Is Mayonnaise Fattening?
Mayonnaise is a must-have ingredient for everything from deviled eggs, to potato salads, to club sandwiches and burgers. But if you’re watching your weight or making an effort to eat healthier, should you be steering clear? Here’s the lowdown on whether the creamy condiment is really as terrible as it’s made out to be, whether certain types are better than others, and how often it’s okay to have.
Is mayo good or bad?
Mayo’s often vilified as a fatty extra that you need to cut out if you’re trying to eat healthy or lose weight. But it’s just a simple mixture of oil and eggs—two things that most of us eat regularly. So what makes mayo that much worse?
Turns out, nutrition experts agree that mayo itself isn’t so bad. “It has an unnecessarily bad reputation. But it’s not bad for you if you use it once in a while,” says nutrition expert Shana Spence, MS, RDN, CDN. The key, just as with other fats like olive oil or avocado, is not overdoing it. “The calories can add up,” says nutrition expert Sarah Pflugradt, MS, RDN, LDN. But if you stick with a 1-tablespoon serving size and account for it in your overall meal, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy it. (A tablespoon of traditional mayo has around 90 calories.)
Things can get a little trickier when it comes to pasta or potato salad, which tend to pack a lot of mayo. “That’s when the calories and fat pile up,” Spence says. Even so, it’s fine to have some every once in a while. Just keep your portion size small and fill the rest of your plate with lighter options, like grilled chicken, roasted veggies, or fresh fruit.
Weighing the mayo options
OK, so mayo is fine in moderation. But there are still a lot of different kinds you can pick from. Are some kinds better than others, and are there any you should be avoiding altogether? Here’s a look at all the different types.
These OG offerings from classic brands like Hellman’s and Duke’s are usually made with soybean oil, eggs, vinegar, plus salt, sugar, and other flavorings (which are usually just listed as “natural flavorings.”) Soybean oil contains mostly unsaturated fat, which makes it a heart-healthy option, according to the American Heart Association. On the other hand, some soybean oil manufacturers rely on chemicals like bleach to extract oils from the actual soybeans, Spence notes. So soybean oil-based mayos may contain more highly processed ingredients than some other options.
Nutrition info:Hellman’s Real Mayonnaise has 90 calories, 10 grams fat (1.5 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat), 90 milligrams of sodium, 0 grams of carbs (0 grams sugar, 0 grams fiber), and 0 grams of protein per 1-tablespoon serving.
Canola oil mayo
Mayos made with canola oil, like Spectrum Organics Canola Mayonnaise, have slightly less saturated fat compared to those made with soybean oil. But both vegetable oils are considered to be heart-healthy options, and they contain almost the same amount of calories. So if you’re sticking to a 1-tablespoon serving size, the difference is negligible. “I wouldn’t say it’s a healthier choice overall,” Pflugradt says.
Nutrition info: Spectrum Organics Canola Mayonnaise has 100 calories, 11 grams fat (.5 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat), 90 milligrams of sodium, 0 grams of carbs (0 grams sugar, 0 grams fiber), and 0 grams of protein per 1-tablespoon serving.
Olive oil mayo
Olive oil is a health food superstar for a reason: It’s rich in monounsaturated fats and antioxidants that research suggests could help protect against heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Whether you’ll reap the same benefits from olive oil mayo—like Spectrum Organic Mayonnaise with Olive Oil—is unknown, especially since most olive oil mayos are made with a mix of olive oil and canola or soybean oil. But using it in place of traditional mayo certainly won’t hurt. “I personally like to stick to olive oil,” Spence says. Just keep in mind
Nutrition info: Spectrum Organics Mayonnaise with Olive Oil has 100 calories, 11 grams fat (.5 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat), 95 milligrams of sodium, 0 grams of carbs (0 grams sugar, 0 grams fiber), and 0 grams of protein per 1-tablespoon serving.
Avocado oil mayo
Like olive oil, avocado oil is higher in monounsaturated fats and antioxidants compared to soybean or canola oils, Pflugradt points out. And animal studiessuggest it might help stave off metabolic syndrome. Will avocado oil mayos like those from Sir Kensington’sor Primal Kitchenhave the same effect? It’s hard to say for sure, but they might be a marginally healthier choice than soybean or canola oil mayos.
