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The Healthy Life Choice

Eating for optimal health appears to be more complicated than ever, especially with regard to dietary fat. Scientific evidence from traditional cultural eating patterns supports consuming “good” types of fat as part of an overall healthy diet. Long-term studies show us that people from certain regions of the world have lower risks of developing heart disease. This is thought to be, in part, a result of consuming a higher fat diet, full of “good” unsaturated fat. The traditional dietary and lifestyle patterns within the particular regions also contribute to the overall health of the population.

How Much Oil Should you Eat?

Oils and other fats are an important part of a healthy, balanced diet and help the body to absorb vitamins and nutrients. As with other dietary matters, the recommended oil intake varies from person to person. Consult your physician to determine the best amount for you, particularly if you have any health conditions.


Daily oil intake recommendations vary based on your gender, age and activity level. For example, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), women age 19 to 30 years who exercise for less than 30 minutes each day should consume about 6 tsp. of oils each day, and women above age 30 years need 5 tsp. Men ages 19 to 30 years who get less than 30 minutes of exercise per day need 7 tsp., and men above age 30 years need 6 tsp. These recommendations may be a bit higher for those who receive more exercise on a daily basis.

Calorie Ratio

In addition to how much oil you consume per day, you should also consider the ratio of your fat intake to your overall calorie intake. For optimal health benefit, try to limit your total fat intake to between 20 and 35 percent of your total calorie intake, as recommended by the USDA. For example, if you consume 1,500 calories per day, you should make sure that only 300 to 525 of those calories are from fats, including oils.


Oils can be divided into monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Both groups are considered to be good fats because they provide benefits for the heart, cholesterol and general health. Monounsaturated fats include olive, canola, sunflower, peanut and sesame oils. Polyunsaturated fats include soybean, corn, safflower and flaxseed oils. As noted by the USDA, many foods also have a high oil content, like mayonnaise, salad dressings and soft margarine. Although most oils are plant-based, not all fats that are plant-derived are considered good fats, like palm and coconut oil.