On goes the endless debate over mayonnaise. Is there really a healthy mayonniase, or not? Well, before we give a definitive answer, let’s break it down.
First off, let’s consider what mayo is made of. Besides vinegar and salt (possibly lemon juice and mustard), mayo is comprised mostly of just egg yolks and oil. Vinegar, salt and the other minority ingredients pose no concern and exist in such small quantities that they are hardly worth a mention, so we’ll start with the eggs (yolks to be specific).
In years past, egg yolks had earned themselves a degree of notoriety due to their “extremely high” levels of cholesterol, and were, as such, deemed generally “unhealthy”. Hence, the egg white omlette era. Unfortunately, that misinformation propagated itself for years along with the concept that fat (not refined sugar as we now know) was the true evil and cause of all cardiovascular and health-related issues. Only now is the real truth coming to light regarding the role and importance of dietary fat and cholesterol. Physicians and nutritionists are reevaluating the need for healthy fats – including Omegas (mono-and polyunsaturated fatty acids) and even saturated fats like short and medium chain triglycerides contained in healthy oils like coconut. Cholesterol too, despite its reputation, is actually an extremely important molecule. It is a primary component in many vital hormones in the body (including sex hormones), and plays an integral structural role in the formation and stabilization of cell membranes (to name just a few).
So, despite our previous notions, egg yolks are, in fact, a powerhouse of nutrients and have duly landed themselves on every list of top superfoods out there. They are packed with B vitamins (B6, B12, thiamin, &folate), the fat soluble vitamins (A,D,E,K), lutein, carotenoids, zeaxanthin, choline, and minerals like iron, phosphorus, zinc and more. All in all, eggs get my vote! Check, check, and check!
Moving on to the oil…this is where things get tricky. The bottom line is: it depends on the type of oil you are using. Most commercial mayonnaise is made with cheap, refined, hydrogenated, GMO oils (like canola and soybean oil) that are extremely bad for your health – whether they are consumed in small quantities or not. (For a far more in depth understanding of the considerations pertaining to oils, please see my blog titled “Oils decoded”). These are the types of oils that result in arthersclerosis, systemic inflammation, obesity, heart disease and many other illnesses. I recommend avoiding these at all costs since 99% of the mayonnaise is the oil component. Even commercial brands advertising “made with olive oil” or other healthy oils, sometimes still include the aforementioned oils as the primary ingredients because they mitigate cost.
What I do recommend, is making your own healthy mayonnaise at home using unrefined virgin oils like avocado, macadamia/walnut, olive oil etc. This may seem daunting at first, but as someone who has tried it, I can tell you that it is not that difficult and absolutely worth the try. (See our recipe page for homemade healthy mayonnaise). It is important to remember however, that oil is still oil- it is very calorie dense and should be consumed in the right quantities to maintain a balanced diet.
So…the verdict? I say yes to mayo … in moderation of course! Make your own healthy mayonnaise at home with ingredients you know and trust, or choose a brand that does not use the oils previously mentioned and doesn’t contain other undesirable preservatives/chemicals.