Ask the average person what their favorite comfort foods are and there's a good chance ramen will be right up there along with pizza, burgers, and burritos. But as you've gotten smarter about your eating habits, you may have made some changes.
In this guide, we'll take you through the highs and lows of ramen noodles nutrition and compare some top ramen brands so you can keep your health goals in check.
The Basics of Ramen Noodles Nutrition
When we talk about ramen noodles, we're referring to instant noodles. You know, the kind of ramen that comes in the form of a dehydrated block wrapped in plastic, a disposable cup or bowl with a flavor packet. In other words, this is the ramen that kept you fed as a college student.
Here's a quick rundown of some key ramen nutritional facts:
The Highs of Ramen Noodles
Spoiler alert: While instant noodles are definitely convenient and affordable, the truth is they're far from a nutritious meal option. Let’s take a closer look.
High in carbs: Because most commercial ramen brands are made with enriched wheat flour, they're high in carbs. The average serving of instant noodles contains 40 grams to 80 grams of net carbs. Studies show eating processed carbohydrates is linked to metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, heart disease, high cholesterol, and diabetes.
High in saturated fat: While consuming healthy fats is a good idea, most ramen noodles are high in saturated fat, which is directly tied to coronary heart disease and strokes. Take one look at the total grams of fat on the nutritional label, and you'll discover about half of the total fat in ramen noodles is saturated.
High in sodium: Although sodium is an essential nutrient for healthy muscles and nerves, most instant noodles have way too much. Consuming excessive amounts of salt increases your risk of stroke, heart disease, hypertension, calcium loss, and even stomach cancer.
High in additives: To extend shelf life and improve flavor, most ramen is loaded with artificial flavorings and coloring, as well as synthetic preservatives like TBHQ (tertiary butylhydroquinone). These additives are recognized as safe in small doses by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but there's some evidence that TBHQ is potentially carcinogenic and can damage DNA.
The Lows of Ramen Noodles
Although most instant ramen noodles are made with flour that's enriched with small amounts of vitamins like iron, riboflavin, and folic acid, they still lack substantive nutritional value. Here are the nutrients missing from your average serving of ramen.
Low in nutrients: If you count on instant noodles to provide a nutritious meal, you'll be out of luck. Instant ramen has no vitamin A, B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin D, or any substantial amount of minerals, all of which are essential for proper body functioning.
Low in protein: Protein is necessary for overall good health. Not only is it an essential building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, and skin, but it also repairs tissue, oxygenates the blood, and regulates hormones. Traditional instant ramen is low in protein, which means you're better off choosing a more nutritious option.
Low in fiber: Instant ramen offers very little fiber, which is crucial for good digestive health and regulating blood sugar levels. What's more, protein and fiber can make you feel full longer and therefore help with weight management. Without these two critical components, you're at a disadvantage.
Low in antioxidants: Highly processed foods like instant ramen noodles fall short when it comes to antioxidants that fight inflammation and cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other health conditions.
Comparing Nutrition Facts of Instant Ramen Noodle Soup
Now that you understand some of the basics of ramen noodles nutrition, you probably realize that eating instant noodles is better as an occasional indulgence rather than a regular go-to option. In fact, at least one study shows regular consumption of instant noodles is associated with a higher risk of metabolic syndrome.
Still, not all instant ramen is created equal. (Don’t worry — we’ll soon show you the silver lining.) Check out the nutrition stats on the most popular instant ramen brands to see how they stack up:
Creator of the famed Top Ramen noodles, Nissin is the Japanese brand that made instant noodles all the rage. However, when you skim the nutrition facts of one cup of Nissin's Cup Noodles (chicken flavor, dry), things don't look so bright:
- Calories: 290
- Net carbs: 39 grams
- Protein: 6 grams
- Dietary fiber: 2 grams
- Sodium: 1160 milligrams
The best-selling instant noodle brand in South Korea, Nongshim offers a variety of noodles including the popular Shin Ramyun cups and bowls. The nutritional profile of one Shin cup of noodle soup looks like this:
- Calories: 360
- Net carbs: 44 grams
- Protein: 6 grams
- Fiber: 3 grams
- Sodium: 1310 milligrams
This popular Japanese-American brand produces a range of instant ramen noodles including precooked blocks, cups, and bowls. When looking at Maruchan's labels, you'll notice the serving size is half a block of ramen. It's an unrealistic serving of food, so here's the nutritional value for a full block of Maruchan chicken flavor ramen:
- Calories: 380
- Net carbs: 50 grams
- Protein: 8 grams
- Fiber: Less than 2 grams
- Sodium: 1660 milligrams
As the world's first low-carb, high-protein instant ramen, immi is truly in a league of its own. Compared to other regular ramen brands, immi has at least five times more protein, double the fiber, and about 30-40% less sodium. What's more, unlike the other brands on this list, only immi instant ramen noodles are keto-friendly and 100% plant-based.
- Net carbs: 9 grams
- Protein: 40 grams
- Fiber: 6 grams
- Sodium: 850 milligrams
How to Improve Ramen Noodles Nutrition
While the majority of instant ramen won’t win any awards for nutritional value, you can make some simple adjustments to make it more nourishing:
- Add protein such as chicken, pork, beef, shrimp, tofu, or eggs
- Add veggies to amp up the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants
- Use lower-sodium vegetable, chicken, or beef broth with herbs and seasonings
Have Your Ramen and Eat It Too
Instant ramen noodles are easy, inexpensive, fun, and nostalgic. But eating traditional, unhealthy instant ramen brands on a regular basis is not the best general nutrition advice.
Most conventional instant ramen noodle brands are loaded with carbs, saturated fats, sodium, and additives that are detrimental to your health. They're also seriously lacking in protein, fiber, and overall nutritional value.
Fortunately, you don't have to entirely give up on one of your favorite comfort foods. Simple modifications like adding protein and veggies can make a big difference.
But the biggest (and easiest) way you can make it work is by choosing immi ramen. Its low-carb, high-protein goodness lets you enjoy the tasty instant noodle experience you love every single day without the nutritional drawbacks.