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Picks for the tastiest brands of light and olive oil mayonnaise, plus a recipe for healthy homemade mayonnaise.

It all started with eggs and olive oil. Mayonnaise mania began more than 250 years ago when a French chef, who was whipping up a celebratory sauce, ran out of cream and thought to add olive oil to his eggs instead. This popular European sauce broke onto the American culinary scene in 1905 after Richard Hellmann, a German immigrant, opened a delicatessen in New York. Mrs. Hellmann’s homemade mayonnaise was featured in salads and sold as a condiment.

Today, Americans are passionate about mayonnaise. Which brand reigns supreme depends on where in the United States you reside. Hellmann's is the one to beat on the east coast, and the same brand, sold under the name Best Foods, is king on the west coast. Duke’s, meanwhile, has much of the South sewn up.

But our love for mayo comes at a price, as it's loaded with calories and fat. Spreading just one tablespoon of mayonnaise on your sandwich adds nearly 100 calories and 11 grams of fat to your lunch – and let's face it, many of us don't stop at a tablespoon.

Enter "light," reduced-fat, fat-free and olive oil mayos, which generally have half (or less) the number of calories and fat grams. Most of the major mayonnaise brands offer a lower-fat, lower-calorie variety. Among the latest entries in this category are mayos made with olive oil. (But don't get the idea that these are made exclusively with olive oil; other oils, such as soybean, are usually among the ingredients.)

So just how do you make a condiment based on oil and eggs "light"? Although the two main ingredients in regular mayonnaise are oil and eggs or egg yolks, in light mayonnaise, water is generally the main ingredient (followed by oil, eggs, and modified food starch). With fat-free mayonnaise, it's usually water, sugar, and modified food starch.

Most of the light mayonnaise options we tried had about 45 calories per tablespoon, with about 100 milligrams of sodium, 5 milligrams or less of cholesterol (except Duke’s Light, with 10 milligrams), and 4-5 grams of fat per tablespoon (although Miracle Whip Light has 1.5 grams). Most brands had no saturated fat; the amounts of polyunsaturated fat and monounsaturated fat varied from brand to brand. Best Foods Olive Oil and Duke’s Light had more polyunsaturated fat and Best Foods Canola, Kraft Olive Oil, and Smart Balance had more monounsaturated fat.

As far as taste, the light mayonnaise varieties tend to mirror their full-fat counterparts. If you're a Miracle Whip lover, you'll likely prefer Miracle Whip’s Light. If you're a fan of Best Foods mayonnaise, try one of Best Foods/Hellmann's lighter options (my money is on the Olive Oil Mayonnaise Dressing). If you were raised on Dukes’ zesty mayonnaise, Duke’s Light will likely be a winner for you.

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