Bulletin #4393, Eating for Health with MyPlate: Oils

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Prepared by Extension Educator Kate Yerxa and Extension Specialist Leslie Forstadt, University of Maine Cooperative Extension. Reviewed by Extension Educator Alan Majka, University of Maine Cooperative Extension.

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Like most Americans, Mainers eat too much fat, sugar, sodium, and refined grains. These Eating for Health with MyPlate fact sheets can start you down the path to good health. Each one is about a different part of the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and MyPlate healthy eating guidelines. You can learn what each part is, why it’s important, and how it matters to you and to your family. The MyPlate food groups are Grains, Vegetables, Fruits, Dairy, and Protein. This fact sheet explains the Dairy Group.

Oils are not considered a food group, but they supply healthy fats in your diet.

Oils are fats that are liquid at room temperature. Oils come from different plants and types of fish. Some common types of oils include olive oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil, safflower oil, corn oil, and canola oil. Some foods are naturally high in oils. These foods include nuts, olives, avocados, and some kinds of fish.

How much oil should adults eat?

The amount of oil you need each day is different for everyone. The average adult needs about 2,000 calories per day. In a 2,000 calorie diet, women can have 5 to 6 teaspoons of oil a day. Men can have 6 to 7 teaspoons. Measuring teaspoons of oil can help you know how much oil you get from foods. The chart below provides a guide to the amount of oil in foods.

 Amount of FoodAmount of Oil in Food
Vegetable oils (such as canola, corn, cottonseed, olive, peanut, safflower, soybean, and sunflower)1 Tablespoon3 teaspoons
Foods rich in oils
Margarine, soft (trans fat-free)1 Tablespoon2 1/2 teaspoons
Mayonnaise1 Tablespoon2 1/2 teaspoons
Italian dressing2 Tablespoons2 teaspoons
Olives, ripe, canned4 large1/2 teaspoon
Avocado1/2 medium3 teaspoons
Peanut butter2 Tablespoons4 teaspoons
Mixed nuts1 ounce3 teaspoons
Sunflower seeds1 ounce3 teaspoons

Why oils?

Most oils are high in monounsaturated fats or polyunsaturated fats, and low in saturated fats. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are healthier fats. They are found in fish, nuts, and vegetable oils. They do not raise “bad” cholesterol levels in the blood. These types of fats contain essential fatty acids that your body needs. They also have vitamin E.

Limit solid and dairy fats

Fats that are solid contain more saturated fats and/or trans fats. They tend to raise “bad” blood cholesterol, which can increase the risk of heart disease.

  • Saturated fats are fats that are found in foods that come from animals. These foods include meat, full-fat dairy products, poultry skin, butter, and lard.
  • Trans fats are fats that are made from liquid oils, and made solid through a chemical process. These fats are found in solid shortening, many snack foods, and pre-packaged baked goods.

Try limiting the amount of butter and stick margarine you eat. Instead, use oils such as olive, safflower, or canola oil. This will reduce the amount of saturated and trans fats in your diet. Also, use low-fat (1%) or non-fat dairy products instead of whole milk or full-fat cheeses. This will reduce the amount of saturated fat you eat.

How do I put healthy oils into my diet?

Oils are necessary for health. But too much food with oils can add too many calories to your diet. This can make you gain weight. Oils and solid fats are both high in calories: about 120 calories per tablespoon. With this in mind, it is important to balance total calorie intake by eating no more that the recommended amount of oil. Remember that this amount depends on your personal needs. In any case it is no more than 5 to 7 teaspoons a day.


U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. December 2020. Available at DietaryGuidelines.gov.

U.S. Department of Agriculture. MyPlate website. 2021. https://www.myplate.gov



Information in this publication is provided purely for educational purposes. No responsibility is assumed for any problems associated with the use of products or services mentioned. No endorsement of products or companies is intended, nor is criticism of unnamed products or companies implied.

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