Using fat in your baked goods helps keep them moist and tender. However, the type of fat you use also affects the nutritional content of the finished product. While butter and shortening have similar nutritional profiles, you'll be better off using butter since it provides more vitamins and doesn't contain trans fats.
Butter and Shortening Nutrition Basics
A tablespoon of salted butter contains 100 calories, and the same amount of shortening provides 115 calories, all of which come from fat. While shortening is cholesterol free, butter contains 30 milligrams of cholesterol per tablespoon. Neither is a significant source of vitamins or minerals, although each serving of butter contains 7 percent of the daily value for vitamin A and trace amounts of vitamins E and K and shortening provides 7 percent of the DV for vitamin K and a small amount of vitamin E.
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Total Fat Content
Shortening is a little bit higher in total fat, with each tablespoon providing 13 grams, or 20 percent of the DV for those following a 2,000-calorie diet, compared to 11.4 grams in butter. Consuming too much fat increases your risk for obesity and obesity-related health conditions like heart disease and Type 2 diabetes, so aim to keep your total fat consumption at no more than 35 percent of your total calories.
Saturated Fat Situation
Although shortening is higher in total fat, butter contains more saturated fat since it comes from animals and shortening is usually made from plant oils. Each tablespoon of butter provides 7.2 grams, or 36 percent of the DV for saturated fat, compared to 3.3 grams in shortening. Saturated fat is one of the so-called "bad fats" since it can cause your cholesterol levels to increase, raising your heart disease risk. Limit saturated fat intake to no more than 10 percent of your daily calories.
Trans Fat Considerations
Butter isn't a significant source of trans fats, but shortening often contains these fats, which are considered the worst type of fat because they not only increase your levels of LDL, or bad cholesterol, but they also decrease your HDL, or good cholesterol. Since the plant oils used to make shortening are usually liquid at room temperature, manufacturers hydrogenate the oil to solidify it, producing trans fats. No more than 1 percent of your calories should come from trans fats each day.