Often when I give cooking lessons in people’s homes, Hellman’s Light Mayonnaise is present in refrigerators. I ask why it’s there instead of real mayonnaise, and the response “Because it’s healthier,” usually follows.
“Why is it healthier?” I ask.
Replies to that question range from “Because they say so” to “It has to be” to “It has less fat.”
I don’t expect you to make your own mayonnaise, but you should be buying the real version when you shop. Notice the difference in ingredients between Hellman’s Real Mayonnaise and Hellman's “healthier” versions.
Below are the ingredient lists (copied verbatim) for Hellman’s four most readily available types of mayonnaise. Any biochemistry majors out there?
Soybean oil, water, whole eggs and egg yolks, vinegar, salt, sugar, lemon juice, natural flavors, calcium disodium EDTA (used to protect quality).
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**. **Ingredient not in mayonnaise
LOW FAT MAYONNAISE DRESSING (FORMERLY REDUCED FAT)
Water, modified corn starch*, soybean oil, vinegar, high fructose corn syrup*, egg whites, salt, sugar, xanthan gum*, lemon and lime peel fibers*, colors added*, lactic acid*, (sodium benzoate* calcium disodium EDTA) used to protect quality, phosphoric acid*, natural flavors. *Ingredients not in mayonnaise
CANOLA CHOLESTEROL FREE MAYONNAISE
Water, canola oil**, vinegar, modified corn starch**, whole eggs and egg yolks+, sugar, salt, lemon juice, xanthan gum**, (sorbic acid**, calcium disodium EDTA) used to protect quality, DL alpha tocopheryl acetate (vitamin E), phosphoric acid**, natural flavors, citric acid**, oleoresin paprika, beta carotene** (for color). **Ingredient not in mayonnaise +Adds trivial amount of cholesterol
As I’ve mentioned before, I believe we spend too much energy focusing on food items’ Nutrition Facts and not enough on ingredient lists. A little fat and cholesterol will not kill us. The jury is still out, though, on modified corn starch.
From a purely common sense point of view, how can synthetic ingredients be good for us? Michael Pollan calls junk food “edible food-like substances,” a brilliant description for what many think are causing so many of our current health woes.