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Are Mashed Potatoes Good for Weight Loss? (It Depends)

Weight Loss & Diets | Written by Nathan | Updated on 24 January 2022

Who said that comfort foods had to be unhealthy? Mashed potatoes might not be the first food to come to mind when thinking of healthy weight loss options, but, with a little imagination and a bit of dedication, there is no reason they can’t be. 

Mashed potatoes are good for weight loss, and can provide you with a wide array of vitamins, minerals, and complex carbs that your body needs. However, it depends on how you prepare them. 

The secret is simply to eat potatoes in moderation and do your best to avoid the high-calorie and high-fat additives that typically come with mashers. First, let’s explore how and why potatoes can be used in a diet or weight loss regimen before we explain what to look out for. Then, finally, we’ll show you how to make your own healthy, homemade mashed potatoes.

Why Mashed Potatoes Are Good for Weight Loss

Potatoes have saved entire civilizations from starvation, so there has to be something to them, right? They are, in fact, loaded with vitamins and minerals and are full of many essential nutrients that benefit your body.

  • Rich in Nutrients

There is no denying the fact that potatoes provide an array of nutritional benefits that your body needs, like starch, iron, magnesium, zinc, calcium, potassium, fiber, antioxidants, vitamin A, vitamin B-6, and vitamin C, among others [1, 2]. 

  • Complex Carbohydrate

Potatoes are a great source of starch, an important complex carbohydrate, and a crucial asset for long-term fitness. Complex carbs play a huge role in a lifestyle of healthy eating and exercise. They are essentially long chains of sugar molecules that your body breaks down and uses as energy, and an active lifestyle requires a lot of fuel, right? In fact, including complex carbs in your healthy diet is so important that we consider it one of our weight loss rules to live by

  • Adequate Fiber

Complex carbs also break down into fiber, and if you’re looking to lose weight, fiber is absolutely a key player. Fiber promotes a feeling of fullness. An average, medium-sized sweet potato has about 6 grams of fiber, about half of which can be found in the skin alone [3]. So be sure to leave the peel on.

  • Low Calorie (When Prepared Properly)

An average, medium-sized sweet potato contains only about 110 calories. Potatoes can help you feel full even if you are taking in fewer calories per day. This is known as a calorie deficit, and it happens when you burn more calories than you consume. As this is one of the most important aspects of weight loss, eating healthy mashed potatoes can help you reach your weight loss goals by making you feel full while eating less.

Top off your potato meal with a big glass of water and you’ll feel full without treading anywhere near your daily calorie ceiling. But before you get overly excited about healthy potato recipes, let us enlighten you on why mashed potatoes can be dangerous when dieting. 

What Can Make Mashed Potatoes Bad for Weight Loss?

It goes without saying that your creamy, loaded holiday mashers are not the healthy option we’re talking about. Now that we’ve discussed potatoes’ many benefits, here is what to watch out for so you can ensure you are optimizing your potatoes as a healthy food:

Calorie-Dense Condiments

The addition of high-calorie ingredients like bacon bits, gravy, butter, and cheese can exceed your daily recommended fat amounts and can make mashed potatoes unhealthy, ultimately leading you to gain weight. 

Although potatoes are full of good vitamins and carbs, they have a high glycemic index, meaning they have the potential to increase blood sugar levels by rapidly releasing glucose into the bloodstream [10]. This can pose a big risk for people with diabetes or people who don’t live a particularly active lifestyle. Again, moderation is key. For foods high on the glycemic index, like potatoes, Harvard Medical School suggests eating them primarily as an energy recovery food after exercise.

That said, it is generally the added ingredients that make mashed potatoes more of a high-calorie indulgence than a healthy source of vitamins, carbs, and minerals. 

Refined Carbs, Salt, Sugar, and Other Unhealthy Additives

Complex carbohydrates fuel your body with energy, but refined carbohydrates from processed foods do not give the same benefits and should be avoided if you want to get skinny & drop a dress size fast. Instant mashed potatoes are especially loaded with refined carbs, preservatives, hydrogenated oils, and artificial colorings. 

