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The world's top 10 comfort foods, and how to make them gut-friendly

Lasagne is one of the world's favourite comfort foods, but the carb-heavy dish may not be so good for your gut health. (Getty Images)
Lasagne is one of the world's favourite comfort foods, but the carb-heavy dish may not be so good for your gut health. (Getty Images)

As the nights draw in and the weather drops, Britons turn to comfort foods to keep us warm and help us get through the dark days of winter. All over the world, comfort foods are traditionally hearty, warming meals that will fill you up and make you feel toasty and happy.

New research has revealed what the world’s favourite comfort foods are, and many of them will come as no surprise. But with nine out of 10 of the foods on the list being carb-heavy meals and snacks, some people may find them hard to digest.

Commenting on the findings, Hannah Duxbury, head of culinary at HelloFresh Ireland, said: "Comfort foods often have a nostalgic or emotional connection to our past. They provide a sense of familiarity and security, triggering positive feelings. The top 10 foods identified in this study are rich in flavours, textures, and often associated with happy memories, making them irresistible choices for people seeking comfort in a plate."

According to HelloFresh Ireland, the top 10 comfort foods in the world are:

  1. Chocolate chip cookies

  2. Lasagne

  3. Mac and cheese

  4. Mashed potatoes

  5. Brownies

  6. Guacamole

  7. Pizza

  8. Cornbread

  9. Chicken noodle soup

  10. Chocolate cake

But, how can we make these 10 comfort foods friendlier on your gut? We asked the experts.

Chocolate chip cookies

Close-up of ready-made American cookies with chocolate crumbs on the baking lot with paper. High quality photo
Making gut-friendly cookies can be as simple as swapping out regular flour for whole grain flour. (Getty Images)

TV chef and restaurateur Judy Joo suggests: "Use whole grain flour, such as wholewheat or a blend of whole grain flours. Many companies make blends that contain seeds too, such as flax seeds, chia seeds or oats, all of which have a lot of fibre and supports gut health.

"I’d also recommend using natural sweeteners, such as honey, maple syrup or coconut sugar instead of refined sugars. [Natural sweeteners] have a lower impact on insulin levels and are kinder on your gut health. You can also add yogurt or kefir instead of milk, which have natural prebiotics."


Lasagne

Jo Travers, registered dietitian for the Love Your Gut campaign, recommends swapping out half the minced beef in your usual lasagne recipe for lentils. "You still get the protein and iron but you also get some gut-friendly fibre," she adds.


Mac and cheese

Mac and cheese served in dish isolated grey background top view singapore fast food
You can get more fibre into your classic mac and cheese by adding cauliflower. (Getty Images)

This deliciously cheesy pasta dish is also a favourite in Travers’ house, so she gets more fibre in by swapping out half the pasta for cauliflower.

"Still delicious, but increases your vegetable intake," she says. "You can also use wholemeal or lentil pasta for extra fibre."

Joo also recommends adding some green vegetables like broccoli or kale, as they are rich in antioxidants. "I would also recommend using more aged cheeses like extra sharp cheddar which contain less lactose," she adds.


Mashed potatoes

Travers has a surprisingly simple tip for making classic mashed potatoes more gut-friendly. "Cooking the potatoes with the skins on increases the nutrient content of mashed potatoes and also the fibre content," she says. "It’s also quite delicious!"

Joo adds: "EVO olive oil is a great butter substitute, it’s easier to digest for a lot of people as it’s lactose free. I also like to add garlic as this contains prebiotics and gives it a nice kick, chives and parsley are also great additions for flavour and essential vitamins."


Brownies

To make brownies better on your gut, experts suggest swapping out some of the flour in brownies for ground almonds.

This is a healthy alternative, as almonds are naturally sweet and full of good fats and fibre.


Guacamole

Close-up of hands making homemade guacamole
Guacamole is already full of fibre and nutrients, which is great for gut health. (Getty Images)

One of the few carb-less dishes on the list, guacamole is already full of ingredients that are great for your gut health.

Travers adds: "[It has] plenty of fibre and polyphenols which are anti-inflammatory. Add in some finely chopped chilli and coriander for even more variety."


Pizza

Britons adore pizza, with the average Brit eating their way through more than 5,000 slices of pizza in their adult life, according to a study by Tabasco Brand.

To make this ultimate comfort food healthier for our guts, Travers says: "Using a wholemeal pizza base is great and choose veggie toppings like mushrooms and peppers."


Cornbread

Homemade Southern Style Cornbread in a Skillet
Cornbread can be made healthier by using wholegrain cornmeal and wholemeal flour. (Getty Images)

You can up the fibre content in this dish by using wholegrain cornmeal and wholemeal flour. Adding more fibre to your diet "keeps everything moving through the gut and keeps the useful bacteria happy".


Chicken noodle soup

Ros Heathcote, founder of Borough Broth, recommends using chicken bone broth to make this comforting dish more gut-friendly. She began her company after making bone broth to improve her own gut health.

"Anything that requires stock or a stock cube, or any grains that require cooking in water, you could switch out for bone broth," she says. "An easy way to add the gut benefits of bone broth into the diet is to add it to a comforting chicken noodle soup." She also recommends adding sliced vegetables, coriander and chilli, while Joo's top tip is to add turmeric and ginger.


Chocolate cake

Sweet dark chocolate Indulgence.
Chocolate cake is lovely and indulgent, but can contain a lot of sugar. (Getty Images)

Chocolate cake is such a classic dessert, but it can contain a lot of sugar. Travers suggests substituting a quarter of the sugar in your chocolate cake recipe for prunes.

"This gives it a richer flavour and keeps it moist, but also provides loads of stuff that gut bacteria like to feed on while reducing the sugar content. What’s not to love?"


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