Do You Know About Nutritious Oils?

What are Nutritious Oils?

Nutrition Education SeriesNutrition Series: Oils

Oils are fats that are liquid at room temperature, like the vegetable oils used in cooking. They come from many different plants and from fish. Oils are NOT a food group, but they are nutritious oils and 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. Several 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. 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 as 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 daily allowance for nutritious 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 are shown in the table below.

Daily Allowance of Oils



Daily Allowance

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

Note: If you are on a mobile device, you may need to turn your phone 90 degrees to see the full table.

How do I count the nutritious oils I eat?

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

Oil Table

Amount of Food Amount of Oil/grams Oil Calories Total Calories
Vegetable Oils (such as canola, corn, cottonseed, olive, peanut, safflower, soybean, and sunflower)
1 Tbsp 3 tsp/14 g 120 120

Foods rich in oils:

Margarine, soft (trans fat free)
1 Tbsp 2 ½ tsp/11 g 100 100
1 Tbsp 2 ½ tsp/11 g 100 100
Mayonnaise-type salad dressing
1 Tbsp 1 tsp/5 g 45 55
Italian dressing
2 Tbsp 2 tsp/8 g 75 85
Thousand Island dressing
2 Tbsp 2 ½ tsp/11 g 100 120
Olives*, ripe, canned
4 large ½ tsp/ 2 g 15 20
½ med 3 tsp/15 g 130 160
Peanut butter*
2 T 4 tsp/16 g 140 190
Peanuts, dry roasted*
1 oz 3 tsp/14 g 120 165
Mixed nuts, dry roasted*
1 oz 3 tsp/15 g 130 170
Cashews, dry roasted*
1 oz 3 tsp/13 g 115 165
Almonds, dry roasted*
1 oz 3 tsp/15 g 130 170
1 oz 4 tsp/ 18 g 160 185
Sunflower seeds*
1 oz 3 tsp/ 14 g 120 165

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

*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 oil. Soft margarine, mayonnaise, and salad dressings are mainly oil and are not considered to be part of any food group.

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Author: Joan

We provide information and motivation focused on the importance of physical activity to our quality of life. It's that important.

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