Are instant noodles bad for your health?

Instant noodle ramen

Instant noodles are one of the most common processed foods that are consumed on the planet. Countries like China, Indonesia, Japan and Thailand are the highest consumers of instant noodles in the world, according to an estimation published by the World Instant Noodle Association. One of the main attractions of instant noodles by far is the cheap price and the low amount of calories found in certain range products which only amounts to 142 calories per 100g.

What many individuals do not realize is that these cheap noodles that we slurp on a day-to-day basis at the office, in the comfort of our own home or even shared with our children, are actually dangerous to our health.

There is also the common fallacy or myth that adding vegetables to your instant noodles enhances their nutritional value, however like many foods, veggies and fruits do not counter the negative effects of any unhealthy food product.

So, if one is ready to hear what instant noodles can actually do to your health, here are a list of problems they can cause:

Slow digesting, linked to cancer

These convenient and tasty instant noodles put a strain on your digestive system, forcing it to break down the highly processed noodles for hours. It can also interfere with your blood sugar levels and insulin release if digested too quickly. As the foods are kept in the body for so long as a result of slow digestion, toxic chemicals and preservatives are retained in the body, often leading to an over-exposure of Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and t-butylhydroquinone (TBHQ).

Whilst TBHQ and BHA are used in products to keep them usable for longer (and mean we can keep them stocked up in our shelves for months at a time and some Asian countries labelling laws are so lax that the manufacturers are not required to list TBHQ and BHA on the packs)), both chemicals are in fact carcinogenic. This meaning that they can cause cancer, and can even lead to asthma, anxiety and diarrhea if consumed/we are exposed to them over a long period of time.

Increased risk of heart and other cardiovascular and metabolic diseases

In a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, it was found that women who consumed more instant noodles had a significantly greater risk of metabolic syndrome than those who ate less regardless of overall diet or exercise habits, with those who ate instant noodles more than twice a week being 68% more likely to have metabolic syndrome.

For those who aren’t sure on what metabolic syndrome is, it is a group of symptoms such as central obesity, elevated blood pressure, low levels of HDL cholesterol which increases someone’s chances of contracting heart disease, diabetes or having a stroke.

Why does this occur? Mainly because deep-frying is a step in the production of most instant noodles that we consume. As we know, deep-fried anything is bad for us, however with the lack of nutritional value and high saturated fats in the product already, the overall production process of these products doesn’t help.

High salt containment

We are all aware by now how too much salt can really affect our overall health, but not many are aware of the actual damage it can cause to our bodies. Instant noodles are rich in salt. In a study published in the American Journal of Hypertension in 2018, high dietary sodium consumption was recognized as a major factor in high death rates in 23 case studies. This excess sodium can also lead to high blood pressure, and in turn heart disease (which is already a re-occurring health problem linked to every product found in these instant noodles).

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) containment

Monosodium Glutamate is commonly referred to as MSG’s which are usually found in takeaways, and is a flavor enhancer popular in Asian cuisines. According to the FDA, MSG is labelled as a safe additive, with harmful effects still debatable, however health and nutrition data collected from the China Health and Nutrition Survey suggests otherwise, with high MSG consumption over a prolonged amount of time leading to an excess weight gain in individuals. MSG is sometimes referred to as the ‘obesity’ drug.

Whole range of other chemicals in the flavorings

While we have only touched on just the noodles itself and not the flavourings ie your favourite Tom Yam, Chicken, Moo Sap etc flavorings. That would be a complete manual by itself as you will be shocked that some of these contain a minimum of more than 15 different food additives and chemicals.

Labelling laws do not require all chemicals used in flavorings to be listed on the package

Did you know for instance, in order to simply recreate your favourite Tom Yam flavor, there are close to 17 different synthetic chemicals in the recipe to tantalize your taste buds? And 3 of these are carcinogenic but because laws and rules claim that as they are used in minute amounts, they need not be disclosed! Problem is no real medical studies have really been done to assess what is the real safe levels of usage and also the effects of frequent consumption.

To prevent health and medical issues in the long term, adults and in particularly children and teens should be prevented from consuming instant noodles as we already know the effects of eating processed foods. They are so many cheaper and healthier alternatives and yes, sometimes it might take a bit more time to procur or create that healthier alternative but convenience should never take precedence over ones health and wellbeing.

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