Monday, September 12, 2011

Why I use real mayo

Yeah, I said it – real mayo.  Open my fridge and you’ll find a small jar of original Hellman’s.  Not “light.”  Not Miracle Whip.  I’m talking the good stuff.

Does this surprise you?  After all, mayo is, like, pure fat, amiright?  (I am!  I am so smart.)

Seriously though, poor fat.  It’s been so maligned over the years.  But the fact is, we need a certain amount of dietary fat for energy, vitamin transport, and other important functions.  In fact, some types of fat may actually reduce the risk of heart disease.  The key is knowing which fats to choose:

Trans Fat: Public enemy #1 of the nutrition world.  Trans fats are added to foods during hydrogenation, a process in which fats are made more shelf-stable by switching the position of hydrogen atoms.  Trans fats are uniquely bad because they raise LDL (bad) cholesterol and also lower HDL (good) cholesterol.  Try not to eat anything that lists hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil as an ingredient.  (Note: the FDA does not require products to be labeled as containing trans fat if they have less than 0.5 g/serving.  For more information, visit the FDA website on trans fat labeling.)

Before hydrogenation
After hydrogenation -- note diagonal hydrogens


Saturated Fat: The majority of research to date demonstrates that high intakes of saturated fat, which is mostly found in animal products like steak, bacon, cheese, eggs, and whole milk, raises LDL (bad) cholesterol.  High levels of LDL cholesterol cause plaque to accumulate in your arteries, raising your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke.  Some lucky folks don’t appear to be affected by high sat-fat intakes, but some have exaggerated responses to the stuff.  If you don’t know what kind of person you are (your parents generally serve as a pretty good reference point), it’s probably best to assume you’re somewhere in the middle.  At least until you get your cholesterol tested at the doc’s office.  (Really, go do it.)

The USDA recommends getting no more than 10% of your daily calories from saturated fat.  Gosh, that’s helpful. 


In plain terms, if you eat about 2000 calories a day, try to keep your sat fat intake under 22.2 g. (Math: 0.1 x 2000 = 200 cals; 200 cals x [1g fat/9 cals per g] = 22.2 g fat)

Bottom line:  Don’t swear off steak.  Just choose a leaner cut, keep your portion reasonable, and don’t get it topped with cheese and/or eggs and/or bacon.

(And from the Dept. of Interesting but Practically Useless Information: Crisco consists of trans fats; lard consists of saturated fats.  Lard, therefore, is the healthier choice.)

Mono- and Polyunsaturated Fats: Yay, these fats are good for us!  Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (MUFAs and PUFAs, and yes you can pronounce it like that) occur naturally in some animal products but mostly in nuts and high-fat fruits like olives and avocados (MUFAs), and salmon, eggs, soybean oil, flax seeds, and walnuts (PUFAs). 

So what the heck are these things?  Quick chem lesson (quick, I promise!):

1 double bond in the chain

A MUFA is a fatty acid with only one double bond.  If a fatty acid doesn’t have any double bonds, it is saturated with hydrogen atoms.  This makes the molecule stiff, which is why butter is solid at room temperature.  With a double bond, fatty acids become unsaturated because they lose some hydrogen atoms (2 per double bond, to be exact).  Double bonds add kinks to a fatty acid chain, which makes the molecule more fluid.  This is why oil is a liquid at room temperature.

more than 1 double bond in the chain

A PUFA is a fatty acid with two or more double bonds.  PUFAs include omega-3s, omega-6s, and omega-9s.  These three PUFAs are called essential fatty acids because our bodies cannot synthesize them; we must obtain them from the diet.  Like MUFAs, PUFAs are liquid at room temperature. 

Generally speaking, we all could use some more omega-3s in our diet.  These guys are so awesome because they lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and raise HDL (good) cholesterol.  Omega-3s are like the opposite of trans fats.

As for omega-6s and 9s, don’t worry too much about them.  Chances are you’re getting plenty without even trying.  Definitely don’t buy omega-9 supplements -- biggest waste of money ever!


So where were we?  Oh, yes – mayo. 

Hellman’s Real Mayonnaise contains: soybean oil, water, whole eggs and egg yolks, vinegar, salt, sugar, lemon juice, calcium disodium EDTA (used to protect quality), and natural flavors.

Soybean oil is a healthy PUFA.  Egg yolks contain omega-3s.  The other ingredients are nutritionally negligible.  Of the 10g of fat per tablespoon serving, only 1.5g are saturated.  6g are PUFAs and 2.5g are MUFAs.

For comparison’s sake, Hellman’s Light Mayonnaise contains: water, soybean oil, vinegar, modified corn starch, whole eggs and egg yolks, sugar, salt, xanthan gum, lemon and lime peel fibers (thickeners), (sorbic acid, calcium disodium EDTA) used to protect quality, lemon juice concentrate, phosphoric acid, dl alpha tocopheryl acetate (vitamin e), natural flavors, beta carotene.

That’s a lot of ingredients there.  Most of the additions are thickening agents used to make up for the loss of texture from fat.  Not bad, but you might have to use twice the amount of light mayo to achieve the same mouthfeel as regular.

Best bet?  Buy mayo with the least amount of ingredients you can find (or, if you’re superhuman, make your own).  Then, use half as much as you would of the light stuff.  And enjoy, for God’s sake – the real stuff is so much better!

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