One of the great joys of going ketogenic has to be the freedom to put a huge dollop of mayonnaise onto your plate. Agreed? Suddenly something we always consumed with guilt has become a way to fuel weight loss.
Well yes… and no…
Recently I had a client who was doing all the right things on her ketogenic diet plan, and losing lots of weight, but suffering a return of inflammatory symptoms that hadn’t been part of the picture since childhood. So she decided to come and see me for some advice.
Her diet was a perfect example of how to achieve ketosis, with hardly a carb in sight, but as I scanned her food diary I noticed she was including mayonnaise with nearly every meal. Ostensibly to help ketosis along.
Right there… that was the problem.
The thing is, commercial mayonnaise, even the good stuff, is made with highly processed vegetable or seed oils – for example sunflower oil- which are high in omega 6 fats. We need some of these fats in our diet but there is a limit, and that limit is defined by the amount of omega 3 fats we eat. Ideally the two should be in a 1:1 ration – or 2:1 at worst. When omega 6 fats creep up, inflammatory symptoms tend to creep up too. And given that inflammation is a factor in most chronic and critical illness, that’s not a good thing.
Given that you only get omega 3 fats from oily fish, walnuts, flax seeds, flax seed oil and a small amount from dark green leafy veg, you can see why eating lots of mayonnaise, which is almost 100% fat, would make it hard to keep them in balance. And that would lead to a rise in inflammation that is seriously damaging to your health.
Of course there are times when only mayonnaise will do but I recommend eating it only two or three times a week. Don’t bother with the low fat varieties, just follow the advice below to ‘dilute’ it with other things to minimise the impact.
- For example, when I make coleslaw I use a mixture of mayonnaise, Greek yoghurt and extra virgin olive oil (XVOO) to coat the vegetables.
- For prawn salad use creme fraiche with lime juice.
- For making salmon or tuna mayo try half XVOO, half mayonnaise and increase the lemon juice.
- For dishes where you might put mayo on the side, sour cream and chive dip seems to work just as well instead.
- For egg mayonnaise, there is simply no substitute – it’s got to be 100% mayo every time.
It’s worth looking at the overall levels of omega 6 fats in your diet to make sure your ketogenic efforts aren’t adding to your body’s inflammatory load. Here are the fats to be aware of:
- anything called ‘vegetable oil’
- safflower oil
- sunflower oil
- grapeseed oil
- rapeseed oil
- corn oil
- wheat germ oil
- soybean oil
- hemp seed oil
- french dressing – and other bottle dressings
- sesame oil
- pumpkin seed oil
- light mayonnaise
- marie rose sauce
- thousand island dressing
- Caesar dressing
- peanut oil
- groundnut oil
- crisps and tortilla chips
- chips – oven and chip shop
- deep fried foods
- intensively reared meats, especially non-organic chicken
- commercially produced cakes and pastries
To be clear there are some healthy foods that have a fair amount of omega 6 fats in them, like butter, cheese, eggs, milk, beef, lamb, chicken and pork, which makes it all the more important to keep non-essential sources as low as possible in your diet. Generally speaking, choosing organic meat and dairy will give you a more ideal omega 3/6 balance than non-organic because the animals are fed on the right diet which translates to a healthy fatty acid in their body and, thus, in your body.
PS I used to be happy to include hemp seed oil on the ‘good fats’ list because it’s ratio of omega 6 to 3 is better than most seed oils. But I’ve noticed that it’s so hard for clients to keep omega 6 fats down that I don’t recommend it any more.