Last Updated June 13th, 2021
Where did ramen noodles come from?
Ramen noodles are a type of instant noodles that are eaten by many around the world. The word ramen was derived from Japanese, meaning “noodles”. These noodles were introduced to America in 1970 by Momofuku Ando. It is well-known for it’s cost-effective and instant cooking features. Though these noodles are of great convenience, have you ever pondered on the fact, whether their consumption is healthy?
Is it good for your body?
The one word answer that medical experts firmly give you is a big “no”. The base in the preparation of ramen noodles is wheat flour and a combination of vegetable oils and flavorings. In order to make it instant, these noodles are pre-cooked or steamed to a certain extent. Once steamed, these noodles are dried or fried to make it packing friendly. They are further packaged in plastic cups or small packets along with a small sachet of seasoning mixture.
This instant noodle can be prepared by adding the noodles to a pot of boiling water along with the seasoning. These noodles are even microwave friendly and are always a treat to students living away from home. Though it tops the chart in being convenient, it is mandatory to have a look at the nutritional value it contains. The nutritional information varies based on each ramen noodles. Studies have proved that ramen noodles contain unhealthy calories and also lack important nutrients. The nutritional value for a packet of chicken-flavored ramen noodles include:
- Calories: 188
- Carbs: 27 grams
- Total fat: 7 grams
- Protein: 5 grams
- Fiber: 1 gram
- Sodium: 891 milligrams
- Thiamine: 16% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)
- Folate: 13% of the RDI
- Manganese: 10% of the RDI
- Iron: 9% of the RDI
- Niacin: 9% of the RDI
- Riboflavin: 6% of the RDI
In order to maintain the nutritional value of ramen noodles, it is prepared with wheat flour that’s strengthened with the synthetic forms of specific nutrients like iron and B vitamins. However, they still lack several essential nutrients such as protein, magnesium, calcium, fiber, vitamin A and C, and potassium.
Why are ramen noodles counted as unhealthy foods?
Contains large quantities of sodium
Sodium plays a vital role in maintaining proper functionality in the body. However, excessive consumption can be the cause of many diseases and disorders. Studies have proved that processed foods and packaged foods (ramen noodles) are one of the largest contributors of sodium. The consumption of sodium is associated with an increased risk of developing stomach cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and strokes. People diagnosed with salt sensitivity should avoid consuming excess sodium as it may cause elevated blood pressure levels which in the long run can damage both kidney and heart health. The constant consumption of ramen noodles may lead to salt poisoning and cause a negative impact on health.
Contains controversial ingredients
Similar to many processed foods instant ramen noodles are loaded with flavor enhancers and preservatives. The controversial ingredients present in ramen noodles are monosodium glutamate (MSG) and Tertiary butylhydroquinone (TBHQ).
- Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
MSG is present in most brands of instant ramen noodles. It adds flavor and makes the noodles more tasty and palatable. However, the excessive intake of MSG may cause adverse symptoms like weakness, elevated blood pressure levels, vomiting, and headaches. It should be carefully consumed as some people tend to develop an allergic reaction towards MSG.
- Tertiary butylhydroquinone (TBHQ)
TBHQ is a widely used preservative that is used to extend the shelf life of a product. Though a limited consumption of TBHQ is deemed safe, excessive intake may cause liver enlargement, neurological damage, and increase the risk of lymphoma (cancer of the lymphatic system).
The excessive consumption of these two controversial ingredients in ramen noodles leads to metabolic syndrome which can be seen more in women. The women who were exposed to excessive consumption of sodium reflected a group of symptoms such as elevated fasting triglycerides, reduced levels of good cholesterol or HDL, increased levels of blood sugar, increased levels of blood pressure, and obesity.
Contains excess fat
Ramen noodles attain fat substituents during its manufacturing process. The noodles are fried as a part of the manufacturing process. A single packet of ramen noodles contains4 grams of saturated fats. These fats are the major contributors to causing cardiovascular disease and elevated cholesterol levels.
Prepared with refined flour
Refined flour has been a major topic of debate in the health industry. During processing the refined flour is being removed of the two essential nutritional parts (bran and germ) and leaves almost no fiber, mineral, vitamins, or proteins in the flour. The only element that remains in refined flour is starch. Since it is low in fibers it has been associated with an increased risk in heart disease, diabetes, varied digestive issues, colon cancer, and obesity. In addition to causing several health risks, it may also lead to overeating.
Contains refined carbs
Refined carbs are segregated into simple and processed carbs. Sugar is one among the major refined carbs. They contain a high glycemic index which causes the sudden spike in blood sugar upon consumption. They are also high in total carbohydrate intake and are associated with the risk of many diseases.
What happens in your body when you consume ramen noodles?
Studies have brought to the limelight the reaction that takes place in the stomach after consuming ramen noodles. Upon consumption, the ramen noodles reach the stomach and are processed for digestion. However, even after two hours the noodles remain intact and aren’t digested. This may cause a strain on the digestive system and it forces the digestive system to work for hours.
