I can’t live without fluffy holiday potatoes! But now we have 4 big problems: 1) White potatoes are a high-carb, low-nutrient invitation to elevated blood sugar and weight gain. 2) Nightshade intolerance is more common. 3) GMO potatoes are here! 4) The Paleo diet excludes white potatoes. So I decided to test 6 different veggies to find a tastier, healthier alternative to mashed potatoes. And they’re ALL fabulicious!
Top row: Cauliflower, Japanese Sweet Potato, Celery root
Bottom row: Parsnip, Garnet Yam, Broccoli
The Rise and Fall of Mashed Potatoes
Unknown in Europe until the late 1500’s, the potato comes from South America, brought to Europe by Spanish conquistadors. Potatoes are easier to grow than wheat, and by the late 1700’s became the #1 staple crop in northern Europe. Peasants could pretty much live on potatoes grown in their own gardens. Poor Irish folk survived on potatoes, suffering malnutrition, food reactions, and an epidemic of “dropsy”, which is joint swelling and water retention. In the 1840’s a strange fungus ravaged the entire potato crop four years in a row. The resulting Irish potato famine wiped out one fourth of the population and forced millions to immigrate to the USA. Nowadays we enjoy a wide variety of potatoes, from Yukon gold to Fingerlings, each with a distinctive flavor. But we still have problems:
Uh Oh! White Potatoes are Nightshades
All nightshade vegetables increase your risk of arthritis and auto-immune disease. If you suffer from gluten or dairy intolerance, mood swings, indigestion, joint swelling, edema, arthritis, leaky gut, or intestinal fissures, the hidden culprit could be nightshades. Nightshades are a group of New World vegetables in the Solanaceae family including White Potatoes, Tomatoes, Peppers, and Eggplant. Approximately 38% of Americans are intolerant to nightshades, primarily Caucasians, perhaps because our ancestors simply did not eat them until recently. Yet nightshades are everywhere in Pizza, Potato Chips, Tomato sauce, Gluten-free potato flour, Chili peppers, and yes, Mashed Potatoes! The negative health consequences of nightshades are often delayed weeks, months, or years, making it difficult to trace back to the true cause. When I stopped eating nightshades, my leaky gut vanished. See my article Beware of Nightshades.
GMO Potatoes are now approved by the USDA and the FDA.
This is bad news. Studies confirm that GMO foods change the gut bacteria, destroy intestinal flora, cause auto-immune diseases, food allergies, bloating, obesity, infertility, birth defects, liver atrophy, and altered sperm cells. Even worse, GMO foods block the natural lymphoma defense systems in the gut, increasing the risks of all types of cancer.
If you love mashed potatoes, this year it’s doubly important to look for organic potatoes, or use an alternative veggie for your holiday mash.
6 Healthier Alternatives to Mashed Potatoes:
1. Broccoli – Quick to cook and easy to mash with an immersion blender, broccoli was my favorite flavor. Drain it very well. Broccoli has a high liquid content, so don’t expect stiff mashed broccoli. Broccoli is low in carbs and calories, high in Vitamin C and Vitamin A! Some people might ask jokingly if it’s baby food, however after they taste it, they’ll be asking you for the recipe!
2. Cauliflower – Super-quick to cook, this came out the whitest in color. Cauliflower’s flavor is mild, so you don’t need a lot of coconut oil, salt or pepper to make them deeelicious! Consider adding flavoring – see suggestions below. Cauliflower is very low in calories and carbs, high in Vitamin C, a fantastic choice!
3. Celery root – This was a little firmer to cut into cubes, and took a bit longer – about 15 minutes to boil soft. Celeriac is slightly harder to mash than potatoes, however WOW! The flavor is definitely worth it. The taste is distinctive and rich! Even better, celery root is very low in calories and carbs.
4. Garnet Yams – We love yams! They’re are easy to prepare and mash, quite high in calories and carbs. The best news is that, much like sweet potatoes, the vitamin A content is astronomical, and the flavor is heavenly!
5. Japanese Sweet Potato – Oh boy! Fantastic flavor! With a fuller and richer taste than regular potatoes, and a white color, they make great mashed potatoes. When cutting, put them into water right away so they don’t darken. Japanese sweet potatoes came out highest in calories and carbs. However they’re also high in vitamins, with 300% to 500% the vitamin content of white potatoes!
6. Parsnips – I love their subtle rustic sweetness, and find the flavor very satisfying. Old fashioned parsnips are super-easy to prepare and mash. Medium in calories and carbs, parsnips have more Vitamin C than white potatoes. A great choice!
How to Prepare Your Alternative Mash:
- This is the easy part. Peel and cut your chosen veggie into 1/2-inch cubes.
- Place in boiling salted water. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to simmer until a fork penetrates easily. Keep an eye it. This will take 3 to 15 minutes depending on your vegetable.
- Drain very well in a colander.
- Use an immersion blender to mash them in the same pan, adding plenty of coconut oil, unprocessed salt, and pepper. Be patient, keep going, and they’ll soon be smooth and fluffy. Serve!
What Oil is Best?
Use your favorite oil. I used coconut oil because it is unprocessed. Olive oil is also wonderful. Organic ghee is great, and it adds an exotic flavor that traditionalists might find unfamiliar. Organic butter is another good option, which eliminates GMO grains, confinement, and hormones. I avoid grass-fed dairy, butter and ghee because the “grass-fed” verification is voluntary on the part of the farmer, so that frequently grass-fed animals may be treated to GMO grains, confinement, antibiotics, and added hormones, all harmful to health.
Add Optional Flavorings!
Herbs – such as tarragon, thyme, chives, green onions, scallions, cilantro, parsley, sage, rosemary, cumin, garlic, shallots.
Spices – such as red pepper, chipotle, saffron, nutmeg, fennel seeds, curry.
Other flavorings – such as bacon, Dairy-free Parmesan Cheese, pine nuts, chorizo, sausage, chard, or nuts.
Nutrient Comparison of Mashed Potato Alternatives:
I don’t usually count calories and carbs, however these comparisons are FASCINATING! As the chart and graphs show, broccoli and cauliflower are deliciously low in carbs, high in nutrients. And garnet yam is LOADED with Vitamin A!
Broccoli and cauliflower get the award for lowest calories and carbs. Japanese sweet potatoes are HIGHEST!
Garnet Yam gets first prize for vitamin A content. Broccoli gets second prize for vitamins. White potatoes are the LOWEST in vitamins!
We taste-tested all 6 alternatives at my Qigong class. Every one received enthusiastic reviews!
Back row: Cauliflower, Japanese Sweet Potatoes, Celery root
Front row: Parsnip, Garnet yam, Broccoli
Happy Mashing! Jane