Talk about Asian and processed food, and instant noodles will come up along with the likes of Korean fried chicken, Potato chips, Japanese seaweed tempura chicken, and the list goes on.
So when we put “instant noodle” and “healthy” together, it sounds weird, but let’s take a deeper dive and see if instant noodles can indeed, co-exist and create a healthier choice for you.
Why Are Instant Noodles Unhealthy?
Instant noodles are largely seen as processed food. To begin, the noodles are mainly made of wheat flour, and the cooking process usually involves deep frying to create the crispy, tangy feeling many of us love.
Depending on the size, a packet of instant noodle can also drive the calories up to over 500 calories, making the noodles a very carbohydrate and calorie-dense meal, leaving little to no space for other nutrients within the same seating.
I bet the Flavoring is evil too!
One misconception about instant noodles is that the flavors, mainly made of Monosodium glutamate (MSG), is bad.
The truth is that MSG is made up of sodium (salt) and glutamate, an amino acid (Glutamic Acid) with an added mineral ion. MSG is commonly used in Asian dishes to create a unami flavor, and is naturally occurring both in our body and our food!
Examples of these food includes cheese, beef, soy products, almonds and tomatoes. So if you are eating any of these food, you are eating MSG.
One accusation MSG often have to deal with is that it causes individuals to turn sick. This is commonly known as the “Chinese-Restaurant Syndrome”, attributed to a letter written to the New England Journal of Medicine in 1968. However, in both long and short term studies, much of these studies does not seem to hold strong.
Most studies citing ill effects to MSG were done with large doses (hard to reach doses if consumed with food). But even so, the effects were only mild and temporary.
On the flip side, MSG has seen benefits when used with elderly population with appetite problems due to it’s taste enhancing properties.
With that said, flavors used alongside instant noodles can quickly increase calories especially if the dish is cream based, so always check the calories of your noodles before deciding if the flavor fits the nutrition.
Of course, if MSG or flavoring is not something you want to work with, you can also work with simple salt and pepper, or depend on other methods of flavoring like herbs and spices. Personally, I love it when my food ingredients create the soup stock for me, along with some magic from salt, pepper and the occasional chili powder.
Ultimately, Should Instant Noodles Be Part Of Our Diet?
As with anything, too much is never really the answer. However, in the hike for a healthier version of you, it is sometimes important to weigh between practicality and convenience.
In this case, when done right, instant noodles can be a tool to fulfill your nutrient needs without loading on chemicals nor calories unnecessarily.
Ultimately though, you do want to balance it out with other nutrients to ensure that your body is getting what it needs while enjoying what you love!