Grape Gratification

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Yesterday as I thumbed through the online edition of The Wall Street Journal while sitting on my chair in the sky, an article reviewing the benefits of grape seed oil caught my eye.

We began using it for cooking after first making David Chang‘s recipe for ginger scallion sauce. Since then, it has become a kitchen staple for us. So, I thought I would share both the recipe and the article. Plus, what better ways to continue enjoying a good wine way past its time: Eat it then slather it all over you!

Ginger Scallion Sauce

Makes about 3 cups  

2½ cups thinly sliced scallions (greens and whites; from 1 to 2 large bunches)

½ cup finely minced peeled fresh ginger

¼ cup grapeseed or other neutral oil

1½ teaspoons soy sauce, preferably usukuchi (light soy sauce)

¾ teaspoon sherry vinegar

¾ teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste

Mix together the scallions, ginger, oil, soy, vinegar, and salt in a bowl. Taste and check for salt, adding more if needed. Though it’s best after 15 or 20 minutes of sitting, ginger scallion sauce is good from the minute it’s stirred together up to a day or two in the fridge. Use as directed, or apply as needed.

Here’s the article by Laura Johannes:

From Cabernet to Chardonnay, the seeds leftover from winemaking are used to make a cooking oil and skin-care products. Doctors say grapeseed oil is a healthy oil for cooking and a good moisturizer, but there is scant evidence that it keeps skin looking youthful.

Some 900 new products containing grapeseed oil have been introduced in the U.S. over the past five years—mostly for personal-care and for consumption, according to Datamonitor.

For cooking, grapeseed oil has a high smoke point—meaning it can get very hot without smoking—and a mild flavor that doesn’t interfere with other ingredients. Grapeseed oil is comparable to other better-known heart-healthy oils, but not necessarily better, says Rachel Johnson, a professor of nutrition at the University of Vermont and chairwoman of the American Heart Association’s nutrition committee. Grapeseed, canola and olive oils all “have high concentrations of unsaturated fat that help promote beneficial cholesterol levels,” she says. Since each healthy oil has a different nutrient profile, Dr. Johnson says, she recommends eating a variety—but in moderation, since oils in general have about 120 calories per tablespoon.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s nutritional database, 100 grams of grapeseed oil contains 28.8 milligrams of the antioxidant vitamin E—double that of olive oil. It contains heart-healthy unsaturated fats, including linoleic acid, and is low in artery-clogging saturated fat.

The label of Napa Valley Naturals Grapeseed oil, sold by Spruce Naturals LLC of Reno, Nev., for $9.29 for a 25.4 ounce bottle, says grapeseed oil “offers one of the highest concentrations of heart healthy mono and poly-unsaturated fats of any vegetable oil, and the lowest levels of saturated fat of ANY oil.”

The USDA database shows that a tablespoon of grapeseed oil has 1.31 grams of saturated fat; olive oil has 1.86 grams and canola oil, 1.03 grams.

Fatty acid content in vegetable oils can vary significantly, a spokeswoman for Spruce Naturals says, depending on factors such as differences in climate, soil, seed variety and how the oil is pressed. The lowest values for grapeseed oil can be lower than some canola oils, she added.

A spokeswoman for the USDA says its database does account for seasonal, geographic, and varietal differences, although the information isn’t meant to serve as an authority for claims made, including claims on labeling and in marketing.

The market for grapeseed oil as a cosmetic is booming. Aura Cacia, a skin-care, grapeseed oil from Frontier Natural Products Co-op Inc. that sells for $4.99 for four ounces, has an “excellent balance of skin supporting compounds,” such as oleic and linoleic acids, according to the Norway, Iowa, company’s website.

Grapeseed Co., Santa Barbara, Calif., sells about 80 products containing byproducts from the wine industry—including Cabernet, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Merlot seeds pressed into oils. The label for Grapeseed Co.’s 100% pure grapeseed oil, $16 for 4.4 ounces, says “anti-aging skin care from the vine.”

According to the website, the product is rich in antioxidants, which “help fight free radical damage, the signs of aging, and heal skin exposed to natural elements.”

Jessica Wu, a Los Angeles dermatologist and author of “Feed Your Face,” a book about nutrition and food-based topical treatments for skin, says “there is very little in the way of clinical trials” showing the anti-aging benefits of grapeseed oil.

Grapeseed Co. and Frontier say they haven’t done clinical studies on their products. Grapeseed’s CEO Kristin Fraser Cotte says the company’s claim of anti-aging is based on the fact that its products contain antioxidants, or substances that protect cells against unstable molecules called free radicals, which can damage cells.

She adds that the company’s oil absorbs into the skin “quickly and easily” and customers are happy with the products.

Frontier spokesman Thomas J. Havran says the company’s claim of skin-supporting is based on a “general body of knowledge” about the value of essential fatty acids for skin.

It is unclear whether the antioxidants in grapeseed oil penetrate the skin sufficiently to benefit the skin, dermatologists say. But since grapeseed oil is a light oil, its antioxidants stand a “better chance” of penetrating than those in some other oils, says Washington, D.C., dermatologist Tina Alster.

Antioxidants applied topically have been shown to protect against sun damage that can cause wrinkles and changes in skin pigmentation, Dr. Alster says. Vitamin E in particular can help boost collagen, a protein that gives skin its structure, she says.

Dr. Wu says fatty acids such as linoleic acid have been shown in scientific studies to be good for dry skin—and since dry skin can look more wrinkled, this could soften the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. She says grapeseed oil is a good moisturizer and is thinner than many other oils so “you won’t look like you are walking around with oil slick on your face.”

– Originally published in The Wall Street Journal, February 19, 2013

One comment

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