Many people go through a ramen period in their life: poor college students, entrepreneurs hacking away at the next Instagram, or urban teens in Japan, where these flavored noodles were invented. Every year, about 100 billion servings are consumed, which means that for some people, ramen is a way of life.
In fact, ramen is a poor man’s food that helps sustain hundreds of millions impoverished people in third world countries. Read NPR’s review of The Noodle Narratives to learn more about the history and social phenomenon called ramen.
Here in America, where most people have both healthier options and more money to spend on food, ramen is far from a healthy choice, despite its very low price.
Here is the ingredient list for popular Maruchan Ramen, this one is “Noodles with Vegetables, Hot & Spicy Beef”
Enriched Wheat Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Vegetable Oil (Contains One or More of the Following: Canola, Cottonseed, Palm) Preserved by TBHQ, Dehydrated Vegetables (Carrot, Corn, Garlic, Onion, Chive), Salt, Spices, Monosodium Glutamate, Beef Extract, Miso Powder (Salt, Soybeans, Wheat, Rice), Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Hydrolyzed Corn, Wheat and Soy Protein, Dehydrated Soy Sauce (Wheat, Soybeans, Salt, Maltodextrin), Sugar, Lactose, Citric Acid, Chicken Broth, Natural Flavor, Soya Lecithin, Potassium Carbonate, Sodium Phosphate, Sodium Carbonate, Disodium Inosinate, Disodium Guanylate, Turmeric.
Here are a few things to note:
- From a macro-nutrient perspective, this ramen has 39 grams of carbs, 12 grams of fat, and just 7 grams of protein. Half the fat is saturated, 30% of the daily maximum, which is a lot for a 290 calorie meal. There are 3 grams of fiber, which is more than we would expect in an enriched flour product.
- The most problematic nutrient is sodium. This noodle product has 1170mg of sodium, over 50% of the recommended daily allowance. Yikes.
- The oils are preserved using problematic TBHQ. Ingestion of large doses (a thirtieth of an ounce) can cause nausea, delirium, and ringing of the ears.
- MSG appears in several forms, including Autolyzed Yeast Extract and Hydrolyzed Corn.
- As if MSG was not enough, more umami flavoring is added through disodium guanylate which may be problematic for babies, asthmatics, people who suffer from gout or uric acid kidney stones.