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All about Oils

bottle of oilWhat are "oils"?

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. Oils are NOT a food group, but they provide essential nutrients. Therefore, oils are included in USDA food patterns.

Some commonly eaten oils include: canola oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil, olive oil, safflower oil, soybean oil, and 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, and avocados.

Foods 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 are required to be listed on labels.

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 plant foods contain cholesterol. A few plant oils, however, including coconut oil, palm 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 fats are: butter, milk fat, beef fat (tallow, suet), chicken fat, pork fat (lard), stick margarine, shortening, and partially hydrogenated oil.

How much is my allowance for oils?

Some Americans consume enough oil in the foods they eat, such as:

  • nuts
  • fish
  • cooking oil
  • salad dressings

Others could easily consume the recommended allowance by substituting oils for some solid fats they eat. A person’s allowance for oils depends on age, sex, and level of physical activity. Daily allowances for oils are shown in the table below.

Note: Click on the top row to expand the table. If you are on a mobile device, you may need to turn your phone to see the full table.

  • Daily Allowance
    Children
    2-3 yrs
    4-8 yrs
    3 teaspoons
    4 teaspoons
    Girls
    9-13 yrs
    14-18 yrs
    5 teaspoons
    5 teaspoons
    Boys
    9-13 yrs
    14-18 yrs
    5 teaspoons
    6 teaspoons
    Women
    19-30 yrs
    31-50 yrs
    51+ yrs
    6 teaspoons
    5 teaspoons
    5 teaspoons
    Men
    19-30 yrs
    31-50 yrs
    51+ yrs
    7 teaspoons
    6 teaspoons
    6 teaspoons

 

How do I count the oils I eat?

The table below gives a quick guide to the amount of oils in some common foods.

Note: Click on the top row to expand the table. If you are on a mobile device, you may need to turn your phone to see the full table.

 
  • Oil Table
      Amount of food Amount of oil Calories from oil Total calories
        Teaspoons/ grams Approximate calories Approximate calories
    Oils:        
    Vegetable oils (such as canola, corn,
    cottonseed, olive, peanut,
    safflower, soybean, and sunflower)
    1 Tbsp 3 tsp/ 14g 120 120
    Foods rich in oils:        
    Margarine, soft (trans fat free) 1 Tbsp 2½ tsp/ 11g 100 100
    Mayonnaise 1 Tbsp 2½ tsp/ 11g 100 100
    Mayonnaise-type salad dressing 1 Tbsp 1 tsp/ 5g 45 55
    Italian dressing 2 Tbsp 2 tsp/ 8g 75 85
    Thousand Island dressing 2 Tbsp 2½ tsp/ 11g 100 120
    Olives*, ripe, canned 4 large ½ tsp/ 2g 15 20
    Avocado* ½ med 3 tsp/ 15g 130 160
    Peanut butter* 2 Tbsp 4 tsp/ 16g 140 190
    Peanuts, dry roasted* 1 oz 3 tsp/ 14g 120 165
    Mixed nuts, dry roasted* 1 oz 3 tsp/ 15g 130 170
    Cashews, dry roasted* 1 oz 3 tsp/ 13g 115 165
    Almonds, dry roasted* 1 oz 3 tsp/ 15g 130 170
    Hazelnuts* 1 oz 4 tsp/ 18g 160 185
    Sunflower seeds* 1 oz 3 tsp/ 14g 120 165
             
    tsp = teaspoon, Tbsp = tablespoon, g = grams

    *Avocados and olives are part of the Vegetable Group; nuts and seeds are part of the Protein Foods Group. These foods are also high in oils. Soft margarine, mayonnaise, and salad dressings are mainly oil and are not considered to be part of any food group.