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Oils and Fats Food Group

Fats are important group of food pyramid established by USA.

Daily allowance fats needed by age and gender

Good Fats and Bad Fats
1. Oil & Fat Foods
2. Daily Allowance
3. Health Considerations
4. Nutrition

Oils & Fat Foods

Ghee, Butter and Lard

These are all directly or indirectly animal fats. In India, Lard is rarely used. The purpose to include it here is to show the similarity with Ghee. The high smoking point of Ghee makes it suitable sautéing and frying. Since it is solid at room temperature, it is used as a shortening. Ghee is very high in Saturated fats. Diabetics and people with high Cholesterol should use it with caution in their diet.


On surface, Margarine seems healthy because of low saturated fats. It is a man-made fat from polyunsaturated plant oils such as Corn and Soy oils,  transforming into trans fats. This enables the oil to be solid same as butter. Evidence suggests that trans fats are as bad as saturated fats. The tables will look very different if the amount of trans fats is added to the amount of saturated fats. Unfortunately, trans fats are normally not listed.

Mustard Seed Oil

In the olden days, black mustard seeds were pressed to extract the oil, while the leftover was mixed with the animal feed for the dairy cows and water buffalos. This is a very interesting oil in Indian Cuisine. The oils is rapidly heated to its smoking point and the heat turned down and the ingredients added as required. This method of cooking alters the taste of the oil imparting a unique nutty flavor. Mustard seed oil is very comparable to Olive Oil in lower Saturated fats and higher Monounsaturated fats at economical prices.

Olive Oil

This is not a common oil in India, however readily accepted by Indians overseas. Olive oil has a rich buttery taste making it more suitable for making salad dressings. Its not pungent as the Mustard oil, but with very similar nutritional profile.

Peanut Oil

Peanut oil is high in monounsaturated fat with a high smoking point. Indian and Chinese Peanut oils have nutty flavor, while the peanut oil processed in United States is taste and flavor neutral.  This oil is normally used for deep frying and sautéing. In India, hydrogenated peanut oil is available as a substitute for Ghee.

Canola Oil, Soy Oil and Corn Oil

When Indians come to United States, they are face the with these plant oils. These oils are taste neutral with similar nutritional profile. These are healthy oils low in saturated fats and relatively high in monounsaturated fats. Canola oil has interesting roots. This is a modern oil. It is extracted from "genetically engineered  Rapeseed". It has high smoking point and higher monounsaturated fats. The flavor and taste are neutral. These properties make it suitable as a general purpose oil from salads to deep-frying.

Coconut Oil

This is a popular cooking oil in South India. The oil is high in saturated fats.

Cotton Seed Oil

In the olden days, cotton seed oil was extracted by pressing the cotton seeds. After extracting the oil, the leftover was mixed with animal feed for dairy animals. The oil was naturally taste neutral and used for general purpose cooking. Nutritionally, it is middle of the road oil, not too high in Saturated fats (harmful) or high in monounsaturated fats (helpful).

Almond Oil

A very good oil even better than then much touted Olive oil, but very pricey to be used as daily cooking oil. Normally used in making desserts. There is a loss of flavor with heat.

Fish & Nuts

These foods are described in the Protein section.
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Daily Allowance


Daily Allowance Physical activity less than 30 minutes per day

Gender Age (Years) teaspoons
Children 2 - 3 3
4 - 8 4
Girls 9 - 18 5
Boys 9 - 13 5
14 - 18 6
Women 19 - 30 6
31+ 5
Men 19 - 30 7
31 + 6
Interpretation of 1 teaspoon 
  Amount of food Amount of oil Oil Calories Total Calories
Unrefined Plant Oils 1 Tablespoon 3 tsp/14g 120 120
Margarine 1 Tablespoon 2-1/2 tsp/11g 100 100
Peanuts roasted 1 oz 3 tsp/14 g 120 165
Cashews roasted 1 oz 3 tsp/14g 115 165
Almonds dry roasted 1 oz 3 tsp/15 g 130 170
Hazelnuts 1 oz 4 tsp/18 g 160 185
Sunflower seeds 1 oz 3 tsp/ 14 g 120 165

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Health Considerations

1. Saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol tend to raise “bad” (LDL) cholesterol levels in the blood, which in turn increases the risk for heart disease.
2. Plant oils contain monounsaturated (MUFA) and polyunsaturated (PUFA) fats.  PUFAs contain some fatty acids that are necessary for health—called “essential fatty acids.” These do not raise LDL.
3. Plant oils are a major source of Vitamin E,
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Oils and fats are a necessary component  to maintain health. About 15% to 30% calories in diet must come from oils and fats. They provide a mechanism to absorb fat-soluble vitamins such as Vitamin A, D and E. Fat also slows down the digestion process, making you feel less hungry. The issue with fats is not if they are needed, it is the types fats. You should minimize saturated and trans fats (10% maximum), maximize monounsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats help raise HDL, enabling liver to process it and not stick to artery walls.

'Cold-pressed un-refined plant oils' are best for for salads. However, the smoking point for these oils  is 320º F or lower making them un-suitable for deep-frying. The refined oils have smoking point around 375º F and higher. Avocado oil has highest smoking point is 520º F among all plant oils. When oils are heated beyond smoking points, they burn and become harmful trans-fats.

The smoking point is the temperature where further heat will burn the oil. This is an important when considering the use of oil in cooking. In traditional Indian cooking, common fats used are e Ghee (clarified butter), Mustard seed, Peanut, Coconut and Cottonseed oils.

Nutritional Analysis
1. The quantity of 1 Tablespoon is assumed.
2. All Fats are given in grams 
Type Kcal  Total Fats  Saturated  Monounsaturated Polyunsaturated
Mustard Seed 124 14 1.621 8.286 2.972
Olive 119 13.5 1.816 9.977 1.35
Peanut 119 13.5 2.281 6.237 4.32
Cottonseed 120 13.6 3.522 2.421 7.058
Sesame 66 6.78 0.93 1.785 3.765
Almond 120 13.6 1.115 9.506 2.336
Coconut 117 13.6 11.764 0.789 0.245
Canola 124 14 0.994 8.246 4.144
Corn Oil 120 13.6 1.761 3.75 7.436
Soya 120 13.6 1.958 3.169 7.874
Margarine 101 11.35 2.355 5.541 2.947
Butter 102 11.52 7.29 2.985 .432
Ghee 112 12.73 7.926 3.768 0.473
Lard 115 12.8 5.018 5.773 1.434

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