I often get asked if mayonnaise is ok to eat in a cholesterol-lowering diet, and the answer always surprises people.
Cholesterol in Mayonnaise
Mayonnaise contains about 6mg of cholesterol per serving (one tablespoon). Although the general consensus is that cholesterol in food only has a small effect on blood cholesterol levels, some health professionals still recommend that those with diabetes, high cholesterol or heart disease should have no more than 200mg a day, and everyone else no more than 300mg a day. So if you were to have just one serving of mayonnaise, it would only account for a very small proportion of the maximum recommended daily cholesterol amount.
Saturated Fat in Mayonnaise
The NHS recommends that adult men consume no more than 30g of saturated fat per day and adult women no more than 20g. A serving (one tablespoon) of full fat ‘real’ mayonnaise like Hellman’s or Heinz contains 0.8-0.9g saturated fat, so as long as you eat it in moderation then you can include it in a heart healthy diet and still keep within the daily sat fat limits.
I eat mayonnaise about two or three times a week, and always use full fat real mayonnaise because I don’t like the taste of the low fat one. I sometimes mix it with fat free yoghurt to make it go a bit further. So, for example, if I’m making a prawn mayonnaise sandwich I’ll mix a tablespoon of mayonnaise with a tablespoon of fat free natural yoghurt and a squeeze of lemon juice.
Another good thing to mix mayonnaise with is low fat cottage cheese, because it adds more flavour as well as protein. I love Arla Protein Cottage Cheese because it’s low in saturated fat (1.1g per 100g), and high in protein (12.3g per 100g). It works really well in pasta salads, like this tuna and avocado one.
Healthy Fats in Mayonnaise
The main ingredient in the main UK brands of mayonnaise like Hellmann’s and Heinz is rapeseed oil, which contains healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These healthy fats can actually help to lower bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol levels. So mayonnaise isn’t actually as bad as people make out!
Low Fat Mayonnaise
If you like the taste of the really low fat versions, like Hellmann’s ‘Lighter Than Light Mayonnaise‘ and Tesco’s ‘Healthy Living Mayonnaise‘, then these are fine to eat freely in a heart healthy diet. But bear in mind that they generally have very little nutritional value and can sometimes contain unhealthy additives.
Other things to be aware of
The above information is based on the main UK brands of mayonnaise (Hellman’s, Heinz and supermarket own-brands), but other brands may contain unhealthy ingredients and additives, so always check the food labels. In particular, make sure your mayonnaise doesn’t contain trans fat. Trans fats (found in hydrogenated oils), are actually worse for you than saturated fats. Look for ‘0g trans fat’ on food nutrition labels and make sure there are no hydrogenated oils in the ingredients list.
Another thing to look out for is the salt/sodium content because too much can raise your blood pressure, which puts you at increased risk of health problems such as heart disease and strokes. The NHS recommends that adults should eat no more than 6g of salt (or 2.4g of sodium) per day.
Alternatives to Mayonnaise
Sometimes only mayonnaise will do, but there are some good alternatives for mayonnaise that can be used with certain dishes. For example:-
- Houmous, which contains cholesterol-lowering chickpeas, works well in sandwiches and wraps with chicken or falafels. Recipe here.
- Tzatziki, when made with fat free natural yoghurt, makes a great cholesterol-friendly accompaniment to grilled meats or fish. Recipe here.
- Smashed Avocado, which contains cholesterol-lowering fats and tons of nutrients, works well as a dip (with a squeeze of lemon juice and a pinch of salt) or in salmon bagels.
- Infused Olive Oils, which are rich in cholesterol-lowering monounsaturated fats, make a delicious and simple salad dressing.
Mayonnaise is high in fat, but the main UK brands (Hellman’s, Heinz and supermarket own-brands) are made with rapeseed oil, which contains healthy fats that can actually help to lower cholesterol. The saturated fat content per serving of these UK brands of mayonnaise is low enough that it won’t inflate your daily saturated fat intake too much. Therefore it’s fine to include these brands of mayonnaise in a heart healthy diet if eaten in moderation (i.e. one tablespoon a few times a week).