Is vegan mayo healthy? I’m going to answer this common question here in the first of a series of “Is it healthy?” blog posts. Over the years of working as a personal trainer and then transitioning into nutrition coaching, I’ve had so many people ask me about all sorts of specific foods/drinks and if they’re healthy or not. But the answer isn’t always as simple as a yes or no.
Sometimes when people ask me questions like, is vegan mayo healthy, my answer is, compared to what? That’s because vegan mayo may not be the healthiest condiment, but it’s definitely a healthier option when compared to traditional mayonnaise. This is the case with many foods. When it comes to our diets and creating a healthy balance in life, sometimes it’s more about choosing the better option than it is about choosing the perfect option. With that said, let’s jump into the details of vegan mayo.
What is Vegan Mayo?
Vegan mayo is a plant-based alternative to traditional mayonnaise. When you eat a vegan or plant-based diet, finding sauces and condiments that taste like foods you used to eat is extremely helpful to keep you satisfied with the food you eat. This creamy condiment is always one that people like to take into their plant-based eating. Vegan mayo is also a great alternative for those who have egg allergies.
Traditional mayo is made using eggs as an emulsifier, but vegan mayo skips this ingredient and relies on plant-based alternatives for a similar creamy and rich texture. The primary ingredients of vegan mayo often include plant-based oils (canola, soybean, or sunflower oil), apple cider vinegar or lemon juice, and ingredients like mustard or plant-based milk, like soy milk, to enhance flavor and give it that creamy texture.
The taste and texture of vegan mayo are designed to closely resemble non-vegan mayo. Since the demand for plant-based alternatives continues to rise, vegan mayo has become popular and easy to find in grocery stores. You can find store-bought mayo brands like Hellman’s vegan mayo and other vegan mayo brands in many grocery stores. It can even be made at home using simple, animal-free ingredients.
Is Vegan Mayo Healthy?
We already established that vegan mayo, or dairy free mayo, is healthier than regular mayonnaise, but why is that the case, and what keeps this mayo from actually being a truly healthy option? Let’s take it point by point:
1. Lower in Saturated Fat:
Vegan mayo is often lower in saturated fat compared to traditional mayonnaise since it doesn’t contain eggs. Saturated fats, when consumed in excess, can contribute to poor heart health issues, so choosing a plant-based alternative can be a healthier option.
2. Unsaturated Fats:
The primary source of fats in vegan mayo is plant-based oils, which are often high in unsaturated fats. These fats can have heart-healthy benefits when consumed in moderation. But, on the other hand, unsaturated fats in oil form aren’t the best sources of unsaturated fats.
Seed oil, also known as vegetable oil, includes varieties like soybean oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, and canola oil. While they are commonly used in cooking and food processing, there has been debate over their health effects. Several factors contribute to concerns about the potential health impact of seed oils including inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids, oxidative stress, high in calories, lack of nutrient density, and they’re highly processed. While they may be better than saturated fats, they aren’t exactly what we would call healthy.
Vegan mayo is cholesterol-free because it doesn’t include eggs, a common source of dietary cholesterol. For individuals watching their cholesterol intake, this can be a positive aspect.
4. Caloric Content:
Like traditional mayo, vegan mayo can be calorie-dense. If you’re watching your calorie intake, it’s important to use it in moderation.
5. Nutrient Content:
Some brands of vegan mayo may contain some added nutrients, like vitamin B12, which can be lacking in a vegan diet. However, the overall nutritional value may still be limited compared to nutrient-dense whole foods. I’ve got more details on dairy-free mayo’s nutritional profile below.
6. Potential Additives:
Some store-bought vegan mayos may include things like added sugar, preservatives, or stabilizers. Reading ingredient labels can help you choose a product with minimal additives.
7. Sodium Content:
The sodium content in vegan mayo can vary, and some products may have higher levels. Monitoring your overall sodium intake is important, especially if you have dietary restrictions or health concerns related to sodium.
Nutritional Profile of Vegan Mayo
The nutritional values of ingredients in vegan mayo can vary slightly depending on the brand and specific recipe. Here’s a general overview of the typical nutritional components found in vegan mayo:
- Calories:Vegan mayo generally contains a similar calorie content to traditional mayo. On average, one tablespoon of vegan mayo has around 90 calories.
- Fats: As mentioned already, vegan mayo is often high in fats. A tablespoon of vegan mayo typically contains around 10 grams of fat.
- Protein: While not a significant source of protein, vegan mayo does contain a small amount due to the ingredients used, like soy-based proteins or chickpea brine (the liquid from a can of chickpeas). You can expect around 0-1 gram of protein per tablespoon.
- Carbohydrates: Vegan mayo contains a small amount of carbs, often in the form of added sugars. The carbohydrate content is usually around 1-2 grams per tablespoon.
- Sodium: The sodium content in vegan mayo can vary, so be sure to check the labels. On average, a tablespoon of vegan mayo might contain around 80-100 milligrams of sodium.
- Vitamins and Minerals: Vegan mayo doesn’t typically contain any vitamins or minerals, but some brands might fortify their plant-based ingredients.
It’s worth noting that the nutritional content can differ between homemade and store-bought varieties. Some brands offer different flavors or specialty versions that might have unique nutritional profiles. As with any food product, you should always read the nutritional labels to get accurate information about the specific vegan mayo you’re using.
At the end of the day, this vegan alternative can be a good option to replace traditional mayo in certain aspects, but you should consider your individual dietary needs and goals. As with any food, moderation is the most important thing to remember, and choosing a variety with minimal additives can contribute to a healthier diet. If you need a condiment for your veggie burgers, eggless mayonnaise is a decent choice! While it’s not a great option, a good idea is to use a small amount of vegan mayo and a good serving of Dijon mustard so you can start to slowly phase our high-fat mayo altogether or just continue to use it sparingly.
Incorporating a wide range of whole, nutrient-dense foods will always be the foundation of a balanced and healthy eating pattern. Skipping conventional mayo and reaching for store-bought or your own vegan mayonnaise is a preferable substitute for a healthy-er diet. Just always remember good serving size choices and keep an eye on that fat content in plant-based mayo if you are focusing on weight loss.