Questionable instant noodles: friend or foe?
China may be the world’s largest instant noodle market, according to the World Instant Noodles Association but South Koreans eat more instant noodles per capita than anyone in the world. In 2012, about $1.8 billion worth was sold.
Instant noodles arrived in South Korea in the 1960s as the country was recovering from the war. Geriatrics often feel a deep connection with instant noodles and clearly remember their first bite of the once-exotic treat. It’s also seen as an excellent hangover remedy by the heavy-drinking nation.
Instant Noodles in South Korea
Instant noodles in Korea means spicy, salty “ramyeon,” in individually wrapped disposable cups and bowls that you can get anywhere and everywhere for under a dollar.
Just tear off the top, add hot water, usually from a nearby dispenser, wait a few minutes, and you have a meal; and usually a counter at which to eat. There are entire aisles in supermarkets dedicated to instant noodles.
There are many shops in South Korea’s Incheon International airport that sell instant noodles and other local staples for travellers to stock up on before departing. No need to worry about inferior international instant noodles!
The medical study
Much dismay has been caused by a Baylor Heart and Vascular Hospital study in the United States that links intake of instant noodles by South Koreans to some heart disease risks.
The study was based on surveys from 2007-2009 of over 10,700 adults aged 19-64, about 50% women. It found that people who followed a diet high in meat, soda and fried and fast foods, including instant noodles, were linked to an increase in abdominal obesity and LDL bad cholesterol. Consuming instant noodles more than twice a week was related to increased prevalence of metabolic syndrome, another heart risk factor, in women but not in men.
The study raises burning questions, especially about high sodium intake, but can’t blame instant noodles rather than the overall diets of people who eat lots of them. One serving of typical instant ramyeon provides over 90 percent of the recommended daily sodium intake for the country.
Many of those who were interviewed pledged to never quit their noodle dependency. Other noodle worshippers suggested their sworn-by health maintenance approaches, such as taking Omega-3, throwing some vegetables to the noodle concoctions, using less of the seasoning in the packet, and not drinking the remaining soup. Some disregarded the study because it comes from one of the unhealthiest nations in the world.
Are instant noodles, or “2-minute-noodles” a part of your weekly diet?
Source: Reading Eagle