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Are Mashed Potatoes Healthy?

author image Carly Schuna
Carly Schuna is a Wisconsin-based professional writer, editor and copy editor/proofreader. She has worked with hundreds of pieces of fiction, nonfiction, children's literature, feature stories and corporate content. Her expertise on food, cooking, nutrition and fitness information comes from years of in-depth study on those and other health topics.
Are Mashed Potatoes Healthy?
A small bowl of mashed potatoes on a cloth. Photo Credit HandmadePictures/iStock/Getty Images

Mashed potatoes are a vegetable, so it’s natural to think that they’re always good for you. And while unadulterated mashed potatoes are relatively low in calories and have plenty of vitamins, minerals and nutrients, the same isn’t necessarily true for traditionally prepared mashed potatoes combined with butter and milk.

Nutrition Facts

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1 cup of homemade mashed potatoes prepared with butter and whole milk contains about 240 calories, 4 grams of protein, 9 grams of fat, 35 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 12.5 milligrams of vitamin C and 600 milligrams of potassium. In contrast, a medium baked potato with no additions has fewer calories and more fiber, vitamin C, potassium and protein than both varieties of mashed -- 170 calories, 4.5 grams of protein, 0.25 gram of fat, 37 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber, 14.5 milligrams of vitamin C and 950 milligrams of potassium.

Health Implications

Potatoes inherently have healthy amounts of fiber, protein and starchy carbohydrates, and in their basic form, they’re certified as a heart-healthy food by the American Heart Association. Peeling them, mashing them and combining them with butter and cream or milk, however, severely cuts down on their fiber content and significantly increases their calorie, saturated fat and cholesterol content. According to the AHA, eating too much saturated fat and cholesterol can increase your blood cholesterol levels and raise your risk of heart disease.

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Filling Fiber

Losing some fiber by peeling and mashing potatoes may not seem like a big deal, but dietary fiber plays an important role in both weight management and digestive health. According to Dr. Melina Jampolis, physician nutrition specialist for CNN.com, fiber adds bulk to your diet without adding calories, delaying blood sugar increases and keeping you fuller for longer periods of time. Because mashed potatoes have less fiber than whole potatoes and more calories per serving, it can be easy to overeat and gain weight with them. One cup of mashed potatoes with milk and butter has 3 grams of fiber, which is about 8 percent of the RDA for men and about 12 percent of the RDA for women.

A Side of Health

There are ways to preserve the naturally healthy qualities of potatoes when serving them mashed. The first is to leave on the skin and mash it along with the insides of the potato. That will boost the fiber content per serving and make the texture of the potatoes more complex. If you’re preparing mashed potatoes with butter and milk, use scant amounts and opt for nonfat milk rather than whole to save calories, fat and cholesterol. Mashing cooked cauliflower and mixing it with your potatoes provides a greater variety of vitamins and minerals and fewer net calories per serving.

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