Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Wonders of Grape Seed Oil

That glass of wine is good for you, right? That’s what the research says. Isn’t it wonderful when science proves your bad habit is actually a good one? Gotta love that. Recently I’ve discovered another product of the wine industry that’s even better for you – grape seed oil.

I first learned of grape seed oil at a wine festival in Virginia. I was with an old friend (who was driving) and truly enjoying the fine selections of Virginia wines, so I didn’t necessarily appreciate all that the chef was explaining at the grape seed oil tasting. I just know it tasted delicious. I bought several bottles of natural grape seed oil and garlic-infused grape seed oil.

Once home I found that the oil was even better when you have all your senses about you. It’s got a clean, nutty taste that works wonders in salad dressing. Grape seed oil has a higher smoke point than olive oil, so cooking with it was a pleasure. Veggies sauteed in the oil were divine and lemon infused grapeseed oil made a baked chicken heavenly. Dipping bread in any of the infused oils quickly became a family favorite treat.

But then I started snooping. I needed to know if the things I had heard in my happy state at the wine festival were true. Great news – they are true and then some. Here’s what I learned.

The benefits of grape seed oil have been enjoyed for thousands of years. Ancient Greeks and Egyptians not only consumed wine for their health, they used the sap from grape vines to make a salve and the leaves to treat all kinds of ailments. Mostly consumed in the form of wine, the real benefits of grapes can be found in the seed.

Grape seed oil is made from squeezing the oil from the seeds. Something wonderful from the waste product of another industry – this is good. When buying grape seed oil, be sure you pay attention to the method in which it was made. Look for expeller pressed grape seed oil. Most of the grape seed oil you might buy in the grocery store has been chemically processed like other oils. This process destroys many of the beneficial properties found in the oil. It also wreaks havoc on the flavor.

Expeller pressed grape seed oil is bright green. That threw me at first because I thought some kind of dye had been added, but nope, that’s the color. Bright green – just like the seeds of the grape.

So how is grape seed oil good for you? It’s a poly-unsaturated fat (remember it’s the saturated fats that are bad for you). Fats should be eaten in moderation. That said, grape seed oil has Omega 6’s and is not the kind of fat that raises your cholesterol. Grape seeds are stuffed with vitamin E, flavanoids, lenoleic acid, and OPCs (oligomeric proanthcyanidin complexes) – all proven antioxidants. It can easily replace olive oil or canola oil and is equally healthy for you.

If you’ve been reading the papers as you fill your wine glass, you know that wine is good for your heart (again, in moderation. Too much wine will offset any potential benefits, particularly if you get behind the wheel). The same benefits are concentrated in grape seed oil, since most of the beneficial elements in the wine come from the grape seed extract present in the wine. Here’s an abbreviated list. Most of my findings come from a recent University of Maryland study.

• Grape seed extract is sometimes used to treat health problems related to free radical damage, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Studies done, mostly with animals support these uses.

• The flavanoids found in grape seed extract (same as the ones found in wine) seem to lower “bad” cholesterol. Research is in the early stages, but the findings are promising.

• A study using healthy volunteers found that grape seed increased the levels of antioxidants in the blood.

• Animal studies showed that grape seed extract reduce blood pressure substantially.

• The antioxidant compounds found in grape seed oil may also help protect the skin from premature aging. Is that why Mediterranean people’s skin looks so good?

• Test tube studies found that grape seed extracts may have prevented the growth of breast, stomach, colon, prostate, and lung cancer cells. Antioxidants, like the ones found in grape seed extract may reduce the risk of developing cancer. Studies also found that grape seed extract may help prevent damage to human liver cells caused by chemotherapy.

• In a double-bind, placebo-controlled study breast cancer patients who took grape seed extract daily following surgery had less edema and pain than those who took the placebo. So grape seed extract, found in grape seed oil is helpful in reducing swelling and pain.

Grape seed oil, therefore, is at its worst a delicious oil to cook with, and at its best a cancer and heart disease deterrent, that can help reduce swelling and improve the condition of your skin. Wow – that’s a win-win.

Personal Note:

Most of the grape seed oils I found in the grocery store are chemically processed. So I went back to the company that was selling the grape seed oil at the wine festival. Turns out it’s a direct sales company along the lines of Tastefully Simple, but the food is all natural, and free of preservatives, MSG, and food dyes. My kind of company. Discovering that there were no reps in my area, I signed up.

I was hesitant to mention this information here. I’m very sensitive to my reader’s trust. I don’t want you to ever think I’m selling you a bill of goods. However, after talking with several people about my dilemma, it was pointed out to me that friends share information about where to buy the best products with each other. So consider it like that. I’m your friend telling you that here is one source for grape seed oil – me.

You can buy through my website or you can become a “culinary club member”. To be a culinary club member you pay a one time fee (not yearly) of $25 and then you can order the products through my website for 20% off and not have to host a party, attend a party, or badger me (not that I mind). You can also choose to host a party and earn some free product. You know the direct-sales drill. I’d be happy to speak with you about Wildtree. I’m hoping this little venture will help fund my daughter’s upcoming experience as a Student Ambassador with People to People. I will leave a permanent link on my blog’s home page.

I hope you won’t take offense and will continue to trust me as a writer sharing her ideas, knowledge, and honest experiences. I turn down several offers a month for free products from companies that would like me to print their spiel or write my own wonderful review that will convince you to buy said treasure. I don’t do it because this blog is not about selling things. Can you tell how much I stressed over posting this information on Wildtree? OK, I’ll stop. But now you have the information. Do with it what you wish.

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