Fat In Food:
WhICH Foods Contain Fat?

All living things, both plants and animals, contain fat. So, there is some fat in food whether the food comes from plants or animals. Not only meat and oils contain fat!

Fat in Food

You can think of three sources of fat:

  1. Whole foods (unprocessed food): the original source of fat
  2. Fats and oils available in containers: these are extracted from whole foods or manufactured beginning with whole foods
  3. Foods made with fats an oils as an ingredient or cooking method

This site takes the scientifically supportable view that natural fats are healthy and unnatural fats are unhealthy. Natural fats and oils that are undamaged by processing or are unrefined are good fats. Synthetic, rancid, or over-refined fats and oils are bad fats.

Whole Foods

Fats are naturally part of whole foods, especially meat, milk, nuts, seeds, and certain fruits. Examples of higher-fat foods include red meat, white and dark poultry meat, peanuts, walnuts, and avocados. (The difference between beef and chicken in total amount of fat is not as great as you might think.)

Fat will be found in lower levels in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

In plants, seeds and fruits (including nuts) contain the most fat, but leaves have some fat, too. Fresh leafy greens contain a small amount of healthy fat. (In old, or overcooked leaves, the fat has gone bad.)

You can assume that any fat in a fresh, undamaged, natural whole food is a healthy fat. 

Fats and Oils

What about fats and oils that we can buy in a container?

These could be bottles of olive oil or corn oil, sticks of butter, cans of shortening. We eat them as is or use them to make other foods.

At room temperature, a "fat" is solid and an "oil" is liquid. Both are "lipids" or fats.

These fats are extracted or manufactured. Some are healthy and others unhealthy.

There are continuous controversies over which are which! 

Fats and oils can be:

  • Unrefined: for example, extra virgin olive oil
  • Naturally/traditionally processed: for example, butter, coconut oil
  • Industrially refined: for example, almost all corn oil and canola oil
  • Synthetic: for example, partially hydrogenated oils

Fats Used As Ingredients

The source of fat in food may be from an ingredient or a cooking method.

You might be surprised that crackers, cookies, and other processed foods contain quite a lot of fat that isn't immediately obvious.

  • Baked goods including cookies, crackers, and pastries cannot be made without fat.
  • Fried foods have been fried in fat and usually battered first with baked goods.
  • Salad dressing is a concoction that includes fat.

All these foods and more can be made with either healthy fats or with unhealthy fats.

Unfortunately, in processed, store-bought, and restaurant foods, very unhealthy synthetic or over-refined fats are almost always used.

Does Meat Have A Lot Of Fat?

Does meat have a lot of fat? Not compared to chips and cookies.

With processed foods, it's easy to read the label to see an amount of fat per ounce. But how does that stack up against meat?

Here are amounts of total fat in meats and a chip product, derived from those published by lipid researcher Mary Enig in Know Your Fats:

7 oz. beef chuck pot roast = 16.4 g. fat

7 oz. chicken thigh meat = 30.8 g. fat

7 oz. bag chips = 49 g. fat