• Bookmark and Share
  • Join Us on FacebookJoin Us on Facebook
  • Follow Us on TwitterFollow Us on Twitter

Facts About Food: Oils

While some oil is needed as part of a healthy diet, the amount of oil you eat should be limited to balance your total calorie intake. Oils are fats that are liquid at room temperature. Some of the major plant oils include:

  • Canola oil
  • Corn oil
  • Olive oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Soybean oil
  • Sunflower oil

Some oils are used mainly as flavorings, such as walnut oil and sesame oil. Mayonnaise and salad dressings are made from oils. A number of foods are naturally high in oils, like:

  • Nuts
  • Olives
  • Avocados

Most oils are high in monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats, and low in saturated fats. Oils from plant sources (vegetable and nut oils) contain no cholesterol. However, a few plant oils like coconut oil and palm kernel oil are high in saturated fats.

Some types of fish, like salmon, contain heart-healthy oils providing omega-3 fatty acids. These are considered to be beneficial in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Most animal fats 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. Hydrogenation also produces "trans fats," which are considered unhealthy, so check the nutrition label to see whether a product such as margarine or shortening contains "trans fats." Some common solid fats are:

  • Butter
  • Beef fat (tallow, suet)
  • Chicken fat
  • Pork fat (lard)
  • Stick margarine
  • Shortening

For a snapshot of what you need to know about oils, click here.

Health Benefits

  • Most of the fats you eat should be polyunsaturated (PUFA) or monounsaturated (MUFA) fats. Oils are the major source of MUFAs and PUFAs in the diet. PUFAs contain some fatty acids that are necessary for health—called "essential fatty acids." Keep in mind, the MUFAs and PUFAs found in fish, nuts, and vegetable oils do not raise LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels in the blood.
  • Solid fats contain more saturated fats and/or trans fats than oils. Saturated fats and trans fats tend to raise "bad" (LDL) cholesterol levels in the blood, which in turn increases the risk for heart disease.


  • In addition to the essential fatty acids they contain, plant oils are the major source of vitamin E which helps protect Vitamin A, essential fatty acids, and cell membranes from oxidation.

To learn more about the oil group, click here.

Back to the top
Get Your Wellness Scorecard

Is your wellness regimen up to par?
Take the wellness test now!

Take the "Life…Supplemented" Quiz

So you think you are a wiz when it comes to supplements, take our "Life...Supplemented" Quiz and find out!

Spotlight on William Cooper, M.D., Cardiothoracic Surgeon

Find out what Dr. Cooper has to say about supplements and heart health!
Read More