OBJECTIVES: To identify food sources of fat, to compare food and nutrient intakes at different levels of relative fat intake, and to examine the contribution of different food groups to the variation in relative fat intake. Relative fat intake was expressed as energy contributed by fat in percentage of non-alcohol energy. DESIGN: Cross-sectional analysis of baseline data from the Malmö Diet and Cancer STUDY: An interview-based diet history method, a structured questionnaire and anthropometric measurements were used to obtain data. Analysis of variance compared food and nutrient intakes across quintiles of relative fat intake. Stepwise regression examined the contribution of food groups to the variation in relative fat intake. SETTING: Baseline examinations were conducted between 1991 and 1996 in the city of Malmö, southern Sweden. SUBJECTS: A sub-sample of 7055 women and 3240 men of the Malmö Diet and Cancer cohort. RESULTS: The major fat sources were dairy products, margarines, meat & meat products, and cakes & buns. Most plant foods, especially fruit, vegetables and breakfast cereals, were negatively associated with fat intake. Low fat consumers had significantly higher intakes of dietary fibre, vitamin C, beta-carotene, folic acid, iron, zinc and calcium. Intakes of all types of fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins were positively associated with fat consumption. CONCLUSIONS: The results suggest that many food groups and nutrients may confound the associations between relative fat intake and disease. Plant foods, especially, are important to consider in studies of fat intake and disease risk.