…Without knowing the side effects.
College students owe a lot to Momofuku Ando. He helped create a well-known cuisine appreciated by students because it is cheap, tasty and filling.
But despite the low monetary price, consuming it on a regular basis may result in a debt to one’s health.
Almost 60 years ago, Ando founded Nissin Foods, the company best known for manufacturing its Top Ramen brand of noodles. Because of its quick preparation and carbohydrate content, the noodles are convenient for college living.
However, many people fail to read the nutritional facts. If eaten on a regular basis, ramen could cause health issues.
“If you eat the whole package, you would have about two-thirds of your recommended sodium intake of the take for the day,” said Lori Enriquez, an adjunct health professor and registered dietician.
“It’s also fairly high in saturated fat, which is bad for your heart.”
Nissin spokesperson Linda Chung compares Top Ramen to similar products in regards to the sodium content. She echoed the Nissin Web site in describing a way to decrease the amount of sodium consumed.
“Like any pasta-type product, there is some sodium in the noodles,” she said. “The easiest way to control sodium is reducing the amount of seasoning you use.”
The Web site also recommends eliminating the included seasonings altogether and adding your own. But Enriquez said doing that may not be enough.
“The noodles still have a fair amount of sodium in them, as you can see on the package,” she said, adding that one package is actually two serving sizes. “So yes, you could add your own seasonings, but it’s still going to be a high-sodium food.”
Enriquez said in addition to the high sodium content, the other “red flag” is monosodium glutamate. An excessive intake of MSG can lead to headaches, nausea or drowsiness.
But more importantly, people who eat ramen regularly will not give their body the proper nutrients, Enriquez said. Just because ramen has different varieties doesn’t mean your body will get what it needs.
“The issue from a nutritional standpoint is that it is important for people to have a variety of food in their diets as they need different nutrients,” Enriquez said. “Ramen isn’t very nutrient rich. It’s more important to eat a variety of foods with natural colors, like fruits and vegetables.”
Despite its nutrition facts, ramen has become a staple for many college students all over the world. Because Top Ramen has been well-known for more than 50 years, advertising is kept at a minimum, Chung said.
“Top Ramen is such an established brand that we haven’t had to do advertising for many years,” she said. “The success is due to its taste and value – a hard combination to beat.”
Jerry DiRusso, an adjunct advertising professor, said ramen is popular because of student gossip.
“People know ramen by word of mouth,” he said. “Kids share information. There’s a whole network of gossip going around. If there’s no advertising, the only other alternative is talking to each other.”
DiRusso polled his persuasive writing class of 22 students and found that they generally hear about ramen in high school or on the college campus. Students primarily like that it is economical and quick, has a variety of “tasty flavors” and is satisfying.
“You take convenience, inexpensiveness
and the fact that it’s filling and sustains energy – it’s no wonder it’s so popular,” he said.
Additionally, some of DiRusso’s students
were uneasy about the high sodium content, but most were “not the least bit concerned”
about its nutritive value, the amount of carbohydrates or possible weight gain.
Junior Lindsay Siegle said she always has a package of ramen in her apartment, despite knowing it is not the healthiest item.
“It’s cheap, quick and sometimes tasty,” the public relations major said. “If I need something to eat in a hurry, it’s always in my pantry.”
Joe Giuffrida, an undeclared freshman, eats ramen infrequently, mostly because of its lack of nutrients. But just because it can be unhealthy does not mean you should avoid it, he said.
“People drink alcohol and eat fast food. That can be bad for you,” he said. “I eat pretty well, so if I ate good, nutritional foods that day, I may have some ramen.”
Others, like Temple admissions receptionist
Delores Harvin, embrace the flexibility
of ramen as a quick, last-minute meal or side dish.
“There are a million and one things you can do with it,” Harvin said. “They really stretch out a dinner. It’s best to dress it up with shrimp or meat. They cook in a flash.”
For those who want to cut ramen out of their diet due to its lack of nutrients, there are healthier alternatives, Enriquez said. She recommends purchasing whole wheat or whole grain pasta, which would have more nutrients and is still inexpensive.
Enriquez said students interested in finding out more should take a nutrition class to learn about healthy eating. Also, visiting MyPyramid.gov is a great resource for seeing what you should include in your daily diet, she said.
Ando passed away on Jan. 5, not long after enjoying his Top Ramen brand of noodles
with Nissin employees. His legacy will continue for many years to come, because as a student of DiRusso’s pointed out, ramen is “virtually imperishable, so there is no worry about spoilage.”
Chris Stover can be reached at email@example.com.