There can be more sugar and salt lurking in your mashed potatoes than you realize. Adding sugar to sweet potato dishes and extra butter to other potato dishes can steer you away from mashed potatoes that are good for weight loss. Sodium encourages your body to retain water, which is exactly what you don’t want to happen because it leads to bloating and increased belly fat. Other factors that can make mashed potatoes unhealthy are preservatives in items like bacon bits, cheese, and sour cream. 

The secrets to healthy mashed potatoes are pretty simple: 

  • cutting out processed additives and excessive salt, sugar, and fats
  • eating potatoes in moderation as part of an active lifestyle and varied, healthy diet 

Once you figure out what can make mashed potatoes unhealthy, it’s time to make them as healthy as possible while still enjoying their starchy greatness.

Best Types of Mashed Potatoes for Weight Loss

Potato and potato skin being mashed together for a healthy mashed potato dish.

 

Recent studies suggest that sweet potatoes do help you lose weight when combined with a healthy, varied diet rich in other vegetables. Sweet potatoes appear to be the healthiest tuber option, based on present research [4, 5].

Purple, Russet, and white potatoes all contain iron, magnesium, potassium, fiber, antioxidants, and starch. Recent studies, however, have shown that sweet potatoes and pigmented potatoes (purple, red, and yellow) have higher concentrations of these bioactive compounds and can more effectively fight inflammation [6]. There’s healthier options out there, but potatoes can provide you with several vitamins that help with weight loss and boost metabolism too.

Best Way to Prepare Potatoes for Weight Loss

Some folks preach the benefits of raw potato noshing because they retain considerably more resistant starch than cooked potatoes [7]. These resistant starches are named such because they do not break down in the small intestine and end up fermenting in the large intestine. While this can lead to balancing your GI tract with healthy prebiotic bacteria, regularly eating high quantities of raw potatoes can give you severe discomfort, diarrhea, bloating, and constipation. You also run the risk of potential pathogens not being killed off by high heat.

We recommend the cleaner, simpler methods of baking or boiling—rather than frying in oil—to ensure your mashed potatoes are good for weight loss

Now that we’ve discussed potato quality, let’s get into potato quantity.

How Much Mashed Potatoes Should I Eat for Weight Loss?

The amount of mashed potatoes you should eat depends on your age, weight, body type, sex, lifestyle, and other factors. The United States Department of Agriculture generally recommends 2-3 cups of vegetables per day for adult women and 3-4 cups for adult men [8]. We certainly do not suggest that you forego your other veggies in favor of a pure potato diet. However, you do need starchy vegetables for metabolic regulation and energy—no question. So how do you know what the right amount of potatoes is for you? 

The USDA has a general rule of thumb for recommended portion sizes [9]. To help stay on track and make sure you’re not eating too many potatoes, divide your dinner plate into the following three sections:

  • ¼ of your plate for proteins (meat, beans, etc.)
  • ¼ of your plate for whole grains or starches (quinoa, brown rice, sweet potatoes, etc.)
  • ½ of your plate for other veggies

For potatoes to have the best impact on your diet, you should still be eating greater quantities of leafy greens and other veggies. Based on these guidelines, start with a cup of potatoes per day. As always, consult your doctor about the potato diet if you have diabetes, heart disease, or other underlying medical conditions.

Healthy Homemade Mashed Potato Recipe

You can make delicious, healthy homemade mashed potatoes for weight loss in a few easy, inexpensive steps. 

  • 2-3 medium-sized sweet potatoes
  • 1 tbsp. of coconut oil
  • 1-2 tsp of salt
  • 1 bunch of green onions
  • Black pepper and garlic powder, to taste
  • A pinch of clove
  • ½ cup unsweetened almond milk (optional)
  • Medium stockpot
  • Potato masher, or a similar implement of destruction

Instructions

Rather than boiling, we decided to bake our sweet potatoes to get that caramelized flavor. Follow these easy steps for baked, healthy mashed potatoes:

  1. Preheat your oven to 420 degrees.
  2. Always wash your produce! Halve the potatoes lengthwise. Place on a baking sheet lined with foil, with the flesh side of the potatoes facing up. Roast in the oven at 420 degrees, about 40-45 min.
  3. Check for softness and remove from oven. Cut the skins into smaller bits when the potatoes are not too hot to touch.
  4. Place a medium-sized stockpot on the stove on Low-Medium. Add coconut oil. 
  5. Add potatoes and skins. 
  6. Add salt, pepper, cloves, garlic, and green onions. Add almond milk (optional).
  7. Get mashing! If you don’t have a potato masher at home, you can use any number of common items, like a mason jar, a smaller pot, or a pint glass. Mash until you get a smooth consistency, making sure all ingredients are incorporated.

