Is Mayonnaise Fattening?

Mayonnaise is an essential ingredient in recipes ranging from deviled eggs and potato salad to club sandwiches and hamburgers. But if you're watching your weight, mayo -- a mixture of egg yolks, oil and lemon juice -- is one of the first foods you should consider cutting from your diet because of its infamous fat content.

A small dish of homemade mayonnaise. (Image: natalisla/iStock/Getty Images)

The Facts

One tablespoon of regular mayonnaise has about 100 calories. Regular mayonnaise also has 11 grams of fat and and 80 milligrams of sodium in 1 tablespoon. In practical terms, this means 2 tablespoons of mayo on your turkey sandwich can double the fat and calorie content of your lunch.

Significance

Your body needs a certain amount of fat to absorb vitamins from your diet, maintain a healthy immune system, and build and repair cellular structures. But too much fat can cause problems with your weight and your cardiovascular system. Fat shouldn't account for more than 35 percent of your daily calorie intake -- that means less than 700 calories or 78 grams of fat per day. A 2 tablespoon serving of mayo adds up to 200 calories, and 22 grams of fat, which adds up to a significant chunk of your daily fat intake.

Considerations

Though there's no question mayonnaise is a fattening food you should consume in moderation, most of the fat in mayonnaise is unsaturated fat, sometimes called "good" fat. Only about 1.5 grams of the fat in 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise is saturated fat -- less than the amount of saturated fat in the equivalent amount of butter.

Expert Insight

If you're cutting mayonnaise to cut fat and calories, consider low-fat or nonfat versions -- but check the sodium content because many reduced-fat products have higher sodium levels, notes Yale School of Medicine. Mustard has a different flavor but a significantly lower calorie count and may make a good substitute for mayo on sandwiches and burgers -- the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute recommends it as a healthier substitute. To get mayo's creamy texture in salads, substitute in avocado.

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