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Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022
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    Hungry Hungry Longhorn Ep 08: Instant Ramen

    Editor’s Note: This podcast was originally published on Spotify on August 10, 2023. 

     

    In Aislyn’s last episode, she sits down with UT dietician Jennifer Barnoud to chat about the college favorite, instant ramen. She also chats with other students to find ways to elevate instant ramen recipes.

     

    Reporting and editing by Aislyn Gaddis. Cover art by Emma George. Music by BlueDot Sessions.


     

    *upbeat music*

     

    Aislyn Gaddis: 

    Hi, welcome to Hungry Hungry Longhorns, where we teach UT students about cooking and nutrition. I’m your host, Aislyn Gaddis, and today we’ll be talking about instant ramen.

     

    *upbeat music*

     

    Aislyn: 

    Instant ramen is often thought of as the essential “broke college-kid” food, and there’s a reason for that. Classic Maruchan ramen costs thirty cents and takes only three minutes to cook. 

     

    *microwave nat sound*

     

    Aislyn:

    According to the fall 2021 National College Health Assessment, nearly 40 percent of UT students have experienced some form of food insecurity. So, it’s not a surprise that instant ramen is a staple at UT and elsewhere.

     

    While Instant ramen is cheap and convenient, it isn’t known for being healthy.

     

    UT dietician Jennifer Barnoud said that this is mainly due to it’s high sodium content. 

     

    Jennifer Barnoud:

    Instant ramen is primarily going to be providing us with complex carbohydrates. Ramen noodles are typically made from wheat flour, and so you will get similar nutrients as you would from something like bread. So B vitamins, iron and then of course our complex carbs, which is our body’s main and preferred fuel source…there’s also going to be a pretty good amount of sodium in our ramen, particularly like within the seasoning packets. That’s where most of that lies. Which in some cases can be concerning, right?

     

    Aislyn:

    One pack of Maruchan Chicken-flavored ramen contains about 1.7 grams of sodium, or 70% of a person’s recommended daily intake.

     

    While a high sodium intake is usually not great, Barnoud said it’s a little more complicated than that.

     

    Jennifer:

    About 15% of people that have high blood pressure are impacted by sodium intake in the diet, so that can actually raise their blood pressure levels…And then on the flip side, there’s a certain population of people that actually need more sodium in order to keep their blood pressure like where it should be. And if you’re like me living in Austin in the summer, you’re losing electrolytes. Any second you step outside. So it’s actually kind of a nice source of electrolytes

     

    Aislyn:

    If you are short on money or time, you may find yourself relying on instant ramen a bit too much, though Barnoud said that there’s a problem with eating any one meal too often.

     

    Jennifer:

    If we’re eating any one food as our primary source of nutrition, we will get all of the nutrients that are in that food repeatedly, but none of the ones that are not right. And so while our ramen has like carbohydrates, it’s got some iron, some sodium, potassium, things like that, it’s going to be missing like dietary fiber, antioxidants, um, as well as, you know, a lot of times when, when I was in college and I made ramen, it was Um, and so we’re missing out on protein. We’re missing out on veggies, so we’re not really getting a fully balanced meal with that. Um, and so that can contribute to some health concerns when we’re not getting in those nutrients and that nutritional balance we need.

     

    Aislyn:

    As for how often is too often, Barnoud said that one study recommended twice a week or less, but that the study hasn’t been reproduced with the same results.

     

    Jennifer:

    There’s not really a specific data point on that. Um, but like any of our, you know, more convenience foods, like we’re using them strategically and like when we have a really strong craving for them, you know. Um, so try not to have it as like your dinner every single night might be wise. Um. But plenty of folks eat ramen regularly and are just fine, you know.

     

    Aislyn:

    When looking at ramen options, Barnoud suggests prioritzing lower sodium content and to decide how much you value flavor versus cost.

     

    Jennifer:

    Do you value the fact that you can pay like 50 cents a dollar to get a traditional ramen and then you have more money to buy vegetables and eggs and dairy and things like that? Or is it something that you do want to spend a little bit more money on and get, you know, something that’s made with organic ingredients or has the added veggies already in it?

     

    Aislyn:

    To make ramen more nutritional and flavorful, Barnoud recommends adding things like sesame oil, soy sauce, eggs, onion, bean sprouts, kimchi, and any other vegetables you like.

     

    Shuhan Sun, a journalism sophomore, says she loves instant ramen because of the cost and the flavor

     

    Shuhan Sun:

    I’ve always loved noodles ever since I was little. So having ramen…Being of a cost… sometimes less than a dollar,…you can just get it at like, pretty much any store. It’s just like, well I just really like eating it”

     

    Aislyn:

    Shuhan said she eats a lot more ramen at college than she does at home.

     

    Shuhan:

    Back at home my parents never let me eat that much ramen, since it technically is like, not as healthy as home cooked food. So when I got to college, I get to buy a lot more ramen than I used to, and I get to eat a lot more as well, because I don’t always get to have time to go to the dining halls or find something to eat, so it’s just something good to eat late at night.

