated oil is also free of cholesterol and trans-fats, and relatively low in saturated fat compared with other cooking oils with its similar nutritional profile to sunflower oil, for which it’s a good substitute if you want a bit of variety.2
Grape seed oil and acne
Grape seed oil may have positive effects on acne. Most people assume that oils will make acne worse, but grape seed oil is very light and doesn’t even really have an oily texture. It helps battle acne because it’s astringent, contains polyphenols that have anti-inflammatory properties, and helps to clear out the pores.
Good-quality, cold-pressed grape seed oil is a wonderful culinary oil. It has a higher smoke point than more commonly used sunflower and canola oils, meaning that it can be heated to a fairly high temperature before it begins to smoke, break down and lose some of its nutritional benefits (this is the point at which free radicals are formed). Sunflower oil’s smoke point is around 107oC while grape seed’s is 215oC.
Because grape seed oil spreads well, forming a ‘film’, one tends to use less of it, so it could help you reduce overall fat intake.
Grape seed oil’s light, nutty flavour makes it more versatile than, for example, olive oil, which can overpower delicate flavours. It can be used in the preparation of fish, red meat, chicken and vegetables, and also in sweet dishes such as baked goods, pancakes and waffles. With its high smoke point it is perfect for stir frying, pan-searing, sautéing, grilling and baking (avoid deep-frying, which is a less healthy cooking method), and it’s excellent for marinating fish, meat or venison. Its light taste complements salads perfectly – use it to make healthy homemade salad dressings and mayonnaise (it emulsifies well), and even as an oil base for infusions of garlic, tarragon, rosemary, or other herbs or spices. An infusion is the extraction of flavours from plant material in a solvent such as water, oil or alcohol.
Did you know?
Grape seed oil is frequently sprayed onto raisins to help them stay a pleasant colour and flavour, and to prevent them from sticking together.
- Nash, DT. Cardiovascular risk beyond LDL-C levels: Other lipids are performers in cholesterol story. Postgraduate Medicine. 2004; 116 (3): 11–5.