How Unhealthy Is Mayonnaise?

Mayonnaise is typically made using eggs, oil and an acid, such as vinegar. Eating mayonnaise everyday could be unhealthy, as store-bought mayonnaise often has lots of saturated fat. Fortunately, you can make your own healthier mayo.

Whether mayonnaise is unhealthy completely depends on the mayonnaise. (Image: yulka3ice/iStock/GettyImages)

Tip

Whether mayonnaise is unhealthy completely depends on the mayonnaise. Many types of store-bought mayonnaise are unhealthy. In contrast, homemade mayo might be healthy, but can also have highly varied nutrition.

Mayonnaise Calories and Nutrition Facts

The USDA reports that mayonnaise calories total 94 per tablespoon (14 to 15 grams). However, reduced-fat mayonnaise and no-egg mayonnaise products can have half as many calories: around 48 to 54 per tablespoon.

In general, mayo's nutrition profile features 10.3 grams of fat. About 1.6 grams come from saturated fat. Although this is not a lot of saturated fat in general, it's quite a lot for such a small serving size. In comparison, reduced-fat mayo has 6 grams of fat and 0.8 grams of saturated fat.

Mayo is typically not nutrient-rich, although a tablespoon does have 19 percent of the daily value (DV) for vitamin K. However, this amount goes down to 7 percent of the DV for reduced-fat mayo. Each tablespoon also has trace amounts (between 1 and 4 percent) of selenium, vitamin B12, choline, lutein and zeaxanthin. Mayonnaise has cholesterol, but this too is only present in small amounts (5 to 6 milligrams per tablespoon).

Given the lack of essential micronutrients in mayonnaise, you might be surprised to find out that it can be fairly healthy. Mayo contains omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which are unsaturated fats. According to Harvard Health Publishing, these fats, unlike saturated and trans fats, are beneficial to your health.

Improving Mayo's Nutrition at Home

Eggs are a healthy food, and the American Heart Association recommends consuming one egg a day as part of a healthy diet. Similarly, many oils are rich in essential, healthy unsaturated fats. This means that there's really no reason mayo should be unhealthy. In order to improve mayo's nutrition, you can do a few easy things.

First, mayo uses raw eggs. Raw eggs can be dangerous as they are likely to carry a risk of salmonella poisoning. The first thing you can do to improve your mayo's nutrition is to use pasteurized eggs. Pasteurized eggs are less likely to cause foodborne diseases compared to unpasteurized eggs.

More importantly, pasteurized eggs provide improved nutrition. Pasteurizing eggs can improve their digestibility compared to eating raw eggs. This is due to the heat used during the pasteurization process.

In addition, when making mayonnaise, use fresh lemon juice and cut back on the vinegar. In fact, you can make mayo using just lemon juice and no vinegar. Using fresh lemon juice can enhance your mayo's nutrition with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Reducing Saturated Fat in Mayonnaise

When creating your mayo, always use a healthy oil. Many oils are rich in healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Examples of healthy fats you can use are flaxseed oil, olive oil, sesame oil, avocado oil and safflower oil. Using healthy oils reduces the amount of saturated fat in mayonnaise. Healthy oils often have a variety of other beneficial bioactive compounds in them, too.

However, one word of caution: Use oils with mild flavors. Oils make up the majority of the average mayonnaise, which means that they can have a major impact on the way your mayo tastes. For example, highly flavorful extra virgin olive oils, which are certainly very healthy, can produce sour, spicy and bitter flavors in your mayo.

According to a September 2014 study in the LWT - Food Science and Technology Journal, the beneficial bioactive compounds in healthy oils can also worsen mayo's consistency. To resolve this issue, leave your mayo in the fridge overnight and allow it to thicken. Alternatively, use a healthy oil that's lower in polyphenols_,_ like peanut or sunflower oil.

Importance of Healthy Unsaturated Fats

Although fat often gets a bad reputation, certain dietary fats are actually essential for good health – just like the vitamins and minerals we need to consume each day. According to Harvard Health Publishing, two fatty acids are essential for people to consume since the body can't produce them. These fats, which are both polyunsaturated, are known as linolenic and linoleic acid.

Although they have similar names, these two fatty acids play different roles in the body. Linoleic acid is an omega-6 fatty acid, found in many commonly consumed plant-based products, including soybean, corn and olive oil. Linoleic acid is important because it helps maintain the health of skin, nerve, immune and reproductive systems.

Linolenic acid, also referred to as alpha-linolenic acid or ALA, is an omega-3 fatty acid. Omega-3 fats are important as they are beneficial for the health of your eyes, heart, nervous system and immune system.

Omega-3 Fats and Mayonnaise

Omega-3 fatty acids like ALA are found in plant-based foods like nuts, seeds and legumes. Omega-3 fats are also commonly found in fish and shellfish, but exist in these foods as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which are different omega-3 fats. Eggs are also often enriched with these essential fatty acids.

Although both types of omega fats are essential, it's easy for people following a Western diet to consume too many omega-6 fats and not enough omega-3 fats. To make your mayo's nutrition as healthy as possible, choose an oil rich in omega-3 fats, like flaxseed oil.

When you choose ALA-rich fats like flaxseed oil to make your mayonnaise, you're not only consuming healthy, essential fats, but reducing the linoleic acid-to-alpha linoleic acid ratio in your diet. Consuming more omega-3 fats can help reduce your risk of immune system disorders, like inflammatory bowel disease and rheumatoid arthritis.

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