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Food Groups

How much to eat

Grains
■ Vegetables
Fruits
Oils
Milk
Meat & Beans
 
     
Oils

What are “oils”?
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Oils are fats that are liquid at room temperature, like the vegetable oils used in cooking. Oils come from many different plants and from fish. Some common oils are:
  • canola oil
  • corn oil
  • cottonseed oil
  • olive oil
  • safflower oil
  • soybean oil
  • sunflower oil

Some oils are used mainly as flavorings, such as walnut oil and sesame oil. A number of foods are naturally high in oils, like:

  • nuts
  • olives
  • some fish
  • avocados

mayonnaiseFoods that are mainly oil include mayonnaise, certain salad dressings, and soft (tub or squeeze) margarine with no trans fats. Check the Nutrition Facts label to find margarines with 0 grams of trans fat. Amounts of trans fat will be required on labels as of 2006. Many products already provide this information.

Most oils are high in monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats, and low in saturated fats. Oils from plant sources (vegetable and nut oils) do not contain any cholesterol. In fact, no foods from plants sources contain cholesterol.

A few plant oils, however, including coconut oil and palm kernel oil, are high in saturated fats and for nutritional purposes should be considered to be
solid fats.

Solid fats are fats that are solid at room temperature, like butter and shortening. Solid fats come from many animal foods and can be made from vegetable oils through a process called hydrogenation. Some common solid fats are:

  • butter
  • beef fat (tallow, suet)
  • chicken fat
  • pork fat (lard)
  • stick margarine
  • shortening


Why is it important to consume oils?
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Most of the fats you eat should be polyunsaturated (PUFA) or monounsaturated (MUFA) fats. Oils are the major source of MUFAs and PUFAs in the diet. PUFAs contain some fatty acids that are necessary for health—called “essential fatty acids.”
vegetable oil

Because oils contain these essential fatty acids, there is an allowance for oils in the food guide separate from the discretionary calorie allowance.

The MUFAs and PUFAs found in fish, nuts, and vegetable oils do not raise LDL(“bad”) cholesterol levels in the blood. In addition to the essential fatty acids they contain, oils are the major source of vitamin E in typical American diets.

While consuming some oil is needed for health, oils still contain calories. In fact, oils and solid fats both contain about 120 calories per tablespoon. Therefore, the amount of oil consumed needs to be limited to balance total calorie intake. The Nutrition Facts label provides information to help you make smart choices.

How much is my allowance for oils?
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Most people consume enough oil in the foods they eat, such as:

  • nuts
  • fish
  • cooking oil
  • salad dressings

A person’s allowance for oils depends on age, sex, and level of physical activity. Daily allowances are shown in the chart.
 

Daily allowance*

Children 

 

2-3 years old

 

3 teaspoons

 

4-8 years old

 

4 teaspoons

Girls 

 

9-13 years old

 

5 teaspoons

 

14-18 years old

 

5 teaspoons

Boys 

 

9-13 years old

 

5 teaspoons

 

14-18 years old

 

6 teaspoons

Women 

 

19-30 years old

 

6 teaspoons

 

31-50 years old

 

5 teaspoons

 

51+ years old

 

5 teaspoons

Men

 

19-30 years old

 

7 teaspoons

 

31-50 years old

 

6 teaspoons

 

51+ years old

 

6 teaspoons

*These amounts are appropriate for individuals who get less than 30 minutes per day of moderate physical activity, beyond normal daily activities. Those who are more physically active may be able to consume more while staying within calorie needs. Click here for more information about physical activity.


How are solid fats different from oils?
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Solid fats contain more saturated fats and/or trans fats than oils. Oils contain more monounsaturated (MUFA) and polyunsaturated (PUFA) fats. Look for foods that are low in saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol, to help reduce your risk of heart disease. Trans fats can be found in many cakes, cookies, crackers, icings, margarines, and microwave popcorns. Foods containing partially-hydrogenated vegetable oils usually contain trans fats.

Saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol tend to raise “bad” (LDL) cholesterol levels in the blood, which in turn increases the risk for heart disease. To lower risk for heart disease, cut back on foods containing saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol.


How are oils different from solid fats?
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All fats and oils are a mixture of saturated fatty acids and unsaturated fatty acids. Solid fats contain more saturated fats and/or trans fats than oils. Oils contain more monounsaturated (MUFA) and polyunsaturated (PUFA) fats. Saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol tend to raise “bad” (LDL) cholesterol levels in the blood, which in turn increases the risk for heart disease. To lower risk for heart disease, cut back on foods containing saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol.

 

 
     
     
     
 

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