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The Rise in Instant Noodles: COVID Chaos

- By Dwaipayan, 08 October 2020 | 8 MIN READ


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The outbreak of Covid-19 triggered many changes in our lives. Food choices are a major one! People are rustling up dishes in their kitchens, our eating patterns have changed drastically. We’ve also moved to consume packaged and ready-to-eat foods like noodles, chips, and pastas to trying new ways of preparing dishes in the kitchen.

After the nationwide lockdown was announced by PM Narendra Modi on March 25, people in a hurry started to stock up on essentials, panicked by rumors of a shutdown doing the rounds. Several others hoarded and stocked up on packets of Maggi noodles, chips, ready-to-eat, and packaged foods to “get through” the period of the lockdown.

Ready-to-eat meals and instant noodles were the favorites and flying off the shelves in supermarkets, with their sales skyrocketing in the first month of the lockdown.

Globally, too, there was observed a sharp spike in the sale of packaged food items. Even healthy eaters in the US were turning to packaged food products during the lockdown, burdened and stressed by household duties and work from home. The shutting down of restaurants soared the demand for frozen pizzas and other packaged food products with large packaged food businesses such as Campbell Soup Company, Kraft Heinz, Hamburger Helper, Cheerios, Doritos, and Cheetos observing steep growth in sales.

Ready to devour

Chairman and managing director Suresh Narayanan, Nestle India, during an online media roundtable said the company observed a staggering growth of 10.7% growth in domestic sales amounting to `3,124.2 crores for the March quarter. He further added that demand for items like Maggi noodles, coffee, Milkmaid condensed milk, KitKat, and Munch chocolates surged during this period.

Flipkart spokesperson says it’s because consumers have been confined to their homes, which is leading to a shift towards indulging in easy-to-make food items. “The top categories that have seen increased interest from consumers are ready-to-eat meals (which have seen a growth of 125%) followed by noodles and pasta (with 40% growth).

Eating at home has no doubt triggered healthy eating habits in people, especially as there’s a need to boost immunity in the outbreak.

But there is a disturbing trend, according to a report published by the World Instant Noodles Association, India stands fourth in the global instant noodles’ consumption listing at 5.5 billion servings per year. It’s China that tops the list at a shocking 44.4 billion servings consumed annually even after keeping the above statistics and the recent hullabaloo around one of the nation's most loved instant noodles brand.

What makes it so awful?

Instant noodles are made to bear a longer shelf life, and that’s where the problem starts. They are highly processed. Instant Noodles are low on nutritive content; high on fat, calories, and sodium; and are laced with artificial colors, preservatives, additives and, flavorings.

Do you have any idea about monosodium glutamate (MSG) as well as tertiary-butyl hydroquinone(TBHQ) - a chemical preservative derived from the petroleum industry? They could be present in instant noodles for their taste-enhancing and preserving properties and regular intake of these can cause severe health issues.

A study conducted in South Korea on the effects of instant noodles on human health tells, "Despite instant noodles being tasty food of choice, there could be an increased risk for metabolic syndrome given. They come with high sodium, unhealthy saturated fat, and glycemic loads, and could have damaging effects on your health. The study concluded that you’re at great risks with noodle consumption and can not only trigger obesity but also metabolic ailments like diabetes, high blood pressure, hypertension, heart problems, and so on.

Maida - Matter that Matters 

To make it simple, maida is the bleached version of wheat flour that makes maida so bad for our health is the fact that it is highly processed - richer in flavor but, unfortunately, devoid of any nutrition.

Nutritionists tell Maida-based instant noodles are loaded with preservatives and are nothing, but a source of empty calories ripped of all nutrition. Extreme consumption may lead to obesity.

Bad Fats

Instant noodles include saturated fats which if consumed excessively or regularly can raise the level of cholesterol in the blood. High cholesterol increases the risk of heart disease as well as type 2 diabetes.

Fat and sodium content in instant noodles across leading brands

Instant noodles contain soaring levels of sodium, food additives, petroleum by-products with no nutrition, and no fiber whatsoever. Did you ever give a thought that regular consumption of such items can harm you?

An interesting fact about Instant Noodle

A group of local American doctors researched how does our digestive process functions when we eat instant noodles. With the aid of a micro, pill-sized camera the doctors were able to see the noodle churning process in our digestive system.

What they could see that the stomach took close to a couple of hours to digest and breakdown the noodle strains completely. The experiment concluded that the processed nature of these noodles usually makes them hard to digest.

The “empty calorie” noodles

Noodles are not inherently unhealthy food but that doesn’t mean that you can just start eating any noodles in front of you. The answer here lies in understanding the idea of an “empty calorie”. By consuming empty-calorie foods - we get calories, but don’t get any nutrients.

Noodles, broadly are considered “empty-calorie” food. And when we get an abundance of calories (which would then be turned into fat), and next to no beneficial nutrients makes it worse usually when we have noodles it’s with other unhealthy things, high in sodium and processed ingredients. What you can do is add other nutritious ingredients in a noodle bowl in a higher portion than the noodles, which would be a lot healthier. You can add fresh vegetables, meat slices to make it look good and enjoyable to eat! You can also try some whole-grain noodles available in the market. Bottom line: Consume no to little instant noodle.

 

The pandemic has made people choose healthy food, but some people have started replacing real food with fast food just to tame the gnawing hunger. It is impossible to avoid fast food and processed items and can be consumed occasionally but one should never replace actual meals. Over-indulgence does no one any good.

 

 

References:

https://www.financialexpress.com/lifestyle/covid-has-caused-many-changes-in-our-lives-but-there-is-one-thing-it-has-altered-daily-diet/2013316/

https://www.quora.com/Is-noodles-good-for-health

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