Over the last two weeks, we talked about soup as a tool for weight loss & a magical healer, of sorts. Learning more about the health benefits of soup has gotten me thinking about one particular type of soup that is extremely near & dear to my heart.
It felt a little unconscionable sharing about soup being a vehicle to lose weight, while also sharing so many photos of one of my guiltiest pleasures.
So, I felt it necessary ask: Is ramen healthy?
Not too long ago, ramen was seen as extremely unhealthy; every college student’s survival meal. Recently, ramen has had a renaissance. It has developed into a sophisticated delicacy, with many restaurants offering creative, flavorful, world class bowls of ramen.
Of course, there are many layers to this question. It doesn’t require a nutritionist to understand that 25 cent instant ramen from the store is not good for you.
But what about the “better” quality versions of ramen from the Asian store? What about a bowl of ramen from my favorite restaurant?
Journalist Hana Hong had the same question and conducted an experiment where she ate only ramen for 5 days. She chose less traditional brands of ramen, like the ones you can get from a Korean grocery store. She allowed herself to add toppings at her leisure, but was limited exclusively to ramen.
Her first two days were alright, as one would have expected. By day 3, she “woke up- feeling pretty salty -- probably because of the sodium”, and struggled to get through dinner. The sodium noticeably dried her out and she drank a lot more water than usual. She also felt sluggish, tired, physically drained. By day 5, she was irritable, cranky, and of course concluded this was no way to live and does not recommend an exclusively ramen diet.
I found Hana’s story quite interesting. I appreciated that she used “better” quality ramen and mixed in other ingredients. Her experiment was extreme, but there have been many times where I have eaten ramen 4-5 times in a week.
So, what does ramen actually do to the body? What type of nutritional value (or lack thereof) does ramen have?
Sadly, ramen is essentially the definition of empty calories. Ramen is also linked to an increased risk for metabolic syndrome. A study on 10,000 South Korean adults concluded those who consumed instant noodles 2+ times per week tended to suffer from metabolic syndrome. According to the National Institute of Health, metabolic syndrome names a group of risk factors that increases the risk for heart disease, diabetes, or stroke. These conditions include high blood pressure and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels. Both of which are common results of ramen consumption. Women were found to be at a particularly elevated risk.
The Star, a Canadian media organization, analyzed Momofuku Toronto’s signature ramen bowl to find it contained 2,858 mg of sodium. The American Heart Association suggests 2,300 mg sodium per day.
While these discoveries are grim, there is a silver lining.
What you put on your ramen & where you eat ramen makes a big difference in nutritional value.
If you are making ramen from home, throw that flavor packet out & season it yourself. Add some veggies to kick the health value up even more.
If you are buying ramen at a restaurant, ask for the nutritional value. Search the menu for an offering with less sodium. If you do indulge in that sodium filled bowl, be mindful of what else you eat that day, the next day, and make sure to drink lots of water.
Like any comfort food, everything is alright in moderation.
Ramen is a nostalgic delicacy that I adore and will continue to adore. Nobody will ever convince me to stop eating ramen. But, I will be more mindful about what kind of ramen I eat and continue to limit indulgences.
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