Ask Food: You don't always have to hold the mayo

Q: I love mayonnaise. Is it really all that bad for me?

A: It's the quintessential "bad" food laden with artery-clogging saturated fat. For years, we've been told to "hold the mayo," but is it really as bad as they say?

There's no doubt that mayo is brimming with fat. One cup contains 1,440 calories, 160 grams fat and 24 grams saturated fat. It is an excellent source of vitamins E and K, but it also contains almost 50 percent of your daily recommended amount of sodium.

Fatty foods like mayo have flavor and mouth-feel that many folks enjoy. Adding a cup of mayo to a dish will rack up the calories quickly.

So what's a mayo-lover to do?

Moderation is one direction to take. Instead of drowning tuna or pasta salad in boatloads of mayo, use 1 tablespoon per person. One tablespoon contains 103 calories, 12 grams fat and 2 grams saturated fat. This keeps things much more reasonable.

There are many alternatives at the market. Lighter varieties use fat replacers (like xanthan gum and corn starch), preservatives (like citric acid) and/or sugar (like high-fructose corn syrup). So they may be lighter on calories, but heavier on additives.

Light mayo: Any food labeled as "light" contains one-third fewer calories than the regular version. Per tablespoon, this mayo contains 45 calories, 4.5 grams fat and 0.5 gram saturated fat.

Reduced-fat mayo: Any food labeled as "reduced fat" contains 25 percent or less cholesterol and 2 grams of saturated fat or less than the full-fat version. Per tablespoon, this mayo contains 25 calories, 2 grams fat and no saturated fat.

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