Why Ramen Could Spell Disaster For People’s Bodies, No Matter How Good It Is For Our Budget

People do all sorts of things to save money on food when their bank accounts start nearing the red. Few options, however, are as ubiquitous as instant ramen. From college students and any other individual living on a strict budget, these cheap noodles are practically essential.

Most people know that the sodium-rich noodles aren’t exactly the healthiest options in the world, but they may actually be worse for your body than you realize. In fact, recently released information suggests that you might want to steer clear of instant ramen entirely…

When they don’t have the money (or, quite often, the time) to invest in healthier or tastier alternatives, many folks try to eat the most inexpensive food they can find. In these cases, few options beat out instant ramen noodles.

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Just about everyone is familiar with instant ramen, especially if they’ve ever been on a tight budget or forced to keep a hectic schedule that affords them little time to cook. It’s not the healthiest food, but it’s not horrible for you either, right?

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Wrong! Instant ramen could actually pose a surprising number of health risks that few people know about. While these noodles might be convenient and cheap, they could be doing some serious damage!

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To confirm this, scientists needed to go inside our bodies. Previously, no one could see what was happening when a person ate ramen. But that all changed thanks to unique technology called a “smart pill,” a tiny camera the size and shape of a multivitamin.

The smart pill captured footage of a stomach as it processed ramen, and it was, needless to say, deeply concerning. Ramen may seem like a soft, harmless food, but the truth is that the stomach struggles to grind it up.

Researchers determined that instant ramen noodles contain a disturbingly large number of artificial additives and preservatives, the most dangerous of which was a chemical called tertiary butylhydroquinone, otherwise known as TBHQ.

This extremely fatty food additive may be useful from a practical standpoint—it extends the shelf life of several common food products, after all. Unfortunately, it’s also found in cosmetics, pesticides, and various varnishes.

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The FDA has warned against people making TBHQ any more than just 0.02 percent of one’s daily fat consumption, and the Codex Commission also states that consuming more than 400 milligrams of the compound can be dangerous.

One particularly dangerous side effect of TBHQ is that it prevents the processed noodles from breaking down normally in the digestive system. That means they could stay in your body much longer than you’d ever want.


Food normally digests within six to eight hours of consumption. (You’ll know if the food you’re eating is digesting properly if you’re going to the bathroom regularly.) Thankfully, not all ramen presents a problem…

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It should be noted that these digestive dangers, significant as they may be, generally do not apply to freshly made, authentic ramen noodles—like the ones you’d find in a Japanese restaurant, for instance…

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Granted, if you’re a connoisseur of authentic Asian cuisine, you probably already knew that! By all means, if you find yourself in a real Korean or Japanese restaurant, you probably can’t go wrong with ramen on the menu.

While it might not necessarily be “healthy”—it is jam-packed with carbohydrates and a great deal of salt, fat, and other harmful ingredients when consumed in excess—the same risks do not usually apply to authentic ramen.

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Genuine ramen can actually be quite delicious, especially when it’s topped with other ingredients like eggs, vegetables, meat, and a spicy broth! That’s good to know, seeing as it’s preferred to eating instant ramen.

As is often the case with so many other unhealthy food and drinks—from French fries and bacon to ice cream and candy—it’s all about moderation. You’ll probably be fine if you eat just a little bit of instant ramen noodles every once in a blue moon…

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That said, you definitely don’t want to make a habit of eating instant ramen on a regular basis, just as you wouldn’t for any other junk food. Chances are, if any food is considered unhealthy, there are important reasons for it.

Cesar Astudillo / Wikimedia Commons

There are so much better (and better-tasting) inexpensive food options out there anyway! You could buy salad or more nutritious soups that don’t take too long to eat. Of course, if you could find the time, it’s always worth it to try cooking authentic ramen yourself!

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That may sound easier said than done, but you might be surprised by how much fun you’ll have cooking your own healthy foods just the way you like them. You might even save some money in the meantime!

Quadell / Wikimedia Commons

If you take just one thing away from this story, perhaps it should be this: the cost of eating unhealthily, no matter how quick, easy, and inexpensive it may be, might just take a toll on your body.

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You can see how instant ramen noodles in the stomach look compared real, freshly-made ramen noodles thanks to an experiment conducted by a gastrointestinal laboratory. It may seem unpleasant, but it’s a real eye-opener!

Eating instant ramen always seems like a good option when money is tight, but after watching this video, it might be difficult to ever go back to it!

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