Many of us are moving over to plant-based diets but there are a number of foods that have become staples and we are struggling to give them up. A perfect example is a mayonnaise. In most cases, alternatives are accessible but are often overly processed. A plant-based alternative is available, but is vegan mayo healthier than its egg-based counterpart? In this article, we will investigate just how healthy vegan mayonnaise is and how it compares to regular egg-based mayo.
What is vegan mayo made of?
To investigate whether vegan mayo is a healthier option, we first need to look at its ingredients. Different brands will use slightly different ingredients, but the foundational recipe remains much the same: vegetable oil and vinegar.
Here is a detailed breakdown of ingredients commonly found in vegan mayo:
Depending on your chosen brand, you may come across rapeseed oil, soybean oil, olive oil or coconut oil most often. Rapeseed oil is one of the most commonly used oils to make vegan mayonnaise, and used by brands including Hellman’s, Heinz and Follow Your Heart. Sunflower oil is another popular choice for vegan mayo and this is what Biona uses in their Egg Free Mayonnaise.
In essence, this is regular vinegar but with a higher level of acetic acid. It is usually made from sugar cane and is made via a double fermentation process.
Apple Cider Vinegar
This type of vinegar is made from apples as the name suggests. Yeast is added to crushed apples, fermenting the sugar and creating alcohol. Bacteria is then added to further ferment the alcohol, thereby creating acetic acid.
A great substitute for eggs, aquafaba is the water in which chickpeas have been cooked or soaked.
Yellow Mustard Flour
Grinding mustard seeds from specific plants into a powder is what constitutes yellow mustard powder. It provides a good flavour and is also used as a binding agent.
Most vegan mayos include a sweetening agent which is usually sugar or natural sweeteners such as brown rice syrup or agave syrup.
Other ingredients found in the more popular vegan mayo brands include natural colourings and flavourings, as well as preservatives (citric acid, Calcium Disodium EDTA) and thickeners, usually in the form of regular wheat flour or an alternative flour.
Refer to the table below for a full list of ingredients of the most popular vegan mayo brands:
|Hellmann’s Vegan Mayo||rapeseed oil (72%), water, spirit vinegar, sugar, salt, modified maize starch, natural flavouring (contains MUSTARD), lemon juice concentrate, antioxidant (calcium disodium EDTA), colour (paprika extract)|
|Follow Your Heart Original Vegenaise||Expeller-Pressed Rapeseed Oil (67%), Filtered Water, Brown Rice Syrup, Apple Cider Vinegar, Soya Protein (1%), Sea Salt, Mustard Flour, Lemon Juice Concentrate|
|Heinz Vegan Seriously Good Mayonnaise||Rapeseed Oil 72%, Water, Spirit Vinegar, Sugar, Salt, Modified Starch, Natural Flavouring, Antioxidant (Calcium Disodium EDTA)|
|LEON – Mayonnaise||Rapeseed Oil (59%), Water, Cider Vinegar (8.2%), Sugar, Salt, Citrus Fibre, Faba Bean Protein (0.70%), Yellow Mustard Flour,Stabiliser (Guar Gum)|
|Biona Egg Free Mayonnaise||sunflower oil*, vinegar*, rapseed oil*, glucose syrup*, olive oil*, rice starch*, sea salt, onion powder*, mustard seeds* (yellow), apple vinegar*, citric acid*, xanthan gum*, agave syrup*, white pepper*, fennel*, coriander seeds*. *=certified organic ingredients.|
Vegan vs regular mayo – Ingredients comparison
Vegan mayonnaise is completely free from dairy and traditionally, so is regular mayo. But what makes the latter not to be vegan friendly? Eggs. In a nutshell, the main ingredient that differentiates vegan mayo and regular mayo is the eggs used in the recipe.
Essentially, the texture and flavour when an egg is emulsified with oil provide the base for the typical flavour of regular mayo.
Have you ever noticed how some of the cheaper brands don’t taste quite right, or have a strange aftertaste and are not always pleasant? Well, that very often has to do with the main ingredients – using cheap oils and eggs from caged hens that are not fed a healthy diet but are kept to produce as many eggs as possible in as short a time as possible. Many of the bigger brands will exclusively use free-range eggs however and make this clear on their packaging.
The vegan alternative has much the same texture as regular mayo. A lot of the base ingredients are the same too, including oil, vinegar, salt, sugar, lemon juice and water.
Where the two mayonnaises differ is that in the regular variety, egg yolks are used to provide the creamy texture, while in the vegan varieties, alternatives are used. These substitutes can include modified maize starch, soya protein, faba bean protein, xantham gum and rice starch, to name a few.
Some of the ingredients in vegan mayo could be considered healthier than regular mayo, but it seems to depend on the brand and what makes up their specific recipe.
Are the ingredients all certified organic? Is the recipe using as few ingredients but with the highest quality possible? Just a couple of many questions that can be asked when pondering the health of vegan mayo.
Some brands will use stabilisers and artificial colours, whereas others use natural colours and natural flavourings.
If you’re reading this article, your health is obviously important to you. Choosing a vegan mayo or a regular mayo is a matter of being aware of what makes up your mayo, reading the labels and choosing based on health rather than on price tag.