Ironically, when food is retained in your stomach for hours it also negatively impacts the nutrients and may cause nutrient absorption. In addition to causing nutrient absorption, it also leads to adverse effects due to the presence of MSG and TBHQ. When they aren’t digested over a longer period of time they may lead to liver damage, convulsions, and some neurotoxic effects.
Should you avoid it?
Well, occasional consumption of instant ramen noodles might not alter your health. But on the contrary, its frequent consumption has been associated with poor diet quality and negative impact on health. Studies have proven that instant ramen noodles lead to lower consumption levels of protein, minerals, and vitamins. In addition, those who adhere to consuming instant ramen noodles frequently showed significantly lowered consumptions of fruits, vegetables, fish, meat, and nuts.
How can you eat it in a healthy manner?
Living in a fast moving world instant ramen noodles can be a blessing. This controversial come instant noodles can be made better with just a few alterations. If you take a closer look at its nutritional components you will be able to have a look at that the most toxic ingredient that is present in ramen noodles is the seasoning. This convenient dish can be made healthier in several ways, they are:
- Make sure to add fresh vegetables: Rather than depending on the scarce amount of nutrients supplied by instant ramen noodles, it is always best to opt for fresh vegetables that are natural sources of nutrients. By adding fresh vegetables to your noodles you enhance its nutritional value and help balance the diet chart. Vegetables like broccoli, carrots, onions, or mushrooms are one of the best ingredients that increase the nutritional value of ramen noodles.
- Try adding large amounts of protein: As mentioned earlier, ramen noodles lack a significant amount of protein. The best option to add protein and make ramen noodles healthier is to add chicken, fish, tofu, and eggs which serve as rich sources of protein. The combination of ramen noodles and these above-mentioned proteins are indeed a delight and help keep you fuller for a longer period of time.
- Lower the intake of sodium: Ramen noodles are also available with low sodium content. It is, therefore, your duty to read the label before you get this convenient food on your plate. Low sodium ramen noodles cut the salt levels drastically and help balance the sodium levels in the body.
- Avoid use the seasoning or flavor sachet: It is commonly known that the seasoning or flavor packet available in ramen noodles contains MSG and TBHQ. However, thanks to fresh herbs and spices. Fresh herbs, spices, and meat of your choice can be added along with ramen noodles to make it healthier and tastier. Customizing your own broth may reduce the intake of sodium and increase the intake of nutrients.
Healthy quick-fix ramen noodles recipes
By inventing new recipes the unhealthy ramen noodles can be made healthier. Well, this can be done only by adding the essential nutrients in a full form rather than a chemically synthesized flavoring agent. Here are some recipes that help enhance the nutritional value of ramen noodles, they are:
Veggies and stir-fried ramen: Add your ramen noodles to boiling water. Drain the boiled ramen and add shrimp and stir-fried vegetables to the drained noodles. In order to add flavor make sure to toss it with some soy sauce (use limitedly, as it contains sodium) and sesame oil. Your delicious ramen noodles are ready with several natural nutrients.
Kimchi and tofu: These probiotics ingredients go well with ramen noodles. Boil the ramen noodles and add cubed tofu to the soup. To give your ramen those extra flavors add some kimchi juice. However, kimchi juice should be added once the noodles are cooled. This would help keep the probiotics intact and avoid it from killing the gut-friendly bacteria present in probiotics.
Broccoli and eggs: This delicious ramen noodles recipe provides a considerable amount of protein. Boil the noodles and keep them ready for cooking. Boil two eggs and make sure that it is in the proper consistency. Breaks the eggs into the ramen noodles and stir fry them with broccoli.
Pork and bok choy (Chinese cabbage): In order to prepare this dish the pork should be cooked beforehand. Prepare your ramen noodles broth and set aside. Cut the cooked pork into circles. Add a full form of spices to the pork and stir along with the ramen broth. Now add the bok choy and stir. Delicious pork, bok choy ramen noodles are ready.
Carrots and Edamame: This is one of the most commonly used vegetables in preparing ramen noodles. Cook the carrot and Edamame along with the noodles and serve with broth. The presence of Edamame and carrot serve as a feast to your eyes and has natural sources of nutrients that are healthier when compared to the instant ramen noodles.
Spinach and wakame (edible seaweed): This recipe takes ramen noodles to a whole new level with the essence of miso soup. In bowl blend two cups of hot water with spinach (a handful), miso paste (two tablespoons), and wakame (two tablespoons). One this broth is ready, cook the ramen noodles separate and then add them to the broth. By doing so, you can preserve the probiotic characteristics that are nurtured in the miso soup. However, extra caution should be taken while purchasing seaweed as you can be exposed to radioactivity upon consumption
Ramen noodles are well-known for their instant and tasty characteristics. The ingredients present in ramen noodles can lead to negative health outcomes and pave a way for a person to develop diseases or disorders in the long run. Despite its negative impact, people continue to use them as they are easy to prepare and cost-effective.
However, several recipes have been created to add nutritional qualities to this not-so-healthy product. One of the best ways to experience ramen noodles is to add natural sources of nutrients and put aside the chemically manufactured seasoning sachet. Also keep in mind to limit the consumption of ramen noodles, so that you don’t just enjoy these noodles but also keep a watch on your health.
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