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Healthier Mashed Potatoes and Shepherd’s Pie: Comfort Foods to Bust Stress

Everyone loves mashed potatoes. They’re the perfect comfort food in winter and for when you’re really hungry because they’re quick and easy to make. Unfortunately, they’re also full of butter, which is bad for your waistline and for the health of your heart.

But that doesn’t mean you have to skip eating mashed potatoes entirely. Mashed potatoes can actually help with several symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS), as well as improve your overall health. With a few changes, you can still eat them on their own or as part of your favorite dishes. And once you learn how easy it is to make healthier mashed potatoes, you’ll be happy to include them in your weekly meal plans.

The Health Benefits of Potatoes
Potatoes can be found all over the world and people of almost every culture eat them in countless variations and dishes. There are several different types of potatoes as well, each of them with different benefits for your overall health and wellbeing. So if you’re making healthier mashed potatoes, then it’s worth trying some of the different colored potato varieties to enjoy greater benefits for your health and wellbeing. But potatoes aren’t only popular and tasty, even the more common yellow variety have a number of health benefits that you should know about. These include the following:

Potatoes contain lots of vitamin C as well as smaller amounts of vitamin A, B, and bioflavonoids.
They’re rich in minerals such as potassium, calcium, iron, and phosphorus.
Potatoes are about 70-80 percent water, so the idea that they make you gain weight is completely false. It’s what you mix with them that makes the difference.
They’re one of the best natural sources of essential starch, especially when cold or uncooked. When they’re hot and cooked, they contain less starch.
They contain carbohydrates for energy.
What is AFS?
AFS is a stress-related disorder that occurs when your adrenal glands become fatigued because of a prolonged period of stress. Your adrenal glands are a key component of your NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response. This is the network of systems in your body that makes changes that help your body cope with and respond to stress. When this system is activated, it can lead to you feeling more awake, alert, and ready to face whatever comes next when confronted with a stressful situation. Your adrenal glands are partially responsible for these feelings of alertness because they release cortisol into your system, a hormone that controls alertness. But the NEM Stress Response isn’t designed to function for long periods of time, and when it does, it can cause the adrenal glands to become fatigued and stop functioning properly.

AFS can result in a combination of frustrating and inconclusive symptoms that can be difficult to diagnose and are often dismissed as just a part of being tired and overworked. These symptoms can include weight gain, lethargy, intestinal problems, brain fog, anxiety, palpitations, hair loss, and increased susceptibility to infections. If you have any of these symptoms, but your doctor can’t find a cause, it could be time to talk to them about AFS.


Low Cortisol Levels and Anthocyanins
When you have AFS, your adrenal glands become too fatigued to release cortisol in appropriate amounts for your body and life circumstances. This is a key cause of many of the symptoms that occur with AFS because cortisol is responsible for keeping you awake and alert, and if you don’t have enough in your system you will suffer from general and persistent lethargy.

However, eating healthier mashed potatoes can help reduce the negative effects of fluctuating cortisol levels. Especially dark colored potatoes contain anthocyanins, which can help control the effects of lowered cortisol levels and alleviate some AFS symptoms. Anthocyanins are found in certain fruits and vegetables, including potatoes, and have powerful anti-inflammatory properties. This means that they can help control and reduce the chronic inflammation that people with AFS often experience.

How Healthier Mashed Potatoes Can Aid Weight Loss
One of the more annoying symptoms that occurs as a result of AFS is unexplained weight gain. Sufferers often find that they put on extra weight and find it hard to lose it again no matter what they try. Although potatoes have a bad reputation for weight loss efforts, this is completely undeserved and is probably caused by all the extras people eat with their potatoes such as fatty meats, butter, and full cream milk. You can avoid the problems that these extras create simply by making healthier mashed potatoes.

There are a number of reasons why potatoes can help you lose weight. Firstly, they’re mostly water, which means that they will help you hydrate, but they won’t make you put on too much weight. They’re also a bulky food, which means they can help cut down on cravings and make you feel fuller after meals and less like snacking. They also contain sugar, which can give you a boost of energy when you’re feeling tired. Just make sure you to eat healthier mashed potatoes in moderation, like most healthy foods, because too much can lead to weight gain.

How Potatoes Can Help Stomach Upsets
People with AFS often complain of indigestion or other stomach disorders. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) in particular is often associated with AFS and makes life more difficult and unpredictable for people with this problem.

Eating healthier mashed potatoes can be a good solution for this. They’re easy to digest, and won’t upset even the most sensitive stomach. In addition, they’re also full of fiber, which can make for easy digestion and help stave off more serious intestinal problems. Just make sure you don’t eat too many of them, as they can cause heartburn if they’re eaten regularly for a long period of time.

Recipe for Healthier Mashed Potatoes and Shepherd’s Pie
Ingredients for Mashed Potatoes:

2 large potatoes, peeled and chopped into 2-inch pieces
1 small head cauliflower, chopped into 2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup unsweetened milk alternative (e.g. soy or almond milk)
salt and pepper to taste
Ingredients for Shepherd’s Pie filling:
1 lb ground, organic beef
1/2 onion, chopped finely
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons gluten-free flour
2 cups frozen, mixed vegetables
15 oz can reduced sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon gluten-free soy sauce or Tamari
salt and pepper to taste


Directions for Healthier Mashed Potatoes:
Boil a few inches of water and put a steamer basket into it. Add potatoes, put the lid down and drop the heat to medium and steam for five minutes.


Add the cauliflower on top of the potatoes, put the lid back on and steam for another 10 minutes or until the contents are tender. Transfer to a large food processor fitted with the whipping blade.
Add the milk and 2 tablespoons of melted butter into the food processor. Add salt and pepper and process until very smooth.

Directions for Shepherd’s Pie:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit or 205 degrees Celsius.
Brown the ground beef, garlic, onions, salt, and pepper in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Drain and then return to the skillet. Sprinkle in flour, stir well, and cook for 1 minute.

Add the chicken broth, tomato paste, gluten-free Tamari or soy sauce, and Worcestershire sauce to the skillet. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until the sauce thickens, about 5-6 minutes.

Add frozen vegetables and salt and pepper to taste.
Pour the mixture into a large, ovenproof casserole dish and top with mashed potatoes. Add salt and pepper over the top.
Place the casserole dish on top of a baking sheet to prevent overflow and bake for 20-30 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

Final Thoughts
Mashed potatoes are a delicious food that most people grew up eating. Unfortunately, they’re also on many lists of the foods you should avoid these days because of the high butter content that makes them so delicious. But there is a way to make healthier mashed potatoes that doesn’t include enough butter to clog your arteries. And once you learn to make potatoes this way, you’ll be happy to add them back to your weekly meal plans because of the health benefits they can offer. Mashed potatoes contain lots of essential nutrients for your health, and they can reduce certain AFS symptoms as well as the stress load on your adrenal glands.

Michael Lam, M.D. 


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