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    1. 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.

      What 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
        2-3 yrs
        4-8 yrs
        3 teaspoons
        4 teaspoons
        9-13 yrs
        14-18 yrs
        5 teaspoons
        5 teaspoons
        9-13 yrs
        14-18 yrs
        5 teaspoons
        6 teaspoons
        19-30 yrs
        31-50 yrs
        51+ yrs
        6 teaspoons
        5 teaspoons
        5 teaspoons
        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 2? tsp/ 11g 100 100
        Mayonnaise 1 Tbsp 2? 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 2? tsp/ 11g 100 120
        Olives*, ripe, canned 4 large ? tsp/ 2g 15 20
        Avocado* ? 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.