Nutrients

If you’re tracking your calories or macronutrients, here’s the nutritional value of this dish:

  • Calories: 365-400
  • Sodium: 8g
  • Carbs: 82g
  • Fat: 16g
  • Protein: 8g 
  • Fiber: 14g

Serve this easy dish up with a side of fresh spinach and a wedge of lemon, and, voila!

Conclusion

Potatoes are inexpensive and virtually universal. If you’re looking to add an affordable, low-calorie meal to your diet or weight loss program, potatoes may be a surprising ally for you. Potatoes provide you with complex carbs that break down to essential energy for your body to stay active, and they deliver a wide array of other nutrients and vitamins. Mashed potatoes are good for weight loss, but it all depends on how you prepare them. 

Potatoes can help you move closer to your fitness goals, provided you prepare them in a health-conscious way and balance them with a varied diet and exercise. 

6 Related Articles:

  1. Is quinoa good for weight loss? 
  2. Is chicken and rice good for weight loss?
  3. Is almond milk good for weight loss?
  4. Are protein shakes good for weight loss?
  5. Is shrimp good for weight loss?
  6. Are honey nut cheerios good for weight loss?

References

[1] Cleveland Clinic. (2021, January 21). Health Essentials: Are Potatoes Healthy? https://health.clevelandclinic.org/are-potatoes-healthy/

[2] Andre, C. M., Ghislain, M., Bertin, P., et al. (2007). Andean potato cultivars (Solanum tuberosum L.) as a source of antioxidant and mineral micronutrients. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry55(2), 366–378. https://doi.org/10.1021/jf062740i

[3] Akyol, H., Riciputi, Y., Capanoglu, E., et al. (2016). Phenolic compounds in the potato and its byproducts: an overview. International journal of molecular sciences17(6), 835. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms17060835

[4] Greger, M. (2012, November 8). What is the healthiest potato? https://nutritionfacts.org/questions/what-is-the-healthiest-potato/

[5] Shih, C. K., Chen, C. M., Hsiao, T. J., et al. (2019). White Sweet Potato as Meal Replacement for Overweight White-Collar Workers: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Nutrients11(1), 165. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11010165

[6] Kerrie L. K., Jean Soon Park, C. R., Brown, B. D., et al. (2011). Pigmented potato consumption alters oxidative stress and inflammatory damage in men. The Journal of Nutrition141(1), 108–111. https://doi.org/10.3945/jn.110.128074

[7] Robertson, T. M., Alzaabi, A. Z., Robertson, M. D., et al. (2018). Starchy carbohydrates in a healthy diet: the role of the humble potato. Nutrients10(11), 1764. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10111764

[8] The United States Department of Agriculture. (n.d.) Vegetables. https://www.myplate.gov/eat-healthy/vegetables

[9] Sandall, P. (2019, September 6). Love potatoes? 4 steps for a lower glycemic load. https://conscienhealth.org/2019/09/love-potatoes-4-steps-for-a-lower-glycemic-load/

[10] Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. (2021). The Nutrition Source: the problem with potatoes. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/2014/01/24/the-problem-with-potatoes/

About the Author

Nathan

Nathan has been a fitness enthusiast for the past 12 years and jumps between several types of training such as bodybuilding, powerlifting, cycling, gymnastics, and backcountry hiking. Due to the varying caloric needs of numerous sports, he has cycled between all types of diets and currently eats a whole food diet. In addition, Nathan lives with several injuries such as hip impingement, spondylolisthesis, and scoliosis, so he underwent self-rehabilitation and no longer lives with debilitating pain.