Is Instant Ramen Bad for You?

If you’re looking for a cheap, filling food, it’s tough to go wrong with instant ramen. Like other microwavable foods, you can prepare a bowl in just a few minutes. Or, you can use the stovetop method and toss in a bunch of other ingredients. It’s no wonder ramen is one of the most popular college foods.

At the same time, you probably care about your health. If you do, you’ll be looking for ways to avoid junk food and eat some healthier foods. So… is ramen bad for you?

Yes and no. There’s nothing inherently unhealthy about instant ramen. At its heart, it’s just some noodles and a flavor packet. That said, it depends what goes into those noodles and the flavor packet. It also depends on what you serve with the ramen. Use healthy ingredients in your recipes, and you’ll be much better off.

Here, we’ll discuss how instant ramen is made and what ingredients it has. We’ll also talk about how to build a healthy ramen bowl. By the time we’re done, you’ll know everything you need to know. Let’s get started!

healthy ramen bowl

Reading the Label

Want to find out if something is healthy? Read the ingredients. Let’s start by comparing four different ramen brands. First, we’ll talk about the major ramen brands out there. Then, we’ll look at Mike’s Mighty Good. For this comparison, we’re using a single cup of chicken ramen.

One cup of Maruchan chicken ramen contains 290 calories, with 39 grams of carbs. It also contains 12 grams of fat, along with 1,180mg of sodium. That’s over half of your daily recommended value of 2,300mg.

The Nissin noodles also contain 290 calories, but with more carbs and less fat. Along with 41 grams of carbs and 11 grams of fat, they also contain 1,160mg of sodium.

The Nongshim noodle cup has 360 calories, with 47 grams of carbs and 16 grams of fat. It also has the most sodium, with 1,310mg.

A cup of Mike’s Mighty Good chicken ramen has only 210 calories. It contains 31 grams of carbs, 8 grams of fat, and far less sodium, with only 780mg.

Based on this comparison, you can see that Mike’s Mighty Good has less calories, fewer carbs, and less fat than the leading brands. It also contains roughly 40% less sodium. That’s because it’s noodles are steamed, not fried, and because MMG ramen uses rich broths and spices instead of simply a lot of salt to flavor its broths.

chicken ramen label

Excessive Sodium

One major problem with most instant ramen out there is salt. Many manufacturers use salt because it’s a cheap flavoring, and it also acts as a preservative. We should note that sodium is also an essential nutrient. Without it, your body wouldn’t be able to function.

Unfortunately, today’s American diet contains far more sodium than is healthy, and most of this comes from packaged foods. The FDA has even asked manufacturers to reduce the amount of sodium in their foods voluntarily.

As we’ve already discussed, the major brands provide more than half your daily value of sodium. That’s a huge amount of salt for a single meal. Unless the rest of your diet is totally bland, you’re going to get too much salt. When you eat too much salt, your body retains water in order to keep the concentration at the right level.

Health concerns aside, there’s another reason to worry about salt. Manufacturers use it to keep prices down by overloading your taste buds. But there’s no richness to the flavor. Instead of a being a blend of nuanced spices, it’s often just an intense, one-note flavor.

Mike’s Mighty Good, however, contains 40% less sodium than the big commercial brands. It has ridiculously rich broth with an awesome blend of herbs and spices. You’re not just getting less salt; you’re getting the complex, nuanced flavor you deserve.

Unnecessary Oil

Unfortunately, sodium isn’t the only health concern you have to contend with. Most major ramen brands prepare their noodles by flash-frying them before packaging. This only takes a few seconds, so the production process is efficient and inexpensive. That’s one reason why so many grocery store instant ramen is so cheap.

At Mike’s Mighty Good, we prepare our noodles the right way; by steaming, not frying them. This is how real ramen bar noodles are prepared in Japan. It takes a little longer and it costs a bit more, but it creates a noodle with the perfect bite and without any oil. Mike’s Mighty Good also doesn’t use any palm oil in our products. 

Artificial Ingredients

Besides salt and oil, we should briefly consider the other ingredients. What else might you find in a commercial ramen packet? To begin with, you might find a preservative called tertiary butylhydroquinone (TBHQ). This ingredient is one that many people have concerns with.

We at Mike’s Mighty Good don’t add TBHQ to our ramen and instead use simple ingredients in our noodles and flavor packets. You’ll be able to pronounce everything on the ingredient list.

MMG vs typical ramen

How to Make a Healthy Bowl of Ramen

Now that we’ve talked about some of the things that go into making a good noodle and flavor packet, let’s talk about how to build a healthy ramen bowl:

  • Read the label – Of course, we’d prefer if you used Mike’s Mighty Good noodles. But no matter what noodles you use, read the label. Look at how much sodium there is and ask yourself if you’re comfortable with that. Also look at the ingredients and make sure there’s not weird stuff in there.
  • Add some vegetables – Want to add a little something to your meal? Try some greens in your ramen! A good meal should be balanced, and you should have plenty of vegetables. Besides which, vegetables add texture and flavor of their own. As far as which vegetables to use, you can add just about anything. Onions, green onions, and garlic are popular for their flavor and aroma. Carrots provide some crunch and sweetness. Bok choy,, napa cabbage, and spinach all go great in ramen bowls and are easy to find. The more veggies, the merrier.
  • Mix in some protein – Carbs will give you a rush of energy, but they won’t keep you powered all day. If you want a filling meal that sticks to your ribs, add some protein. You can use a meat like chicken, beef, or pork. Eggs are also a popular choice, as are shrimp. For vegans and vegetarians, tofu is the go-to choice. But you can also use other soybean-based products like natto or edamame.

healthy ramen

So, Is Ramen Bad for You?

By now, you’ve probably realized that ramen can be perfectly healthy. However, it needs to be made with the right ingredients, and it has to be prepared in the right way. It shouldn’t contain a ton of salt, and it helps if you serve it with some protein and vegetables. If you can check those boxes, your ramen will be no less healthy than anything else you eat.

Nutritious Ramen Recipes

We have some extra healthy ramen recipes packed with veggies to give you an idea of what you can make with our instant ramen. Check out a few below and find more on our recipe page.

Loaded Veggie Ramen

Candied Beet Ramen

Vegan Tofu Ramen

Spicy Vegetarian Edamame Ramen

"Mike's Mighty Good has permanently changed my lunch game. Never knew an 'instant soup' could be so good."

Charles W. "Chuck" Bryant of the Stuff You Should Know Podcast