Mayonnaise is either something you openly admit to hating or you secretly like it and fear that the truth will come out. It is in fact the most popular condiment in the world!
Of course, another issue is that since people love using things in huge quantities, mayo has developed a bad reputation due to its high fat content. Slices of chicken? Good. Drowning it in mayo to make chicken salad? Not so much.
Then there’s the problem of salmonella and such. You’ve probably heard of plenty of stories of people getting food poisoning during a summer cookout because Aunt Grezelda’s award-winning potato salad was left out in the sun for too long.
We do have some good news though. If you eat mayo in moderation and properly prepare and store it, there’s no reason why you can’t incorporate it into your healthy diet.
So glad you asked! We sent our elite team of scientists and researchers out to get to the bottom of this question. After glancing at the ingredients list on a jar of natural, organic mayonnaise that they spotted at a grocery store, this is what they reported back: oil, egg yolk, and lemon juice. When mixed together through emulsion, you end up with the creamy condiment that becomes the foundation for your tuna salad sandwich.
According to Captain Obvious, the key to successful emulsification is a good emulsifier. As it relates to mayo, this would be the egg yolk. It brings peace and harmony between the lemon juice and oil, the two components that would otherwise not blend well together.
When making mayonnaise at home, the lecithin from the egg yolk does the trick. But if you’re buying those major store-bought brands, they typically include other stabilizers, emulsifiers, and other stuff you won’t find in the kitchen.
A dramatic question indeed! Since mayo consists mostly of oil, it is high in fat and dense in calories. In fact, a mere tablespoon contains 100 calories. So if you’re into chugging the stuff, you are almost guaranteed to face health problems down the road. On the other hand, if you exercise portion control and limit the amount to a squirt, you’ll be fine. Remember that fat in itself is not evil. Indeed, you need fat in order to feel full and satisfied. Most of the fat in mayonnaise is unsaturated, otherwise known as the “good” type of fat.
When it comes to mayonnaise, there is no rule against choosing a healthy oil. The best options are canola or olive oil. But if you’re feeling especially adventurous, you can even make it with avocado oil! The problem is, most commercially successful mayo is made with soybean oil, which contains high levels of omega-6 fats, which are not the kinds of fats you should strive for. It’s not even the case that soybean oil tastes better either. Healthier, alternative oils are just as tasty!
The biggest problem with making mayonnaise yourself is that it’s typically made with raw egg yolk, which can be swimming in bacteria. The store-bought stuff gets around this by using pasteurized eggs along with other product safety measures.
Adding lemon juice or vinegar can help kill off some of the bacteria, but studies have found that it doesn’t do much against salmonella, which is often the culprit when somebody comes down with a serious case of food poisoning. However, the good news is you can pasteurize your eggs at home by putting it in water at a temperature of 60°C (140°F0 around three minutes before making the mayo.
If your goal is to reduce your intake of fat and calories, some nutritionists might recommend a reduced-fat mayonnaise. Problem solved, right? Well, the thing is, the mayo still needs to be edible. Otherwise, why bother? This is why manufacturers will compensate for the reduced fat by adding starches and sugar. So if you’re concerned about carbs or sugar, lower-fat mayo might not be the right move.