This or That: Mayo
You know you should be reading the labels when you go to the grocery store, but do you really know what you are looking for? The labels on food products can be one of the most confusing things when it comes to trying to make good choices for you and your family. And one of the biggest reasons it's so confusing is due to the front of the package. This area is like an advertisement for the product. Often, it highlights what the company wants you to know about the product, but it doesn't always tell the whole story.
Over the course of several blog posts, I want to help you demystify label reading a bit, by showing you some common products, and helping you to understand what to look for when choosing them. First up is mayonnaise. Probably something that is in the refrigerators of most people. And it seems like every year there are more and more choices as companies try to "healthify" their product. I have chosen two seemingly similar products here for us to use as comparison. Both indicate by the front label they are made with avocado oil. This would make us happy, right? We know avocado oil is good for us as it's a great source of healthy fats. The Hellmann's product also indicates it's a source of Vitamin E and Omega 3's as well (ALA). Seems like a win.....or does it?
I always teach my clients to never buy a product just based on the front label. Remember, that's the advertisement. It's purpose is to grab your attention, but it doesn't give you all the info. You have to turn the product over because the true information you need is always on the back (or the side depending on the package). It's the INGREDIENTS that matter most. Let's take a look at the Hellmann's brand first. When you look down below the nutrition label, you see the list of ingredients. It's important to note that the order of ingredients matter. What you see first is what makes up the most of the product. The list goes in order from most to least, which is important for you to understand so you know what is making up the majority of what you are eating.
When you look at this label, you see the avocado oil that was advertised on the front label is actually part of a blend of oils which also include canola and soybean oils. It's not clear how much of each type of oil is in the blend; however, while avocado oil is good for you, canola and soybean are not. Both of the latter oils are inflammatory in nature and can also be hormone disruptors. Since this oil blend is the first ingredient, we know it makes up a substantial amount of the product along with the second listed ingredient which is eggs. Nothing wrong there - it's mayo after all, so we expect eggs. Then you see modified corn starch and sugar. Both can spike blood sugar; however it's interesting the amount of sugar is not listed on the label.
Looking a little farther down and you see sorbic acid and calcium disodium EDTA - both of which are food additives. The topic of food additives could be it's own blog post so let me just say if you are trying to cut our additives from your diet, be aware of these two. I also want to note that EDTA is on the FDA's list of food additives to be studied for toxicity. Now notice the Vitamin E after those additives. Remember that it was advertised on the front label? And yet it's all the way at the bottom of the ingredient label meaning it's not a sufficient amount. The label does indicate 20% but we also don't know the source. Is it in the avocado oil? Did they add in a synthetic form of Vitamin E? It's unclear. Finally we see natural flavors listed, which always raises a red flag. Because if it was truly natural, why wouldn't the natural flavors be listed out?
Okay now that we have analyzed that brand, let's take a look at the Primal Kitchen option. Again, we will take a look at the ingredients on the back. The same rules apply to the order of the ingredients, as with any label. First, we see that this brand has just avocado oil. This is good! And just another added piece of information - Vitamin E is in avocado oil so you will get it naturally in this product. It doesn't need to be on the label as an advertisement. You may also notice that the actual list of ingredients is less. That is because this particular brand does not include additives. Every ingredient listed should be something you are familiar with, right? This is what we want to see when choosing our mayo!
I know that often when we go grocery shopping, we just grab our usuals and keep moving. I'm guilty of that too sometimes. But I am going to encourage you to set aside a little more time the next time you shop and take a few minutes to look on the shelves for other brands of your favorite products. Often we can make a small swap, and clean up our diets without having to feel like we are depriving ourselves. Just this simple swap of mayo brands would help cut back on exposure to inflammatory oils and food additives while allowing to still enjoy something you love.
*** The use of these brands was for educational purposes only.