Even if you left your cup of noodles behind in college, you could be at risk.
Ramen is more than just a menu staple for college students—it can be a quick, healthy dinner for any home cook.
But there’s a big difference between homemade ramen or rice noodles and the prepackaged, instant noodles you may remember heating up in your dorm room or microwave. And it turns out that those cheap packets of dried noodles and sodium flavor may be terrible for your health.
In a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, researchers in Korea reviewed a survey of over 10,000 adult men and women, and their diets. Participants were divided into two camps: those who followed a “traditional dietary pattern” of fish, rice, fruit, potatoes, and vegetables, and those who primarily ate a “meat and fast-food” diet that consisted more heavily of meat, soda, fried food, and processed foods (like, ahem, instant noodles).
The researchers were looking for whether the fast food diet put people at a higher risk for metabolic syndrome, which the National Institute of Health defines as “a group of factors that raises your risk for heart disease and other health problems, such as diabetes or stroke.” Even though the diets varied drastically, neither one put participants at a higher risk of metabolic syndrome.
However, researchers did find that women who ate instant noodles at least twice a week were 68% more likely to be obese and to develop metabolic syndrome, regardless of their primary diet or how much they exercised. Interestingly, researchers didn’t find the same association with men.
But what exactly makes instant noodles so unhealthy? In a package of Top Ramen, there are 380 calories, 14 grams of fat and 1,820 mg of sodium—over half of the FDA’s recommended daily value of 2,300 mg.
There’s also a preservative called tertiary butylhydroquinone, or TBHQ. TBHQ has been linked to vision disturbances in individuals who were exposed to the chemical. It’s also been associated with liver enlargement and tumor development in rats.
So, if you're eating ramen a couple times per week, consider this your motivation to toss out those cheap little packets, and turn to something healthier—here are 12 healthy lunches anyone on a budget can make. And if you're just a fan of ramen, try this Miso-Ginger Noodle Bowl. It's not only healthier, it's much tastier.