What Are Solid Fats?
Solid fats are fats that are solid at room temperature, like beef fat, butter, and shortening. Solid fats mainly come from animal foods and can also be made from vegetable oils through a process called hydrogenation. Some common solid fats are:
- milk fat
- beef fat (tallow, suet)
- chicken fat
- pork fat (lard)
- stick margarine
- hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils*
- coconut oil*
- palm and palm kernel oils*
* The starred items are called "oils" because they come from plant sources. Even though they are called "oils," they are considered to be solid fats because they are high in saturated or trans fatty acids.
Most solid fats are high in saturated fats and/or trans fats and have less monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats. Animal products containing solid fats also contain cholesterol. Saturated fats and trans fats tend to raise "bad" (LDL) cholesterol levels in the blood. This, in turn increases the risk for heart disease. To lower risk for heart disease, cut back on foods containing saturated fats and trans fats. Some foods that contain solid fats include:
- many desserts and baked goods, such as cakes, cookies, donuts, pastries, and croissants
- many cheeses and foods containing cheese, such as pizza
- sausages, hot dogs, bacon, and ribs
- ice cream and other dairy desserts
- fried potatoes (French fries) - if fried in a solid fat or hydrogenated oil
- regular ground beef and cuts of meat with marbling or visible fat
- fried chicken and other chicken dishes with the skin
In some cases, the fat in foods is not visible. For example, the fat in fluid milk is a solid fat. Milk fat (butter) is solid at room temperature but it is suspended in the fluid milk by the process of homogenization.
In contrast to solid fats, oils are fats that are liquid at room temperature, like the vegetable oils used in cooking. Oils come from many different plants - such as corn and peanuts - and from fish. A few plant oils, including coconut oil and palm oil, are high in saturated fats and for nutritional purposes are considered solid fats.
Solid fats and oils provide the same number of calories per gram. However, oils are generally better for your health than solid fats because they contain less saturated fats and/or trans fats. Foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils usually contain trans fats. Trans fats can be found in many cakes, cookies, crackers, icings, margarine, and microwave popcorn.