Mayo: the misunderstood spread

Vegan or with cage-free eggs? Avocado or olive oil? Sriracha or curry? The mayo aisle is booming. Here’s how to find a good one.

1. Take your pick.

Mayonnaise looks creamy, but it has no cream. It’s mostly oil and water, with a touch of egg, vinegar, and salt. That’s why a one-tablespoon serving has only 1½ grams of saturated fat.

Sodium is low, too. Mayos typically range from 70 to 130 milligrams per tablespoon. And most mayos that add sugar contain so little (less than half a gram per tablespoon) that it shows up as zero on the Nutrition Facts label. So just pick your favorite brand.

2. Don’t break the bank for fancy oils.

The new kid on the block: avocado oil mayo. Chosen Foods, Primal Kitchen, and Sir Kensington’s sell mayos made with avocado oil. But a 12 oz. jar will set you back $7 to $10. (Hellmann’s and Kraft’s “avocado oil” mayos are cheaper because they’re blended with canola and soy oil.)

Avocado oil is “better for you than the oils used in most mayos,” says Chosen Foods. Not really. Most mayos are made with soy, olive, and/or canola oil. Like avocado oil, they’re largely unsaturated. But soy oil is richer in polyunsaturated fats, which can lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol more than the monounsaturated fats in avocado, olive, and canola oil.

3. Go vegan…or not.

Vegan mayos are in. They keep their oil emulsified by replacing mayo’s egg with pea protein (JUST and Earth Balance) or chickpea cooking water (the “aquafaba” in Sir Kensington’s Fabanaise). But if you’re not vegan, there’s no need to go eggless for your health’s sake. Regular mayo has a trivial 5 to 15 milligrams of cholesterol per tablespoon. A large egg yolk has 185 mg—about 60 percent of a day’s worth.

4. Cage free? Read closely.

“Made with cage free whole eggs,” says Kraft Olive Oil Mayo. The label’s fine print: “Contains at least 65% cage free whole eggs.” The back story: In 2016, Kraft pledged to go 100% cage free…by 2025. But Hellmann’s beat Kraft to the punch. It has used 100% cage-free eggs since 2017.

5. Consider calories.

Regular mayo has 90 to 100 calories per tablespoon. If you want to go lower, try a “light” or “reduced fat” variety. Most have 40 to 60 calories. So do some non-lights, like JUST (60 calories). But not every lower-cal mayo wowed our taste buds. A good bet: Hellmann’s Light.

6. Think beyond sandwiches.

Whisking a touch of mayo into your homemade salad dressing can keep the oil and vinegar from separating. And the inventive new crop of flavored mayos can stand in for sauces and more. See the photos below for our favorites and how to use them.

  • Hellman’s Organic Spicy Chipotle. Drizzle on fish or shrimp tacos

  • JUST Mayo. The best-tasting vegan mayo we found.

  • Hellmann’s real. The real deal. (It’s called Best Foods west of the Rockies.)

  • Just Sriracha. Add to lettuce wraps with crunchy veggies and herbs.

  • Hellmann’s Organic Mild Curry. Great in chicken salad with apples and almonds.

Photos: Jen Urban/CSPI and Hellmann’s.

The information in this post first appeared in the October 2018 issue of Nutrition Action Healthletter.

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