Oils are NOT a food group, but they provide essential nutrients and are therefore included in USDA food patterns. Limit your solid fat intake and make sure that most of your fat sources come from fish, nuts and vegetable oils.
Oils are fats that are liquid at room temperature. Oils can come from plants (vegetable oils and nut oils) and from fish (fish oils). Most oils are high in the healthy monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats and low in the unhealthy saturated fats. Oils from plant sources do not contain any cholesterol.
Oils are not a food group; however, they provide essential nutrients for optimal health. As such, oils are included in USDA food patterns.
There are common oils that include:
Oils that are used predominantly as flavorings are sesame and walnut oil. There are foods that have a naturally high oil content including:
Foods comprised mainly of oil include certain salad dressings, mayonnaise, and soft tub or squeezable margarines but have no trans fat. Most oils are high in polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fats and are low in saturated fats. Oils derived from plants do not contain cholesterol; moreover, there are no plants that contain cholesterol. However, there are a few including palm kernel oil, coconut oil and palm oil that are high in saturated fats and should be considered solid fats when it comes to their nutritional value.
Oils and solid fats are different in that solid fats contain more saturated and/or trans fat than oils. Oils, on the other hand, contain more monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that are better for you health. Solid fats are those that are solid at room temperature such as shortening and butter. Solid fats are derived from a variety of animal products and can be made from vegetable oils through hydrogenation. Trans and saturated fats as well as cholesterol, tend to elevate bad LDL cholesterol levels in the blood, which can in turn create greater risk for heart disease. In order to lower the risk of heart disease, reduce foods that contain cholesterol, trans and saturated fat.
Some commonly recognized solid fats include:
Oils provide a host of essential nutrients the body needs. Because of this, oils are included in the MyPlate program; however, only small amounts of oil are recommended. The fats that should be eaten are polyunsaturated or monounsaturated for the most part, and oils are the major source of these preferred fats. Oils contain essential fatty acids and are found in foods such as vegetable oils, nuts, and fish and don’t raise bad cholesterol levels. Additional to these essential fatty acids oils contain, they are also a great source of vitamin E in many American diets.
The recommended allowance for oils is contingent upon a persons’ level of physical activity, gender and age. In general, the range of recommended daily oil intake is from 3 to 6 teaspoons from 2-year-old children to 50+-year-old men and women, respectively.
Oil is measured in teaspoons with the MyPlate program. For example, with vegetable oil 3 teaspoons is equivalent to 14 grams or approximately 120 calories. More information about counting teaspoons and converting them in some of the most common foods eaten can be found on the MyPlate website.