By Jess Scott Wright
Mayonnaise: chances are pretty high it’s an ingredient in something you like. More than a condiment, it’s an essential ingredient that brings magic to a variety of foods: slaws, dressings, sauces, deviled eggs, salads, dips and even some desserts. But what is mayo, and is it good for you?
What is mayonnaise?
Mayonnaise at its most basic is just eggs, oil and an acid, such as vinegar or lemon juice. The transformation of the ingredients into a creamy, white substance occurs via a process known as emulsification, a mixing technique that encourages one liquid to become a part of the other.
Is mayonnaise healthy?
It really depends on the quality of egg and type of oil used to create the emulsion.
Although eggs suffered a bad rap for increasing cholesterol which is associated with a higher risk of heart disease, it is generally accepted that eggs from free-range, organic chickens can be a nutritious gem.
Oils (depending on the type) can be a great source of healthy fats, an essential part of a healthy diet without which you cannot adequately absorb fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. However, oils are a bit tricky as their potential health benefits are impacted by elements beyond the source of the oil, including methods of processing and storage.
What about store-bought mayonnaise made with olive oil and cage-free eggs?
Healthier oils are markedly more expensive than vegetable oils just as conventional eggs are cheaper than organic eggs from pastured chickens, so when it comes to store-bought mayonnaise, is a cheap jar of mayonnaise made from quality eggs and oil? Probably not.
Though some mayo brands sell varieties of mayo that are made with cage-free eggs and olive oil, it’s important to look beyond the front of the label to determine what these claims really mean.
Made with olive oil:
Even if a mayonnaise is labeled “made with olive oil,” that does not mean only olive oil or even quality olive oil was used in the product. Always examine a product’s ingredients, which are always listed from greatest to least.
For example, you might see a mayonnaise “made with olive oil” still has soybean oil listed before olive oil under the ingredients, indicating the product has more soybean oil than olive oil. In all fairness, the label just said made with olive oil, it didn’t say how much.
Made with cage-free eggs:
There are no regulations around the term “cage-free” and, according to the Humane Society of the United States, “cage-free” does not mean chickens have access to the outdoors to engage in natural chicken behaviors. Why is this important to know? Food companies may advertise their use of cage-free eggs to portray higher standards. Perhaps the standards are improved, but the lack of regulations and fine print can be misleading.
Food labels are confusing. As with most things, if you want to bring out the healthy in your mayo, make it yourself.
Making your own mayo
With a few ingredients and an immersion blender, you can make your own mayonnaise faster than you can spell it and with the addition of a few simple things like herbs or spices, it’s easy to give your mayo a new twist. For some great, healthy mayo recipes, visit wellnessmama.com.
4 egg yolks at room temperature
1 tbsp. lemon juice or apple
1 tsp. regular or Dijon mustard (or ½ tsp dried mustard)
Salt and pepper
2/3 cup olive oil
2/3 cup coconut oil (warm) or other healthy oil (macadamia works well)
1. Put egg yolks into blender or bowl and blend/whisk until smooth.
2. Add lemon juice or vinegar, mustard and spices and blend until mixed.
3. Slowly add oil while blending or whisking at low speed, starting with olive oil. Start with a drop at a time until it starts to emulsify and then keep adding slowly until all oil is incorporated. Store in fridge up to one week.
What if I’m allergic to eggs?
If you’re allergic to eggs, try using avocado as a substitute. Here’s another recipe from Wellness Mama:
Egg-free avocado mayo
2 ripe, fresh avocados
¼ cup high quality olive oil
1 tsp. lemon juice, lime juice or apple cider vinegar
½ tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
½ tsp. ground black pepper
1. Put all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend at medium speed until mixed and emulsified.
2. Store in an air-tight container for up to 2 days,though it tastes best if used immediately.
Have a mayo creation you want to share? Tweet Jess Wright, a Blaine-based dietitian on Twitter @TheFareSquare with hashtag #cincodemayonnaise or contact Jess at firstname.lastname@example.org.