Mayonnaise or mayo is a creamy sauce often added to sandwiches, burgers, and salads. It is prepared by mixing egg yolk with an acid, such as vinegar or lemon juice. You might relish it before pregnancy, but eating mayonnaise when pregnant warrants caution.
The eggs used in mayo preparation are usually uncooked or raw. Besides, the eggs may or may not be pasteurized. Eating undercooked, raw, or unpasteurized eggs can expose you to harmful pathogens and adversely affect your health and that of your baby.
Keep reading to know about the different types of mayonnaise, their safety for pregnant women, and precautions to take when consuming mayo.
Can You Eat Mayonnaise When Pregnant?
However, eating mayonnaise prepared with egg is considered safe if it is made of pasteurized (heat-treated) eggs. It is made of egg yolk, mixed with vegetable oil, and lemon juice or vinegar. Protein and lecithin in the egg yolk act as emulsifiers in mayonnaise (2).
Commercial mayonnaise available on the non-refrigerated shelves in supermarkets is made of pasteurized eggs and is safe for consumption. Brands such as Hellmann’s and Heinz are popular varieties of mayonnaise that are safe to eat (3).
However, avoid home-made mayonnaise as it is made of raw eggs, which run the risk of containing salmonella (4).
Mayonnaise sold in the restaurants or food markets may be avoided unless you are sure that they use pasteurized eggs.
Types Of Mayonnaise
You can select a mayonnaise that suits your requirements of fat and calories, as the spread is made with several variations. Here are a few (5):
Real mayonnaise meets the Codex Alimentarius food standards with fat content of 78.5% and egg 6%.
Full-fat mayonnaise contains 65-75% fat.
Light mayonnaise, as the name suggests has low fat content of 20-30% and around 3% egg. They include thickening agents such as maize starch and xanthan gum.
Extra mayonnaise contains less than 10% fat and 4% egg.
Nutritional Values In Mayonnaise
Even if you are opting for commercially made mayonnaise, know the nutritional values before consumption as it could be high in calorific values.
- One tablespoon (14g) of mayonnaise contains around 94 calories, or 100gm contains 700 calories of fat. The calorific value however differs with respect to the type of mayonnaise.
- One tablespoon also has 5.8mg of cholesterol. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends consuming not more than 300mg a day. (6)
- There can be 80mg to 125mg of sodium in one tablespoon of mayonnaise, while the recommended daily intake of sodium should be less than 2,300mg.
- Commercial mayonnaise contains 80% vegetable oil, 8 % water, 6% egg, 4% vinegar, 1% salt, and 1% sugar.
- Low-fat mayonnaise has around 50% vegetable oil, 35% water, 4% egg, 3% vinegar, 1.5% sugar, and 0.7% salt.
Benefits Of Mayonnaise
Mayonnaise, when eaten in limited quantities, can be good for health. Here is how it can be beneficial for you.
- Vitamin K: One tablespoon of regular mayonnaise has around 22.5 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin K, which is more than 25% of the daily requirement of 90mcg (AI) (7).
Vitamin K is important during labor as it helps in clotting and prevents excess bleeding. In babies, it is required for the development and normal blood clotting (8).
- Fat content: One tablespoon of regular mayonnaise has 2.32g of total MUFA (monounsaturated fatty acids) and 6.17g of total PUFA (polyunsaturated fatty acids). Maintaining a healthy MUFA:PUFA ratio is important during pregnancy as it not only affects mother’s health but also the health and development of the growing fetus (9)
Total fat during pregnancy is required for the body in small amounts only. Any excess of saturated fat puts you at risk of excess weight gain and abnormal lipid profile. Mayonnaise has saturated fat that is not good for health when consumed in high amounts.
Remember that mayonnaise need not be taken as a health food during pregnancy as you can get these vitamins and fat from other healthier foods.
How Can Mayonnaise Be Harmful During Pregnancy?
Mayonnaise is not an outright harmful food, however, its consumption during pregnancy must be done cautiously. Here are a few reasons why it should be avoided or limited to small amounts during pregnancy.
- Bacteria: If you consume mayonnaise that is infected with salmonella, it could lead to extreme dehydration, bacteria in the bloodstream, meningitis, and reactive arthritis. Also, your baby can get infected with salmonellosis.
Mayonnaise made with raw egg can also have the risk of containing listeria bacteria, which can lead to listeriosis, a very rare disease during pregnancy. (10)
- High calories: Adding a teaspoon of mayonnaise once in a while may not be such a problem in this case. However, use of mayonnaise in high amounts and on a regular basis could lead to overconsumption when combined with other high calorie food that you take every day. This could lead to excess weight gain.
- Fat content: During pregnancy, your body needs more fat than usual due to physiological reasoning such as gaining fat tissue around the pelvic area to support the labor process. Therefore, 30-35% of your total calories must come from fat and preferably MUFA (11). However, overconsumption must be avoided. A study in 2016 found that excess fat consumption by the mother can damage the baby’s immune system (12). Another study by The Cleveland Clinic and West Virginia University, says that children born to mothers with high fat levels will have obesity problems later in their life.