Popular regular mayo brands and the ingredients for your reference:
|Hellmann’s Real Mayonnaise||Rapeseed oil (78%), water, pasteurised free range EGG & EGG Yolk (7.9%), spirit vinegar, salt, sugar, lemon juice concentrate, antioxidant (calcium disodium EDTA), flavourings, paprika extract|
|Heinz Seriously Good Mayonnaise||Rapeseed Oil (68%), Water, Pasteurised Free Range Egg Yolk (5%), Spirit Vinegar, Sugar, Starch, Salt, Mustard Seeds, Spices, Antioxidant (Calcium Disodium EDTA)|
|Hunter & Gather Classic Paleo & Keto Avocado Oil Mayonnaise||Avocado Oil (77%), Pasteurised Free Range Egg yolk (17%), Apple Cider Vinegar, Salt|
Vegan vs regular mayo – Nutritional values
To truly determine whether vegan mayo is healthier than regular mayo, we need to compare the nutritional values of both.
Let’s start first with fat. Some mayos have a higher fat content than others, and many will be high in omega 3. It is not best practice to pick up a couple of bottles of mayonnaise and compare them label for label, fat content for fat content. It’s necessary to delve a little deeper. What is the overall fat content? What is the saturated fat content? The monounsaturated? The polyunsaturated? Vegan mayos are also often mistakenly considered low-fat in comparison to regular mayos, but this isn’t always the case.
Next, the carb content. If you have digestive issues, you’ll be conscious of the carbohydrates and sugars in any food. Or perhaps you’re following a keto-friendly diet and counting carbs. Many of us consider mayonnaise to be a low-carb or zero-carb food, but you may be surprised at the sugar level in some mayo brands.
In general, but not always, vegan mayo brands have a higher level of carbs and sugars than regular mayo. Where vegan mayo tends to shine though, is in the level of protein. Again, depending on the brand, vegan mayo typically has more protein than regular mayo.
Salt content tends to be an average across all vegan and regular mayos.
Comparison of nutritional values of popular vegan and regular mayos (Nutrition Per 100g):
Vegan mayo vs regular mayo: Fat content
For this section, we’ll do some comparisons, starting with Hellman’s Vegan Mayo and Hellman’s Real Mayonnaise. In the vegan option, we have a total of 72g of fat, of which 5.3g is saturated fat. While in the regular option, we have 79g total fats, of which 6.2g is saturated. Hellman’s claims their regular option is “a good natural source of omega 3”. Omega 3 makes up 8.4g per 100g of their regular mayo and 6.6g per 100g of the vegan alternative.
Next, let’s look at Heinz’s plant-based option, Vegan Seriously Good Mayonnaise, and their regular mayo, Seriously Good Mayonnaise. The vegan bottle contains 72g total fats, of which 5.4g are saturated, while their regular bottle contains 70g total fats of which 5.3g are saturated.
When we look to other vegan mayos, we see a similar level of overall fat and similar saturated fat content.
One vegan mayonnaise that does stand out, however, is the Biona Egg Free Mayonnaise which contains only 52.1g total fat per 100g. The saturated fat content is 5.1g.
Some mayonnaises, such as those specifically made for people following paleo and keto diets have higher levels of total fats and saturated fats. If you are not following one of these diets and are conscious of the fat content in mayo, but still want to enjoy it, do check labels and compare while shopping.
Vegan mayo vs regular mayo: Calories
Vegan mayo doesn’t have more calories than regular mayo, and regular mayo doesn’t have more calories than vegan mayo! In this case, it does completely depend on the brand and what goes into making each jar of mayo.
Take, for example, LEON Mayonnaise. This company uses aquafaba instead of eggs in order to make their mayo vegan, and it has 597 calories per 100g. Hellman’s Real Mayonnaise on the other hand uses free-range egg yolks in its recipe and it has 552 calories per 100g.
Heinz Seriously Good Mayonnaise has 644 calories per 100g, while Heinz Vegan Seriously Good Mayonnaise comes in at 672 calories per 100g. This may lead you to conclude that vegan mayo does have more calories than regular mayo, but it’s simply not correct.
The vegan mayo, Biona Egg Free Mayonnaise, has the lowest calories of all brands we explored at 509 calories per 100g. So, as you can see, two different vegan brands came in at the top end of the calorie spectrum and at the bottom end.
Is vegan mayo healthier than regular mayo?
In summary, this does depend on the type of oil used in the recipe, the type of egg replacement, and the additional ingredients that go into every container of mayonnaise, whether vegan or regular – and is entirely brand specific.
A plant-based diet, in general, however, will have less saturated fat and a lower level of dietary cholesterol. Anyone on a vegan diet does still need to be concerned about blood cholesterol though as an excess of saturated fat can lead to this.
As vegan mayonnaise is completely plant-based, it contains a significantly lower level of saturated fats than its regular counterpart (mostly due to the use of eggs in its preparation). This is a clear advantage to vegan mayonnaise. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has carried out studies which show that even when replacing animal-based foods with plant based foods that have the same fat content, the amount of cholesterol in the blood will be reduced, while this review of the benefits of switching to a plant-based diet, clearly demonstrates the positives.