Oils: The New Food Pyramid
It's true. Oils are one of the main food groups in the new Food Pyramid.
Here's the information you need to be sure you're getting the right amount and
the right kind of oils.
What 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. 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
A number of foods are naturally high in oils, like:
- Some fish
Foods that are mainly oil include mayonnaise, certain salad dressings, and
soft (tub or squeeze) margarine with no trans fats. Trans
fats are strongly linked to heart disease. Amounts of trans fat will
be required on labels as of 2006. Many products already provide this
Most oils are high in healthier fats called monounsaturated or
polyunsaturated fats, and low in unhealthy fats called 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 should be limited in your diet.
How Much Oil Should I Get Each Day?
Depending on your sex and age, the amount can range from 5 teaspoons to 8
teaspoons a day. A 60-year-old woman that doesn't exercise needs 5 teaspoons a
day. A 30-year-old man who exercises more than 60 minutes a day should get 8
teaspoons a day.
Limit Solid Fats
Most solid fats are high in saturated fats and/or
transfats and have less
monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats. Animal products containing solid fats
also contain cholesterol.
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 LDL
"bad" 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. Look for foods that are
low in saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol, to help reduce
your risk of heart disease.
Solid fats are fats that are solid at room temperature, such as 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
- Beef fat (tallow, suet)
- Chicken fat
- Pork fat (lard)
- Stick margarine
Foods high in solid fats include:
- Many cheeses
- Ice creams
- Well-marbled cuts of meats
- Regular ground beef
- Poultry skin
- Many baked goods (such as cookies, crackers, donuts, pastries, and
In some cases, the fat in these foods is invisible. Regular cheese and whole
milk are high in solid fat, even though it is not visible.
How do I count the solid fats I can eat?
For quick guide on the amount of solid fats in some common foods, click here.