- Sugar and sodium levels: Mayonnaise is high both in sugar and sodium, the two ingredients which need to be taken in limited quantities during pregnancy. Research studies have shown that in the long run, high sugar foods can lead to diabetes and sodium could potentially increase your blood pressure (13).
- Artificial preservatives: Mayonnaise available in the market is preserved with chemicals and additives. They are mostly safe but some women might have side-effects such as nausea and weakness. They can also prove to be allergic to some women, putting their pregnancy at risk.
How can you satisfy your urge to eat mayonnaise while not getting affected with its side-effects during pregnancy? Follow these safety measures and enjoy your spread:
- Check the ingredients: If you are eating mayonnaise at a restaurant or an eatery, always find out the ingredients that have gone into it. Do not shy away from asking if the eggs used were pasteurized. If they were raw, make sure that they are British Lion stamped, as they are safe for consumption.
- Check the label: Do check the label of mayonnaise you buy in the supermarket to know its fat content, information on preservatives, and more such details. Check whether or not the mayonnaise contains raw eggs, and if yes, do not eat them.
- Use a clean knife: When taking mayonnaise out of the jar, to apply on your food, use a clean knife to ensure that there are no bacteria or germs on it.
Alternatives To Mayonnaise
Any variations of mayonnaise that do not contain egg are not considered to be mayonnaise in the US, as the Food and Drug Administration does not allow for their labeling in that name (14).
Egg-free alternatives to mayonnaise are a great choice for pregnant women who are allergic to egg or are vegans. Brands such as Nayonaise and Vegenaise in the US, and Plamil Egg Free in the UK are famous substitutes for mayonnaise.
If you love to have your sandwiches or bread with a spread but want to avoid mayo during pregnancy, opt healthier alternatives such as:
- Tofu mayonnaise
- Almond and cashew paste spread
- Plain yogurt
- Fat-free sour cream
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Why is commercial mayonnaise safe?
Commercial mayonnaise are safe and bacteria-free because they are prepared from pasteurized eggs and undergo a series of processes that kill food-borne illnesses.
The Association for Dressings and Sauces in the US has observed that commercial mayonnaise does not cause foodborne illness as it is made of pasteurized eggs.
The presence of salt, lemon juice, and other acids do not allow the growth of bacteria.
2. Are Hollandaise and Bearnaise sauces safe to eat during pregnancy?
Both Hollandaise and Bearnaise sauces are made of egg and clarified butter. The two ingredients are mixed on low heat. This is different from mayonnaise because mayonnaise involves blending of eggs with vegetable oil, without any heating.
Just like mayonnaise, they may be eaten if the eggs are pasteurized and are not home-made. Heating can kill infection-causing bacteria to an extent, but pregnancy is not the time to take such risks.
3. Can I consume expired mayonnaise when I am pregnant?
Generally, expired mayonnaise is not harmful. It can be eaten for three to four months after its ‘best-before’ date if it is a branded product and stored at the right temperature after opening it.
However, it is advisable not to eat it during pregnancy as any growing bacteria can affect your health.
You don’t have to resist the temptation of savoring the flavor of rich, creamy mayonnaise when pregnant because eating in moderation won’t hurt you or your baby, but it’s still best to be cautious. While commercially sold mayonnaise, with or without eggs, is deemed completely safe, homemade mayonnaise and those found in food corners should be avoided since they may include raw, undercooked, or unpasteurized eggs. So go ahead and use this delectable creamy spread in your sandwiches, salads, pasta, and other favorite foods, but make sure to use high-quality commercially available mayonnaise.
2. Mina Mirzanajafi-Zanjani et al.; Challenges and approaches for production of a healthy and functional mayonnaise sauce; National Center For Biotechnology Information (2018)
3. Dairy and Eggs from Food Safety for Moms to Be; USFDA
4. Foods to avoid in pregnancy; NHS
5. Is Hellman’s Mayo Safe During Pregnancy?; World Safety 2018
6. Dietary Guidelines For Americans; USDA
7. Micronutrient Needs During Pregnancy and Lactation; Oregon State University
8. Vitamins A, E, and K; National Center For Biotechnology Information
9. Berthold Koletzko et al.; Dietary fat intakes for pregnant and lactating women; ESPEN
10. Listeria (Listeriosis); Centers For Disease Control And Prevention
11. Eating Right Before and During Pregnancy; University of California San Francisco
12. Derrick M. Chu et al.; Impact of maternal nutrition in pregnancy and lactation on offspring gut microbial composition and function; National Center For Biotechnology Information (2016)
13. Salad dressings; Diabetes, UK
14. “Just Mayo” Just Isnt Warns FDA; FAS