There's nothing quite like a serving of soft, buttery mash to fill and comfort you on a chilly winter's day. But while savoring this dish occasionally is fine, it's a good idea to use a substitute for butter in mashed potatoes if you're eating them regularly.
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Why Butter Can Be Unhealthy
According to the USDA, 1 tablespoon of butter contains 102 calories and 11.5 grams of fat. Significantly, 7.3 grams of this is saturated fat, which the American Heart Association (AHA) says can raise your "bad" cholesterol and put you at higher risk for heart disease.
According to the latest dietary guidelines from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, saturated fat should make up no more than 10 percent of total calories, which the Mayo Clinic says equates to no more than 22 grams of saturated fat a day for a person eating a 2,000 calorie diet.
This means that when you eat a portion of mash with a tablespoon of butter added, you are getting one-third of the daily recommended maximum of saturated fat from this side dish alone.
If you already have heart disease you may wish to follow the alternative AHA recommendation for saturated fat intake, which is lower at just 13 grams a day.
Add Oil, Margarine and Milk
Oils such as canola oil and olive oil are lower in saturated fat and higher in the better-for-you unsaturated oils that are good for the heart, according to the AHA. Drizzling in a little of either oil in makes a great substitute for butter in mashed potatoes.
Though oil is healthier, it is even higher in calories than butter, however, so take care if you are weight-watching. A tablespoon of olive oil has 118 calories according to the USDA.
The Mayo Clinic also recommends making healthier garlic mashed potatoes with trans fat-free margarine, which again helps create a comforting creamy texture, but is much lower in saturated fat than butter.
A little milk along with either oil or trans fat-free margarine will also help to make a softer texture for your mash. A half cup of whole milk adds a valuable extra 3.8 grams protein and 138 milligrams of calcium to your mash, according to the USDA.
As well as using a substitute for butter in mashed potatoes, season them with herbs and spices to make them tastier and reduce your reliance on fat as a flavor-enhancer. Paprika, garlic powder, parsley and rosemary all work well.
Is Mash Healthy?
If you enjoy mashed potatoes with canola oil, or have mashed potatoes with olive oil and milk, you're definitely having a healthier version. But keep in mind that potatoes aren't generally regarded by nutrition experts as particularly good for you.
In fact, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: Nutrition Source says that over the long term, diets high in potatoes and similarly rapidly digested, high carbohydrate foods can contribute to obesity, diabetes and heart disease. This is because they are high in the type of carbohydrate that the body digests rapidly, causing blood sugar and insulin to surge and then dip (in scientific terms, they have a high glycemic load).
One smart option is to replace half the potato with cannellini beans, as beans contain fiber and protein and cause much less of a spike in blood sugar. Or you could switch to another type of vegetable mash altogether, for example, our Creamy Parmesan Cauliflower Puree or Gruyere Whipped Celery Root.
Read more: Are Baked Potatoes Healthy?
- USDA FoodData Central: "Butter, Salted"
- American Heart Association: "Saturated Fat"
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020"
- Mayo Clinic: "Nutrition and Healthy Eating"
- American Heart Association: "Healthy Cooking Oils"
- Mayo Clinic: "Garlic Mashed Potatoes"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Milk, Whole"
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: Nutrition Source: "The Problem With Potatoes"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Olive Oil"