Best healthy Ramen Noodle Brands
Best Healthy Ramen Noodle Brands
Five Insider Secrets to Finding the Best Ramen for your Mouth and Body
“Healthy Ramen.” Seems like a myth, right? Like tasty cough medicine... or reasonably-priced health insurance.
Once upon a time, instant ramen lovers in the states had roughly three choices: Top Ramen, Cup Noodles, or Maruchan. Lacking in nutrients and loaded with sodium, most of us learned to see instant ramen as an occasional treat or a cheap fill-in when funds were tight.
Luckily, the noodle landscape has exploded with a myriad of options to meet every noodle loving desire. The rise in popularity of ramen restaurants throughout the states - and beyond - have shown noodle lovers that there is a better way to ramen. And instant ramen has followed suit. From spicy to savory to tangy, today’s instant ramen can meet whatever flavor profile you fancy.
But the options for healthy ramen - noodles that fuel your body while they fill your belly - are still hard to find.
The first challenge is defining healthy. For some that means limiting calories or fat, for others it means getting more nutritional benefit from their food, or it could mean following a specific macro-nutrient profile. Whatever the best healthy ramen noodle means to you, there are some ways that we can help you hone in on the brand that best meets your definition of healthy.
As a group of people passionately devoted to ramen that’s delicious AND nutritious, here are our tips for finding your own noodle nirvana.
Size Matters... serving size, that is.
The first step in finding a healthier alternative to your favorite food or drink is to make sure that when comparing one product to another that you are comparing “apples to apples” - or, as we would prefer, ramen to ramen.
In order to appeal to consumers looking to limit calorie intake, a shockingly high number of food companies slashed their serving size in half (or even smaller) allowing the package to show a smaller number in the calorie and fat columns, slapped a “lower calorie!” label on the package and considered it work complete.
As a consumer searching for the best healthy ramen, you are going to have to do a little math to get to an equivalent serving size when comparing the nutrient content of one ramen over another.
Lets say, for example, you were trying to compare a packet of Nongshim Shin Ramyun Ramen (NSR) to a packet of Vite Ramen:
Nongshim Shin Ramyun Ramen’s serving size is 60g, which is less than half - 44% to be precise - the size of Vite Ramen’s 136g serving. To compare the nutritional content of one packet to the other requires multiplying all of the Nongshim Shin Ramyun values by 2.26 to equal the serving size of the Vite Ramen packet.
Comparative calories would be, for example, 565 NSR vs. 500 Vite Ramen.
Comparative saturated fat: 9.04g NSR vs. 4.8g Vite Ramen
Comparative sodium: 2,079.2mg NSR vs. 575mg Vite Ramen
Comparative protein: 11.3g NSR vs. 29g Vite Ramen
2. Not all sodium is created equal
One of the largest challenges when it comes to identifying a healthy ramen brand: most ramen is high in sodium. While the human body requires some sodium to properly function, diets consistently high in sodium have been linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.
The best ramen has a more complex flavor profile, calling on savory (umami) and rich broth flavors to bring ramen beyond the level of fried noodle salt-lick. However, there’s no denying that a flavorful ramen requires an element of saltiness.
Achieving the ideal salty flavor without going overboard on sodium is a real art.
Through years of research and taste-testing trial & error, we here at Vite Ramen have discovered that using a high tech version of potassium chloride we could increase the perceived salinity of the broth and boost the nutritional potassium of our ramen. While potassium chloride on its own is definitely NOT a tasty food additive, we’ve been able to identify ingredients that pair well with the type of salinity it offers while maximizing umami for overall less sodium, more potassium, and pure flavor yumminess.
3. Protein matters, but the number on the pack doesn’t tell the whole story
We all know that protein is important for sustainable energy and muscle support. However, as you’ve probably noticed a theme here - the number of grams on the nutrition label isn’t all the information you need to identify the best healthy ramen brands.
Most ramen brands fail to provide a complete protein.
Proteins are made up of building blocks called amino acids and your body needs every single building block there. This is known as having a complete protein.
In animal-based proteins like eggs, milk or meat, all of the amino acids are present in large quantities.
Plant-based proteins are usually lacking in one or two. While wheat flour is imperative to achieve ramen’s stretchy lattice structure with the desired chew and elasticity, it’s missing an amino acid called L-lysine, making it less effective for your body than a complete protein.
But it’s not as simple as just mixing in flour with a high L-lysine content. We spent many, many waking hours working out the perfect complete protein blend. If you’re inclined to geek-out on the science of why this is important, check out our post here.
4. Vitamins: getting the most benefit from additives
If all nutrients were created equal, you could chow down on a bag of pretzels, pop a multi-vitamin and call it a vitamin-rich snack. Sadly, it’s just not that simple.
Nutritional labeling doesn’t shed any light on a nutrient’s bioavailability - your body’s ability to absorb a given nutrient. When nutrient additives are not soluble (able to be dissolved in water or fat and absorbed by your body), they pass through your system without providing much overall benefit.
When searching for the best healthy ramen brands that meet the flavor and nutrient content profile that you’re looking for, it’s important to pay attention to the specific nutrients added and how easily they are absorbed.
As new scientific evidence has come to light on how best to get vitamins and minerals into the body,
We here at Vite Ramen have identified and included specific micronutrients to enhance bioavailability.
Let’s take calcium, for example.
We have opted to swap the commonly used calcium carbonate for calcium citrate because calcium carbonate had poor water solubility, requiring extra acid for absorption. Calcium citrate on the other hand exhibits high bioavailability, giving your body more calcium “bang for your buck.”
These seemingly small substitutions can make a huge difference to how much benefit your body gains from the nutrients listed on those nutrition labels.5. Can we agree that “fried” generally does not equate to healthy?
Standard instant ramen cooks quickly because it has already been cooked. In many cases, the noodles are fried in order to dry them and allow them to reconstitute rapidly when rehydrated (just add water).
However, frying also adds saturated fats, often from oil sources that are not optimum for your body. It’s been associated with oxidized fats and generating potential carcinogens, which isn’t exactly ideal. And when it comes to maximizing the nutritional benefit of the foods you choose, deep-frying introduces too much lipid content into the noodles. In the case of Vite Ramen’s noodles, this would upset the macronutrient balance we’ve spent so much time calculating and balancing.
Lucky for those on the hunt for healthy ramen, we discovered a better way to dehydrate our noodles without adding saturated fats or damaging the nutrient balance: microwaving.
In fact, we custom built our own industrial microwave to perfectly heat, steam, and remove water from our noodles, leaving them dried and ready to quickly cook when rehydrated. If you’re so inclined, here are more details about our microwave process and how we perfected it.
Another benefit of microwaving over frying: our unique, proprietary microwave dehydrating system lets us dehydrate and parcook our noodles without deep frying, and gives them a long shelf life without utilizing artificial preservatives!
Finding the Best Healthy Ramen Noodle Brand
It’s clear that it takes a deep dive into the ingredients of your favorite noodles to determine the best healthy noodle brands. While the first requirement is surely flavor, identifying a scrumptious ramen that delivers a nutritionally complete meal and supports your healthy eating goals can be done if you focus on these five factors.