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Is Mayonnaise Bad For Your Health?

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Is Mayonnaise Unhealthy?

A medley of saturated and trans fats, mayonnaise is yummy but not healthy and a real killer when it comes to heart health. It is also high in calories (95 cal per tbsp!) and loaded with cholesterol, sodium which makes it bad news for hypertension as well. Mayo made with unpasteurized eggs can put you at risk of salmonella and is not advisable during pregnancy either.

Some delicacies are just unimaginable without mayonnaise, isn’t it? What would our burgers, subs, deviled eggs, and coleslaws taste like without this creamy condiment? Traditionally made by whipping together primary ingredients like eggs, oil, and vinegar, mayonnaise quickly increases the calorie count of anything it’s used in. But it’s so delicious!

The rampant popularity of mayo is evident in a US survey by the Association for Dressings and Sauces. Thirty-seven percent of those in the age group of 25-34 purchase mayonnaise every month. The survey also revealed that 90 percent of the participants use it on sandwiches, followed by 73 percent who use it in cold salads. Other popular uses of the condiment include as a veggie top-up, green salad dressing, and baking ingredient. It is also used by many as a dip, often flavored with herbs or a sauce.1

But is mayonnaise healthy for you? Whether you’re adding a dollop of it to a super healthy salad or smearing some on rye bread for a slimming sandwich, commercial mayo still contains a lot of fat, calories, and even sugar. Let’s not forget the emulsifiers, preservatives, and other additives. You can whip a healthier homemade mayo which will not go bad for a week if refrigerated.

On the plus side, store-bought and homemade mayonnaise, both contain omega-6 fatty acids from soybean or corn oil, which are good for us. But too much of it increases your risk of developing heart diseases, some cancers, Type 2 diabetes and more. Let’s find out if mayonnaise is good for health or not. What we need is a balance of omega-6 and omega-3, which today’s Western diets lack. Increasing the levels of omega-3 (a low omega-6/omega-3 ratio) suppresses the effects on the diseases caused by an excessive intake of omega-6 fatty acids.2

How Nutritious Is it?

Is mayonnaise healthy? There has got to be something good about a condiment made of egg yolks, oil, and vinegar! Well, your mayo can contain up to 80 percent of vegetable oil–that means 80 percent of it is pure fat. A 100-gram jar is packed with 700 calories. Every time you add a tablespoon of mayo to anything, you are adding about 94 calories to the dish.

Mayo contains a medley of fats with saturated fats and trans fats, along with some polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats. It is also loaded with cholesterol and sodium along with potassium. The only redeeming factor is the vitamins E and K in it.3

Vitamin E and K both help promote skin and hair health. Vitamin E is also an antioxidant that aids our immune function. Vitamin K is required for strong bones and blood coagulation.

Mayonnaise And Your Health

Is mayonnaise bad for cholesterol? What about heart health and blood pressure? Loaded with saturated and trans fats, mayo spells trouble, particularly for your heart health. Researchers at Harvard Medical School recently concluded that higher intakes of the most common saturated fats led to a boost in the risk of developing coronary artery disease of up to 18 percent. However, replacing just 1 percent of those fats with the same amount of calories from polyunsaturated fats, whole grains, or plant proteins was associated with a 6-8 percent decline in the risk.4

The creamy condiment also increases the risk of high cholesterol and therefore coronary artery diseases. According to a study, this risk is reduced most effectively when trans fatty acids and saturated fatty acids are replaced with unsaturated fatty acids in the diet. Unfortunately, there are no unsaturated fatty acids in mayonnaise.5

Mayo is bad news for those with hypertension as well as it has high amounts of sodium and saturated fat. According to University of Maryland Medical Center, too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure.6

It is often combined with foods that are already high in sodium such as burgers, making it even worse for those with hypertension. You can try other alternatives to mayo to jazz up your salads, sandwiches, and burgers. Try some hummus, hung curd dips and dressings or salsa for a nutritional boost.

Can Mayonnaise Put You At Risk Of Salmonella?

According to the American Egg Board, approximately 8 billion eggs are used in the USA to make commercial mayonnaise. They are first pasteurized to reduce the risk of salmonella, as required by law. Salmonella is a bacterial infection characterized by diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps. Though only 1 in 20,000 eggs will have the salmonella bacteria, safe handling is a mandate. Most commercial mayonnaise manufacturers use frozen pasteurized eggs to produce mayo and it is unlikely you will contract the bacteria from it. In the past few decades, there have been no recorded outbreaks of salmonellosis linked to pasteurized egg products. If you decide to make mayo from scratch (much healthier), you can do so by using pasteurized eggs.7

Just for the record, egg-free mayonnaise is also available for vegans and vegetarians. It is usually lighter and tastes just as good. The egg yolks are usually replaced with ingredients like soy milk or starch.8

Is Mayonnaise Bad During Pregnancy?

Raw and undercooked animal foods are strictly prohibited during pregnancy. This is because it can lead to some infections like salmonella. Since mayonnaise is made by whipping up raw egg yolks with other ingredients, it is not a safe bet during those nine months. Even if you are whipping up a batch at home, the raw eggs still pose a threat. However, the USFDA considers commercial mayonnaise as safe to consume during pregnancy. But salmonella is not your only concern as far as mayo and pregnancy are concerned. The high fat and caloric content of the condiment also makes it an unhealthy food to feast on during this time.9 10

Eating too much mayo during pregnancy can also lead to childhood asthma. According to a study, women who consumed high amounts of spreadable fats like mayonnaise gave birth to children with a higher risk of developing asthma.11

References   [ + ]

1. Millennials For Mayo. AEB.
2. Simopoulos, Artemis P. “The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids.” Biomedicine & pharmacotherapy 56, no. 8 (2002): 365-379.
3. National Nutrient Database: Salad Dressing, Mayonnaise. USDA.
4. Harvard researchers renew warnings about saturated fat and heart disease. Harvard Health Publications.
5. Mensink, Ronald P., Peter L. Zock, Arnold DM Kester, and Martijn B. Katan. “Effects of dietary fatty acids and carbohydrates on the ratio of serum total to HDL cholesterol and on serum lipids and apolipoproteins: a meta-analysis of 60 controlled trials.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 77, no. 5 (2003): 1146-1155.
6. Sodium In Diet. University of Maryland Medical Center.
7. Eggs And Pasteurization. AEB.
8. Nikzade, Vajihe, M. Mazaheri Tehrani, and Mahdi Saadatmand-Tarzjan. “Optimization of low-cholesterol–low-fat mayonnaise formulation: Effect of using soy milk and some stabilizer by a mixture design approach.” Food Hydrocolloids 28, no. 2 (2012): 344-352.
9. Foods To Avoid During Pregnancy. APA.
10. Food Safety For Moms-To-Be. FDA.
11. Fitzsimon, N., U. Fallon, D. O’Mahony, B. G. Loftus, G. Bury, A. W. Murphy, C. C. Kelleher, and Lifeways Cross Generation Cohort Study Steering Group. “Mothers’ dietary patterns during pregnancy and risk of asthma symptoms in children at 3 years.” Ir Med J 100, no. 8 (2007): 27-32.