     

    Aislyn:

    She also likes to add extra ingredients to make her ramen more nutritional

     

    Shuhan:

    I’ve been trying to, like, find more healthier ways for it, but, um, I found that, to Target and, like, buying, like, these small bags of shredded lettuce. I’ve been adding dough into it as well, and then sometimes I get my own to I buy my own tomatoes, and I cut the tomatoes up and also put it in the ramen.

     

    Aislyn:

    Shuhan currently lives in a dorm, but she said she’s excited to add eggs and other ingredients when she has more space. 

     

    Katherine Mendoza is another student who really enjoys instant ramen. She’s an incoming freshman International Relations Major and said she’ll definetly be relying on instant ramen once she moves in to her dorm. 

     

    Katherine Mendoza:

    I am staying on campus, so I get like the unlimited meal swipe, but I can definitely tell that at some point I will be sick and tired of. dining hall food. Um, but of course…I am going to UT, so it’s not always the most affordable option to go out to eat. So I definitely see myself, you know, going to Target or like a local H-E-B and maybe stocking up on some ramen that I’ll have in my dorm just maybe for a late night snack.

     

    Aislyn:

    She said the reason she likes instant ramen is a mix of the flavor and the cost.

     

    Katherine:

    I’ll definitely say taste. I’m really into spicy food. Um, my favorite flavors has always been the chicken flavor. It’s just always what I’ve eaten. Um, definitely cost as well. It’s always been something that like When I’m home alone, I can just like stir up on my own. Um, very easy to make as well. And very easy to also kind of spice up and make a little, make it feel a little more elegant.

     

    Aislyn:

    She said she remembers growing up eating Maruchan.

     

    Katherine:

    I first grew up with the ramen brand Maruchan, which is more like a Hispanic version. 

     

    Aislyn:

    Maruchan was first introduced in Japan in 1953, but since then, it has become a huge staple in Mexican cuisine. According to the Washington Post, the Mexican market share is estimated at about 85 percent.

     

    Katherine:

    But then slowly as I grew up, I kind of started exploring different options. So my current favorite is the Buldak ramen, um, which is…Korean…Um, and the Shin Ramyun. Those two are my personal favorites. Um, but yeah, I’ve always grown up with it, but I didn’t eat it much as a kid just because my dad isn’t a fan of ramen. And, uh, but my mom always saw it as like an easy meal to get the kids happy….I’ve definitely been eating it since I was a kid, but I would say more so now because I can actually buy my own ramen. Um, but yeah, it’s, it’s always been a part of my childhood. 

     

    Aislyn:

    When buying ramen, she said she definitely considers flavor over cost, since most instant ramen is still relatively cheap to other options, and she likes to add a lot of different ingredients.

     

    Katherine:

    There’s different things that I like to add. Um, personally, I really like adding egg to my ramen. I feel like it’s just It just lets me, um, lets me get, like, fuller quicker. And depending on what’s available at home, I might add some chicken. Um, even though it is chicken flavored, it doesn’t necessarily come with, like, chicken pieces, so you’re not really getting, like, that protein in.

    Um, so I do try and add some, like, already cooked chicken to it. Um, maybe some green onion. Those are usually really good. And of course, just a little bit of seasoning to my liking if it’s not spicy enough for me, I will add like some hot sauce to it. My personal favorites are Valentina, which is a Hispanic hot sauce.

     

    Aislyn:

    Katherine said she thinks instant ramen is definitely a good choice for college students, and that she considers it a comfort food for her. She also wants to encourage students to try new things when it comes to ramen.

     

    Katherine:

    I mean, I do feel that Ramen is a good choice for college students. Um, definitely it’s always how you make it. Um, I would always, always recommend that everyone try something new, um, since there are so many, so many ramen flavors and brands. So, and they all taste, some may taste similar, some may taste really different than others. Um, there’s some that are much more spicier, some that are like, mild or not spicy at all. Um, and always if you can, maybe if you really, really want to treat yourself like trying ramen, actual ramen, like from Japanese restaurant is always a super fun experience. Um, so yeah, it’s definitely a college staple. Whenever someone thinks of college meals, everyone always kind of thinks of ramen because it’s so cheap, affordable, and of course delicious.

     

    Aislyn:

    Thanks for joining me for this episode of Hungry Hungry Longhorns! This will be my last time reporting and hosting this podcast. While there’s a possibility of more episodes in the future, it’s my time to say goodbye. I’ve had so much fun learning with all of you, and I hope you have too. 

     

    *upbeat music*

     

    Aislyn:

    This episode was a production of The Daily Texan audio department. Reported and edited by me, Aislyn Gaddis, over this past summer. Special thanks to Jennifer Barnoud, Shuhan Sun, and Katherine Mendoza. Cover art is by Emma George. Music is by Podington Bear. For the last time, Thanks for listening!

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    About the Contributor
    Aislyn Gaddis, Senior Audio Producer
    Aislyn is a journalism sophomore from Grapevine, Texas. Currently, she works as a senior audio producer and previously worked on investigative stories for the Texan. She loves to do crosswords and listen to Taylor Swift in her free time.