Instant noodles are made with wheat flour, water, salt or alkaline salt as main ingredients. In the market, it is either packed in individual packaging or in a cup. Seasoning sachet is often included in the packet, sometimes together with dried vegetables. It is designed to be cooked in a shorter time (normally around three minutes). There are 2 main categories of instant noodles, air-dried and deep-fried instant noodles.
Owing to its affordable price, long shelf life, convenient with various flavour, China has been recorded as the highest consumption of instant noodles, followed by Indonesia, and Japan according to World Instant Noodle Association.
Some question pop-up in my mind when consuming instant noodles, perhaps you might share the same feeling.
1. Is plasticizer added in instant noodle, making it so elastic?
Plasticizer is not necessary. Noodles making use medium to high protein wheat flour. The protein known as gluten contributes to the elasticity by forming gluten network, and the presence of salt strengthen the gluten (imagine bread whereby gluten give chewy, elastics texture).
2. Does instant noodles coat with wax?
It’s not coated with wax for glossy appearance, which is supported by Singapore Food Agency. During the process of high heat treatment, steaming followed by drying (non-fried), moisture reduction give rise to surface expansion of instant noodles, causing glossy looking. While fried instant noodles have lower moisture content, it would appear less glossy.
3. Is it added with preservative?
Preservative is not added, as it is dried food. However, for fried noodles, antioxidant is added to prevent the rancid of fat oxidation.
4. Is it high in fat and salt?
Fat content of deep-fried, air-dried noodles vary. Let say when deep-fried noodles contain 20% fat, a pack of 70g in a serving would give you 14g of fat or 20% of GDA (Guideline Daily Amount) of average adult on 2000kcal/ day. Meanwhile, air-dried noodles contain around 1% fat, contributing 0.7g fat in a same serving of 70g.
For salt, 0.8-2.4g salt is found in 100g instant noodles. It also means that a serving of 70g contain 0.6g - 1.7g salt, 320mg - 680mg sodium, 14 - 29% of GDA. When evaluate based on Malaysian AI (Adequate Intake), it contribute 21-45% salt, from 1500mg sodium per day for adult!
5. Does it really affect health?
A study found that women who consume instant noodles, are exposed to higher risk of metabolic syndrome (central obesity at waist, high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, high risk of heart disease). Consumption of more than twice a week, even elevate the risk to 68% among women. Yet, men are less affected due to differ of sex hormone and metabolism. Women are advised to reduce consumption on instant noodles for their health benefits. However, it doesn’t mean that men can take more instant noodles than women, as even increasing physical activity is unable to cancel out the risk.
Take Home Message
Keep in mind that moderation is the key. Have a balanced meal with instant noodles by including protein sources and vegetables. Other noodles such as ramen, konjak noodles, vermicelli, will be other good options when you have a crave for noodles.
Tan Bee Kuan, Food Scientist