I’ve written before about how I used to eat packaged ramen soup in college several times a week. They were easy to prepare, filling, and cheap at only about 10 cents per serving.
Little did I know that my ramen noodle soup habit likely contributed to the 20 pounds I gained my first year away from home!
Even though I no longer eat packaged ramen soup, I still enjoy a bowl of noodles every now and then. And, while they are prepared much the same, the ingredients are more carefully selected!
The Problem with Commercial Ramen Soup
The main issue with factory produced ramen noodle soup brands is that they are typically made by flash frying the cooked noodles. A few brands apparently air dry the noodle blocks, but the consumer must take the time to contact the manufacturer to determine which method was used during processing.
Even if the ramen noodles were not fried, the seasoning packet contains a large amount of MSG and even sugar. Research on rats has demonstrated that MSG consumption causes blindness and obesity, and studies on mice demonstrated that MSG intake caused brain lesions on the hypothalamus, the master controller of the endocrine system.
In addition, the peer-reviewed Journal of Nutrition published a study in 2014 warning that those who consume ramen noodles as little as two times per week are at skyrocketing odds of developing metabolic syndrome with its host of prominent symptoms: obesity (particularly excess abdominal fat), diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
A total of 10,711 adults (54.5% women) ages 19-64 years of age were analyzed, with adjustment for sampling design complexity. The diet of the study participants was assessed by using a 63-item food-frequency questionnaire.
Head researcher Hyun Joon Shin MD, a clinical cardiology fellow at Baylor University and a nutrition epidemiology PhD from the Harvard School of Public Health and his team uncovered a disturbing association between eating instant noodles two or more times a week and development of cardiometabolic syndrome, which raises a person’s likelihood, particularly if that person is female, of developing heart disease and other metabolic health woes.
But the food product contains plenty of unhealthy ingredients, including MSG and the chemical preservative tertiary-butylhydroquinone (TBHQ), and is also high in saturated fat.
Another potential problem with consuming commercial ramen noodles is the chemical called bisphenol A (BPA), which is used for packaging some ramen noodles brands. Studies have shown that BPA is an estrogen mimicker and endocrine disruptor as it interferes with hormone messaging within the body. BPA free packaging is likely no safeguard as chemicals that replace BPA in food packaging like BPS have been shown to have the same and perhaps even worse hormone disrupting effects.
This is not the first time ramen noodles have been publicly maligned. In 2012, a viral video taken from inside the digestive tract, part of a small and inconclusive study by Dr. Braden Kuo, showed just what happened after instant ramen was ingested — and it wasn’t pretty. The stomach worked overtime, struggling for hours to grind up the strands; TBHQ, a petroleum byproduct, was named as a possible culprit. Years earlier, Malaysian health officials issued a warning against eating instant noodles because of ingredients such as thickeners, stabilizers, sodium, and preservatives that have been linked to heart disease, stroke, and kidney damage.
Ramen Soup (healthy, homemade and gluten free)
If you love ramen soup and wish to avoid the health problems associated with consuming it regularly, try this homemade version instead that can give you a hot bowl of tasty instant noodles fast without the MSG, sugar, or cardiovascular risks!
- 1 oz (28 grams) rice noodles or mung bean pasta
- 1.5 cups filtered water OR bonito broth
- 1 TBL unpasteurized miso paste
- 1 tsp wakame or kelp flakes
- Raw, organic, traditionally brewed soy sauce
- (Optional) For more protein, add some chicken, spinach, bok choy, mushrooms, etc.
Put wakame or kelp flakes in a cup and fill with cold, filtered water. Set aside.
Using water only: Place noodles in a bowl and pour 1.5 cups boiling water (or bonito broth) on top. Let sit for 5 minutes. Drain the water from the cup of soaking wakame or kelp flakes and stir the softened bits of seaweed into the bowl of noodles. Stir in the miso and season to taste with soy sauce. Fish sauce or coconut aminos may be substituted instead of soy sauce for those with a soy or wheat sensitivity or allergy.
Note: the miso is not stirred into the bowl of noodles immediately to ensure that the enzymes and probiotics from the unpasteurized miso paste are preserved.
Pare your bowl of ramen soup with a salad or a sandwich and lunch is ready in less than 10 minutes!
 The Healthy Home Economist by Sarah