Instant mashed potatoes can have similar nutritional benefits to mashed potatoes. Mashed potato flakes are made from real potatoes. If you buy a quality box of instant mashed potatoes, the taste should be similar to that produced from the real thing.
Instant mashed potatoes can provide a healthy starch for your meal, as long as you check the label for sodium and other unhealthy additives.
Nutrient Value of Instant Potatoes
Instant mashed potatoes are made from dehydrated potatoes. They usually come in the form of flakes, although less commonly, are made with granules. Idahoan instant mashed potatoes have the following nutrients in a 1 cup serving:
Mashed potatoes also contain some vitamin B6 and magnesium, up to 10 percent of the RDA, depending on the brand. One-third cup of Bob's Red Mill Instant Mashed Potato Flakes contains 2 percent of the RDA of calcium and iron.
Why Instant Mashed Potatoes?
Instant mashed potatoes provide a good form of carbohydrates, and they provide it fast. Backpackers and other outdoors people praise instant mashed potatoes for their fast energy. There are healthy ways to cook mashed potatoes.
Ultrarunner Nickademus Hollon, speaking to Outside magazine for an October 2017 article, said he mixes water in a bag of instant mashed potatoes and squeezes them into his mouth. He said vitamin C and potassium from instant mashed potatoes are good for muscles and the mashed potatoes are a nice change from an ultrarunner's typical sweet energy bars.
Instant mashed potatoes can be made in a hurry. You're not eating out, and if you add milk and a small amount of butter to plain potato flakes, you're not eating highly processed food with a lot of additives.
Cheap, Good Food
The U.S. Agency for International Development lists dehydrated potato products, including potato flakes and potato granules, as a good form of starch in emergency situations. They can be fortified with protein or micronutrients.
Instant mashed potatoes are an ideal food in areas where nutrition is needed because they are a good source of complex carbs, potassium, vitamin C and vitamin B6, according to U.S. AID. Dehydrated potato products, including forms of mashed potato powder or granules, are described as hypoallergenic and easy to chew, swallow and digest.
Whole potatoes are a preferred staple in much of South America and Africa. Instant mashed potatoes offer a neutral flavor. They are good for children under age 2, and people who are ill or have difficulty eating. They can be combined with other foods, like soups, porridge and bread.
Are Potatoes Good for You?
One of the problems for people who like their potatoes baked, mashed or gussied up with parsley is that potatoes do not have a good reputation. According to Consumer Reports, potatoes have long been linked to obesity, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, but all that negative publicity may be somewhat inaccurate.
Charles Mueller, clinical associate professor in New York University's Department of Nutrition and Food Studies, told Consumer Reports in an August 2018 article that potatoes that are not slathered with butter, sour cream or other high-calorie additives, can be healthy. It all depends on how you eat them.
Even the glycemic spike that can occur from eating potatoes can be minimized if you eat potatoes with a meal that includes protein, the article said. Potatoes are also lower in calories and carbs than white rice and provide more fiber.
Mueller suggests that potatoes be viewed as a starch rather than a vegetable, like whole grains or pasta. He added that replacing potatoes with a whole grain in your meals may help you protect yourself from chronic health problems.
Read more: Negative Side Effects of a Low-Carb Diet
Origin of Instant Potatoes
Instant Potatoes developed in their modern form in the 1950s and 1960s, according to the American Chemical Society, which honored the development of dehydration processes as part of its National Historic Chemical Landmarks program in 2007.
In the 1950s, families were seeking convenience foods as more and more women worked outside the home or looked for relief from household chores. Convenience foods became popular. Meat and leafy green vegetables were more common. There were surpluses of potatoes.
Research began in Philadelphia in 1953 on dehydrating all types of potatoes, not just those grown in Idaho. This research was part of a long history of dehydrating potatoes that stretched back to the Incas, who squeezed the moisture out of potatoes.
Potato flakes were developed at the Philadelphia facility. It took until 1957 to bring the potato flakes to market, and by 1960, more than 4 million bushels of potatoes were converted into flakes. Instant mashed potatoes had found their market. Today, dehydrated potatoes constitute 17 percent of the potato market, according to the National Potato Council.
Preparing Instant Mashed Potatoes
The Idaho Potato Commission touts instant mashed potatoes for their emphasis on potatoes with salt, pepper and sometimes dried milk. When made, the potatoes are then rehydrated with water or milk. The commission says that instant mashed potatoes vs. real potatoes nutrition is very similar. Some now come with potato skin and chunks of potato to add to the flavor.
You can use instant mashed potatoes to make shepherd's pie, says the Mississippi State University Extension. Instant mashed potato flakes can be used to make pie crusts or potato pancakes, croquettes, gnocchi or potato candy, according to Oregon State University.
Read more: Why Potatoes With More Color are Healthiest?
Some Instant Mashed Potato Takeaways
Portion size is important when it comes to eating potatoes, whether you're craving instant mashed potatoes or baked potatoes. So as NYU's Charles Mueller suggested, eat a reasonable portion size of instant mashed potatoes, and eat it with some lean protein.
Instead of using regular milk, add low-fat milk, soy milk, coconut milk or almond milk to the mix. If you want to experiment, use a good quality olive oil instead of butter or margarine. Add some chopped garlic to the mix for garlic mashed potatoes. You can also add some chopped onions to give them flavor. A tablespoon of grated Parmesan cheese will provide flavor without a lot of calories.
So, while instant mashed potatoes aren't exactly a nutritional powerhouse, a box of plain instant mashed potatoes is a cheap, easy and fast meal without a lot of chemical additives, which will make you feel full. Instant mashed potatoes price is right too, and it is a good source for vitamin C and potassium.
- USDA Branded Food Products Database: "Idahoan, Mashed Potatoes, Original"
- National Institutes of Health: "Vitamin C"
- UCSF Health: "Increasing Fiber Intake"
- Bob's Red Mill: "Creamy Potato Flakes Instant Mashed Potatoes"
- Outside Magazine: "5 Endurance Foods Found at Any Gas Station"
- USAID: "Dehydrated Potato Products Fact Sheet"
- Consumer Reports: "Are Potatoes Good For You?"
- American Chemical Society: "Food Dehydration Technology: National Historic Chemical Landmark"
- National Potato Council: "Potato Facts"
- Mississippi State University Extension: "Shepherd's Pie"
- Oregon State University: "Recipe Spotlight: Mashed Potato Flakes"
- Mayo Clinic: "Drugs and Supplements: Potassium Supplement (Oral Route, Parenteral Route)"
- Idaho Potato Commission: "Ask Dr. Potato"