Instant Noodles: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Coming home tired after dealing with the hectic schedule life throws at you and feeling hungry. And the go-to cuisine for most people after a day’s hard work would be…instant noodles. The choice to enjoy instant noodles is a relatively simple process as the pros are obvious: it requires minutes to prepare, is inexpensive, and is absolutely delicious. However, the consumption of this quick and tasty meal comes at a cost to our health.
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Harmful Effects of Continued Exposure to Preservatives and Flavour Enhancers
A well-known reason to advocate against the intake of instant noodles is the presence of monosodium glutamate (MSG) and tert-Butylhydroquinone (TBHQ) which are essentially preservatives and flavour enhancers of many processed foods. While it is a fact that these substances can be harmful to health, small doses of MSG and TBHQ are considered safe.
In fact, MSG is present in many other kinds of food such as tomatoes, cheese, and soy extract. But the danger increases with long-term and consistent consumption of substances. For instance, frequent ingestion of TBHQ can cause brain and liver damage as well as damage to our DNA.
On the other hand, intake of MSQ has been associated with the appearance of nausea, weakness, headache, increased blood pressure, and muscle tightness. For consumers who are particularly sensitive to these additives, the effects are often worse.
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Lack of Essential Nutrients, Vitamins and Minerals
Having said that, the greatest concern regarding the consumption of instant noodles is the abysmal lack of key nutrients. These noodles are often pre-cooked to shorten the cooking time for consumers and are made of wheat flour, salt and commonly have additional palm oil. While it usually has some synthetic form of nutrients and minerals such as vitamin B and iron, they do not sufficiently supply nutrients such as fibre, protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B12, calcium, magnesium, and potassium. These minerals and nutrients are extremely important to ensure that your body functions the way it should. For example, just missing potassium can cause muscle paralysis or disturb your heart rhythm which can lead to a heart attack! Furthermore, many studies have shown that regular consumption of instant noodles is associated with a higher risk of metabolic issues such as high blood pressure, excess abdominal fat, increased blood sugar levels, and deviating cholesterol levels.
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High Salt Content
Many of the instant noodles flooding the market also have a high sodium content in the form of salt. A single serving of instant noodles has a varying sodium content of between 397 – 3678mg per 100g serving or even higher. Sodium is one of the essential minerals that our body requires, however excessive intake of salt is has been linked to an elevated risk of heart diseases, stroke, and stomach cancer. Given that World Health Organisation (WHO) has recommended the intake of 2-g-per-day sodium for a balanced diet, eating even just one pack of instant noodles can make it difficult for consumers to control their salt intake.
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So should we just stop eating instant noodles once and for all?
In truth, the occasional enjoyment of instant noodle cuisine is safe provided that consumers ensure that they have a healthy diet overall. To balance out the deficiencies in fibre, protein, nutrients, and minerals, it may help to add some fresh or cooked vegetables, or pile on some protein such as eggs or chicken. In the market, there are also many choices of supplements that can be taken to make up for the lack of vitamins and minerals in instant noodles.
Some of the most common and reputable supplement brands are Blackmores, Flavettes, and 21st Century. It may also be of benefit if consumers select low-sodium versions of the noodles or avoid the flavour packet by creating your own broth. Always be conscious of what you eat because after all, we are what we eat!
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