Olive oil's distinctive flavor makes it perfect for some dishes, but it's less versatile than the more neutral flavor of grapeseed oil. You’ll also find nutritional differences. They both contain vitamin E and healthy unsaturated fats, including omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. But grapeseed oil may have more omega-6 than what would fit well into a balanced, healthy diet.
Different types of olive oil are produced according to strict industry standards. The best olive oil -- extra virgin -- comes from high-quality olives that are processed shortly after they’re picked and without the use of chemical solvents. Extra virgin olive oil retains the olive's flavor. Plain olive oil is made from lower-quality olives and solvents may be used to extract the oil. This type of olive oil has a mild olive or bland taste. Only one type of grapeseed oil exists, and it has a light, unassuming flavor.
Olive oil and grapeseed oil both have 120 calories and 14 grams of total fat in 1 tablespoon. That’s high in fat, but both oils have no cholesterol and about 90 percent of their total oil consists of healthy unsaturated fat. Grapeseed oil is made up of mainly polyunsaturated fats, compared to olive oil that has mostly monounsaturated fats. Both types of unsaturated fats lower the “bad” LDL cholesterol and raise levels of “good” HDL cholesterol.
Essential Fatty Acids
Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids both lower cholesterol, but omega-3 is anti-inflammatory, while omega-6 is pro-inflammatory. Even though your body needs pro- and anti-inflammatory substances, you need a balance of both types in your diet to maintain optimal health. Getting too much omega-6 may stimulate inflammation that could cause chronic health problems. The University of Miami recommends eating no more than two to four times more omega-6 than omega-3. Olive oil contains barely a trace of omega-6, but grapeseed oil has 86 percent of a woman’s daily omega-6 recommendation in just 1 tablespoon.
Vitamin E works as an antioxidant that protects the fats in your body from damage caused by free radicals. The concept of protecting body fat may sound odd, but the fats inside your body fill essential jobs, from making hormones to safely carrying cholesterol through your bloodstream. You also need fats to keep your skin hydrated and healthy because they form the barrier that keeps moisture in and bacteria out. One tablespoon of grapeseed oil has about 4 milligrams of vitamin E, which is double the amount you’ll get from olive oil.
The temperature at which oil begins to smoke determines whether it’s suitable to use at high temperatures. When oil starts to smoke, it breaks down, the flavor deteriorates, and more importantly, it’s close to catching on fire. Olive oil begins to smoke around 365 degrees Fahrenheit, while grapeseed oil doesn’t reach that point until about 485 degrees Fahrenheit. Both oils are suitable for high-temperature cooking methods such as frying, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service.
- USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory: Oil, Olive, Salad or Cooking
- USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory: Oil, Grapeseed
- University of Washington: Grapeseed Oil
- University of California Cooperative Extension: What Is Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service: Deep Fat Frying and Food Safety
- Linus Pauling Institute: Essential Fatty Acids -- Intake Recommendations
Sandi Busch received a Bachelor of Arts in psychology, then pursued training in nursing and nutrition. She taught families to plan and prepare special diets, worked as a therapeutic support specialist, and now writes about her favorite topics – nutrition, food, families and parenting – for hospitals and trade magazines.