Are instant noodles really bad for you?

Instant noodles are a massively popular quick and easy to prepare food for people all over the world, and amongst the Chinese living in Britain, they are seen as a great way to eat for convenience. But are they good or bad for you? Nee Hao investigates.

According to an experiment conducted by Dr. Braden Kuo from Massachusetts, preserved ramen noodles are obviously not as healthy as fresh ramen and due to a chemical used to preserve ramen and many other snacks, our digestive system finds it harder and longer to process them. And this chemical – Tertiary-butyl hydroquinone (TBHQ) – can be, in some cases with consistent and very large quantities, deadly. However, Momofuku Ando, the founder of Nissin Food Products, once said the secret to his long life was playing golf and eating chicken ramen almost every day; which he apparently ate until the day he died of heart failure in 2007 at the age of 96. Whether the cause of death and his diet are linked is unsure but he still exceeded the life expectancy of any gender and nationality.

Other evidence to support the unhealthiness of instant noodles comes from U.S. studies that show people who eat instant ramen noodle soup increase their risk of developing cardiometabolic syndrome, heart disease, diabetes and even strokes. The need for this research came after South Korea, one of the biggest consumers of the products, have shown alarming rates of increased heart disease and obesity in adults.

And Nestlé recently took a massive blow last month after India banned its Maggi noodle products – after 30 years trading them in the country and holding an 80% share of the instant noodle market – because tests by India’s food safety regulator showed they contained excessive amounts of lead. The loss was estimated to be worth £32.2 million but Nestlé are determined to fight the decision and have insisted their noodles are “safe” to eat. Excessive levels of lead can affect the central nervous and immune system and is particularly harmful to children.

But should there be a worldwide epidemic made out of the health risks that instant noodles have? Reports of deaths with links to eating too many instant noodles are rare, and while it is probably quite obvious to most people even without the scientific evidence that they are not doing your body any favours, they are probably still not as bad as or at least on the same level as sweets and crisps when they are not consumed in large amounts every day and certainly not as bad as smoking or excessive drinking. They should perhaps, however, be added to regular lists of unhealthy foods to make sure people are made more aware of their cons.

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Most people, especially students, would probably claim they eat instant noodles because they think they’re so cheap (in Tesco the ever popular Batchelor’s Super Noodles are currently 49p per pack and Nissin Ramen Noodles are only 45p), but it turns out that fresh noodles are actually more value for money (Tesco’s fresh egg noodles are £1.20 but give nearly four times the number of servings) and what’s a few extra minutes cooking or boiling them with fresh veg? Amoy and Sharwood’s noodles are another alternative, and they don’t appear to contain any artificial colours or flavours.

So here’s a tip for those of you who love your instant noodles: once every so often they are fine, but if you’re eating them on a daily basis to save cooking time and money, your health could be in danger in the long run. And if you do eat them, you could also cook them with steamed cabbage, pak choi or carrots to get one of your five-a-day in your meal, or with chicken, fish or seafood. Just like sweets, crisps, chocolate, fizzy drinks and ready meals, instant noodles should be eaten in moderation and not relied upon to provide a so-called cheap diet or easy lifestyle.

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