Nutrition info: Sir Kensington’s Avocado Oil Mayo has 90 calories, 10 grams fat (1 gram saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat), 85 milligrams of sodium, 0 grams of carbs (0 grams sugar, 0 grams fiber), and 0 grams of protein per 1-tablespoon serving.
Coconut oil mayo
Coconut oil might be a trendy health food, but that doesn’t mean you can eat coconut oil mayos by the spoonful. Coconut-based options like those from Thrive Marketand Coconaisehave roughly the same amount of fat and calories as other types of mayo. And recent evidenceshows that the saturated fats in coconut oil can raise levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol. Having a tablespoon or two of coconut oil mayo occasionally is perfectly fine, Spence says. But if you like to have mayo in your sandwich every day, you might be better off using one with unsaturated fats instead—like olive or avocado oil mayo.
Nutrition info: Thrive Market Coconut Oil Mayonnaise has 100 calories, 11 grams fat (10 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat), 90 milligrams of sodium, 0 grams of carbs (0 grams sugar, 0 grams fiber), and 0 grams of protein per 1-tablespoon serving.
Low-fat or fat-free mayos like Duke’s Light Mayonnaiseand Kraft Light Mayomight sound like a better choice, especially if you’re trying to lose weight. The problem? When manufacturers cut the fat, they usually end up adding more of other ingredients like salt or thickeners (like modified corn starch) to improve the taste and texture. “I’d be concerned with the extra sodium,” Pflugradt says. “I wouldn’t pay attention to the starch, since small amounts aren’t thought to be harmful.”
Nutrition info: Duke’s Light Mayonnaise has 50 calories, 5 grams fat (1 gram saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat), 105 milligrams of sodium, 1 gram of carbs (0 grams sugar, 0 grams fiber), and 0 grams of protein per 1-tablespoon serving.
Most vegan mayos swap out the eggs for soy-based ingredients, like the soy protein in Follow Your Heart Vegenaise. They’re usually made with soybean or canola oils and contain the same amount of fat and calories as traditional mayos. So they’re not necessarily any better for you than regular mayo, Spence points out. “Just because something is vegan doesn’t translate to it being healthy,” she says.
Nutrition info: Follow Your Heart Vegenaise has 90 calories, 9 grams fat (.5 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat), 70 milligrams of sodium, 0 grams of carbs (0 grams sugar, 0 grams fiber), and 0 grams of protein per 1-tablespoon serving.
Some newer vegan mayos like Sir Kensington’s Fabanaisereplace the usual eggs with aquafaba, the liquid from canned chickpeas that gets a foamy, egg white-like texture when whipped. It’s not necessarily better or worse for you than soy-based or traditional mayos, Spence says. But if you’re looking for a vegan mayo that’s also free of soy, it’s a good option.
Nutrition info: Sir Kensington’s Fabanaise has 90 calories, 10 grams fat (1 gram saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat), 95 milligrams of sodium, 0 grams of carbs (0 grams sugar, 0 grams fiber), and 0 grams of protein per 1-tablespoon serving.
Choosing the right mayo for you
Is one type of mayo significantly healthier than the others? Nope, say Pflugradt and Spence. Light mayo aside, all of the options have roughly the same amount of fat, calories, carbs, protein, sodium, and sugar. “My advice is choose the one that fits your current diet and that tastes great to you,” Pflugradt says. “And if you’re sticking with the recommended serving size of 1 tablespoon, it’s okay to have it every day.” The two exceptions to keep in mind? You might want to keep the coconut oil mayo to a minimum if you’re looking to limit your saturated fat. And if you’re watching your sodium intake, light mayo might not be the right fit.
As for whether some brands are a better choice? Again, it’s fine to have your favorite mayo—whatever brand that might be—in moderation. But if you’re looking to minimize your intake of highly processed foods, take a look at the back label before buying. “What I do is read the ingredients and make sure I’m purchasing something with ingredients I can pronoun
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