We all love instant meals because they’re quick and easy for our time-strapped lives. The most popular of this food subset are instant noodles, specifically ramen. A common stereotype of the college diet, instant ramen noodles are popular with anyone who can’t spare the time or the cash.

They’re cheap, quick, easily available and simple to prepare. Although we know they’re not really healthy for us, they’re not as unhealthy as fast food, right? That may not be entirely true! Instant noodles may be doing more to your stomach than you think.

What Instant Noodles Do To Your Stomach

Dr. Braden Kuo at Massachusetts General Hospital experimented to find the effects of ramen noodles in the stomach and digestive tract. Using a pill-sized camera swallowed at meal time, he was able to film it all. And it doesn’t look good.

The video shows that when processed ramen noodles are compared to homemade ones, they are broken down way less over time. After 2 hours, the homemade noodles are almost entirely broken down, while the instant noodles are still visible.

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Slower digestion can affect the amount of nutrients the body absorbs. And with instant noodles being found to have very little nutritional value in the first place, this makes them hard to justify as being healthy at all.

Dr. Kuo says that the study can’t conclude that processed ramen noodles are harmful because of the size of the study. But, he does say if you’re eating them every day it might be a little worrying. Moderation is key! Instant ramen noodles aren’t entirely harmless, however.

Health Effects of Instant Noodles

  1. Contain the preservative tertiary-butyl hydroquinone (TBHQ)

Often listed as an antioxidant, this synthetic chemical helps extend the shelf life of processed foods. The problem is that 5g of it can be lethal. Small doses are fine, 0-0.5mg/kg of body weight is deemed safe by the FDA, and food is not legally allowed to have that much in it.

TBHQ is found largely in fast food, but also other processed snacks and gum. Its hazards can include nausea or vomiting, ringing in the ears, delirium, sense of suffocation, or collapse. So it’s best to try and avoid it wherever possible.

  1. Linked to metabolic syndrome in women

Metabolic syndrome is a group of factors that can lead to heart disease, diabetes or stroke. It includes a clustering of at least three of these medical conditions: abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high triglycerides and low HDL cholesterol (also known as ‘good’ cholesterol).

Women who ate instant ramen noodles more than twice a week were 68% more likely to develop it, regardless of overall diet and health

  1. Contribute little value to daily health

Frequent consumers of instant ramen noodles had a lower intake of important nutrients like protein, calcium, iron, potassium, vitamin A and C. They also had an excessive intake of unhealthy fats and sodium. Some packages can contain as much as 2700mg of sodium!

For some of us, instant ramen noodles are something we enjoy. And for some of us they may be all we can eat given our time or financial situation. While there are cheap healthy alternatives, it looks like they’ll be a mainstay in our diets for the foreseeable future. Just make sure they’re not the only part of your diet!

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