It sometimes seems that the basic lubricant of the low carb diet is mayonnaise. Just what is this magical white substance, and is it good or bad for you?
In essence, the core of mayonnaise is two items - olive oil, and eggs. As we know, olive oil is INCREDIBLY good for you even in vast quantities. Eggs have gotten a bad rap over the years, but more and more studies show how healthy they are for you in moderation. In addition to the oil and eggs, vinegar / lemon juice is added to give the mixture a bit of acidic zing.
So while some people say mayo is "all bad", really it's at least neutral, in the ingredient list sense.
Interestingly, Mayonnaise is relatively recent in the culinary world - only tracing back to the mid 1700s. There are all sorts of stories about the "incident" that brought it to fame - a French battle, a French defeat, a given location. Nobody knows for sure, and it is likely (as with most cooking techniques) that it actually developed over time and was adopted by many chefs quickly once it became popular.
The spread only became well known in the US in the early 1900s, when delis began using mayo on their standard sandwiches that they offered to lunchtime workers. In 1905, one such deli owner was Richard Hellman, a German immigrant. His success led to the development of Hellman's Mayonnaise.
Mayonnaise is a great base, and with a few additions, it comes:
* Tartar sauce (with pickles)
* Russian Dressing (with tomatoes)
* Aioli (with garlic)
While in the US we eat mayo on turkey or chicken sandwiches, in Europe they dip French Fries into mayo rather than ketchup.
How about nutrition? Mayonnaise typically has 4g of carbs per tablespoon. It also has 5g of fat per serving. It has 60 calories. It has NO nutritional value (in terms of Vitamin C, zinc, protein, all that stuff).
The point of low carb is to eat healthy food that provides nutrition. Each thing you eat should be helping your body be healthy. If you take in a food that is simply a pile of fat and carbs, with no nutrition, that's not very good for you. Small amounts of mayonnaise to help you eat things that are good is fine of course, a thin layer of mayo on some fresh turkey and whole wheat. But you shouldn't go for high mayo dishes. Your stomach should be filled with things that are nutrient-rich!
NOTE: Depending on the serving size of the mayo container you're looking at, it may look like there are deceptively fewer carbs per serving. This is because the FDA allows companies to "round down" on small servings. If you check official USDA reports, you can see the actual details.
But really, in the end the key is that there are no nutrients. Focus on ingesting foods that provide nutrients!
NOTE 2: :) Someone wrote me asking about "sugar free mayonnaise". Mayo should NOT have sugar in it!! We use Hellmann's Mayonnaise and it has no carbs at all. No carbs = no sugar. Well, OK, technically sugar IS on the ingredient list, down at the level of "lemon juice" (which I'm sure it must have one drop of). It's a tiny amount that doesn't even register on the carb label. So I wouldn't worry about a few grains of sugar. You undoubtedly burn those up just by raising your fork to your mouth once :)
Lisa Shea's Library of Low Carb Books