Ramen Noodles – 5 Things to Know

The Noodle Narratives

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:

  1. 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.
  2. The most problematic nutrient is sodium. This noodle product has 1170mg of sodium, over 50% of the recommended daily allowance. Yikes.
  3. 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.
  4. MSG appears in several forms, including Autolyzed Yeast Extract and Hydrolyzed Corn.
  5. 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.

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  • Nessy

    I can never eat these noodles. Im a college student and all they do is give me migraines due to the high sodium content. I avoid them at all costs

  • Nina

    An addition to this article could be a recipe for homemade ramen, which I’ve had made by friends before and it is delicious.

  • Carol H

    The ramen we know in the US originated in China. Also, there are now whole grain versions (brown rice and/or whole wheat), as well as ones that are steamed then baked (no oil required, so no preservatives either).

  • Catherine

    I would love to know what you think a good ramen like alternative would be. Also, are the noodles on their own without the seasoning packet that bad? I buy them to use the noodles but I never use the flavor packet that comes with it. I cook them in stock and then use them with homemade stir fries as an occasional meal for my kids.

    • Utopia

      I believe the noodles are cooked in oil prior to packaging. Not adding the flavor packet certainly cuts down on sodium and some of the added junk.

    • wildcat1974

      The noodles themselves are FRIED in palm and /or cottonseed oil, the latter of which was never *intended* for human consumption (who eats cotton?) so it’s full of pesticide residue. Even if you spare yourselves the sodium, you’re also getting a HEFTY dose of saturated fat.

      Your best bet if you like ramen noodles and want to avoid all the sodium and fat is to bypass the regular grocery stores and try health food/natural food stores, or look for brands like Annie Chun’s, Koyo or Dr. McDougall.

      • v westlake

        Also Chinese grocery stores sale several different brands of just the noodles. Compare labels and see if one works for you.

        • wildcat1974

          Thanks, v westlake. I was going to say Asian stores also, but I wasn’t sure if the imported brands are fried as well.

      • okpank

        I’m a fan of Koyo ramen noodles! Pretty tasty! Believe It! http://www.koyonaturalfoods.com/ramen_noodles.aspx

    • elaniaelcharoqen

      I get Udon noodles and make my own broth with meat veggies and eggs

    • Cindy

      That is my sentiment exactly Catherine. I always believed that all that sodium comes from the season packet and by just eliminating that the salt content would be reduced. Using the noodles in alternative recipes as you suggested is a great idea.

    • Vickie Martin

      I would recommend soba noodles instead of ramens. U can eat tons of these for very few calories.

  • jadegreen_eyz

    I love ramen noodles (I’m 1/2 Asian), especially Cup O Noodles but eat them infrequently because I know they aren’t the healthiest food for you. But every now and then, I do go on a ramen jag. Maruchan, Oriental flavored ramen with a sliced boiled egg, leftover veggies, a splash of sesame seed oil, and some sliced roasted chicken, or other meat, is delicious.

  • Brad

    Stomach acid doesn’t digest Ramen noodles either, it enters the small intestine undigested. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zi_DaJKsCLo

    • Mitchka

      Stomach acid only digests protein for the most part. The small intestine does the majority of food digestion (especially carbs and fat), and you would know this if you would bother to take a simple physiology course. I will say it again, THE SMALL INTESTINE DOES THE MAJORITY OF FOOD DIGESTION.

  • Laura

    For those interested, I made this version and thought it was pretty tasty.

    http://www.girlmakesfood.com/vegan-homemade-ramen-noodles/

  • Michael Earl McQueen

    I’m highly disappointed. I have a whole brand new box of noodles over there now I don’t want to eat them.

  • obamaozedong

    Low cost solution. Get a pressure cooker and make beans and rice. Far mor nutritious for about the same price.

  • john649

    I eat KOYO ORGANIC ramen. It doesn’t have all those nasty ingredients listed above. NOODLES: Organic heirloom wheat flour, sea salt. SOUP PACKET: Natural sea salt, Chinese mushroom powder, vegetable powder (onion, garlic), natural (LOL! = GMO) cane sugar, chili pepper, ginger, black pepper, lemongrass, green onion, kombu powder…

  • Lacuna Perpetual

    I’m not totally against instant ramen noodles or the 3 minute boil kind for myself VERY occasionally, but I’d never feed them to my child, especially not with the packet. My co-worker tells me she regularly gives her baby and toddlers Cup Noodles to snack on.

    • Rosie

      I don’t buy the ramen. I go to the Chinese store and get bean noodles. The are clear noodles you boil, then I add whatever I want. Ingredients: Green Beans, Peas, Water & Sulfite. Only 10 mg sodium, 0 g sugar. 224 calories but 0 fat. They are even good with EVOO or just a little butter. We like to add some spicy sauce to it.

  • v westlake

    Most of the sodium is in the packet of flavoring. My teens toss the packet and use spices from the kitchen. Garlic powder, onion powder, sesame oil, worchestershire sauce, honey, hoisin sauce, siraucha are just some spices they use. And each one has their own special spice combination that they like.

    • DamitaJo

      We do that too with the whole grain instant noodles we get from the Asian supermarket

  • Kwanzaa Grandison

    What about Mama? The Thai version of Ramen Noodles.

  • Theo

    Ok, you had me at “Many people…”

  • Simon

    What about authentic Japanese restaurant ramen though, not this instant rubbish?

  • AmericanInJapan

    This article is not about Ramen, it is about instant noodles of highly processed food. True Ramen is made fresh daily by hand. Need to retitle this to instant noodle soup or as it is known here in Japan Cupmen.

  • Rosie

    I don’t buy the ramen. I go to the Chinese store and get bean noodles. I think you can get them at supermarkets too in the oriental isle. They are clear noodles you boil, then I add whatever I want. Ingredients: Green Beans, Peas, Water & Sulfite. Only 10 mg sodium, 0 g sugar. 224 calories but 0 fat. They are even good with EVOO or just a little butter. We like to add some spicy sauce to it.

  • Rosie

    I don’t buy the ramen. I go to the Chinese store and get bean noodles. I think you can get them at supermarkets too in the oriental isle. They are clear noodles you boil, then I add whatever I want. Ingredients: Green Beans, Peas, Water & Sulfite. Only 10 mg sodium, 0 g sugar. 224 calories but 0 fat. They are even good with EVOO or just a little butter. We like to add some spicy sauce to it.