Why Oils Are Important in Healthy Diet

In MayoClinic.com's healthy weight food pyramid, three to five daily servings of oils are illustrated as part of a healthy diet. Although oils make up a small segment of the pyramid, they play a key role. Oils provide essential nutrients to help maintain body functions. Which oils you choose for your diet can make a big difference to your health.


At 9 grams per calorie, oils are the most efficient energy nutrient you can consume. Oils help build healthy cell membranes and assist the nervous system in sending messages to the brain. Oils help your intestines absorb vitamins A, D, E and K, and store them in your body fat. Oils assist in regulating hormones, lubricating skin and cushioning organs. Always important, oils add taste and texture to the food you consume.


Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated oils remain liquid at room temperature. Saturated and trans fat oils often clump up at room temperature. Unsaturated oils contain essential fatty acids, which are nutrients your body needs. Your body has all the saturated oils and trans fat oils it needs. Unsaturated oils include vegetable, olive, peanut, canola, soybean, sunflower, safflower, corn and fish oils. Saturated oils, which are unhealthy, include butter, lard, shortening, margarine, coconut oil, palm oil, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil and animal fats.


Too much saturated oils in your diet raise LDL, or bad cholesterol, causing high blood pressure. Consuming unsaturated oils raises HDL or good cholesterol, lowering blood pressure. According to the website Ask Dr. Sears, the standard American diet contains too much saturated oil and not enough unsaturated oil. Plants and fish oils, which contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, are the unsaturated oils missing from many American diets.


Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are the only two out of 20 fatty acids your body can't produce on its own. Of these two essential fatty acids, omega-3 has been successful in treating several health conditions. In his book "What Your Doctor Hasn't Told You and the Health Store Clerk Doesn't Know," Dr. Edward Schneider recommends omega-3 in the form of fish oil for depression, preventing heart disease or stroke, and for memory loss or Alzheimer's. In the book's "Longevity Top Ten," omega-3 fatty acids, as fish oils, are listed seventh.


Before using omega-3 fatty acids as an alternative treatment, get your doctor's approval. Foods containing omega-3 include flaxseed, walnuts, salmon, sardines, soybeans, halibut, shrimp, tofu, snapper and scallops. Schneider advises eating one to two servings of fatty fish a week, or taking 1 gram daily of fish oil supplement. He says fish oil will keep the heart and brain healthy and happy. If you are counting calories, stick to three servings of oils a day to stay within your limit.