Instant Noodles - Instant gratification but what about the fat, salt and other stuff?
Never before have instant noodles been a subject of such speculation. The recent controversy around Maggi has brought the whole breed of instant noodles under the scanner. Many of us – never ones to question the goodness of our favourite noodle brand – are suddenly conscious, confused, etc., trying to separate fiction from fact (and paranoia from the noise). For sure, none of us thought of noodles and ‘healthy’ in the same breath, but perhaps some brands were pushing it a bit too far by making hyperbolic claims with regard to calcium and proteins and iron and fibre and suchlike. Noodles were had for fun and were meant to be a once-in-a-while snack—they were neither all good nor all bad. The ever-increasing consumption of instant noodles and the number of brands entering the market pointed to a different trend, though. It was time to check the veracity of brands’ claims, so we could have our noodles in peace, without doubts niggling at the mind. Often high in sodium, saturated fat, carbohydrates and preservatives, instant noodles should be anything but the go-to food that some of us have made it out to be – but then, if we have to choose one, which one should it be?
There is no specific national standard for instant noodles. However, on 8 June 2015, FSSAI issued an advisory listing out the parameters to be tested. The Consumer Voice test programme is based on this advisory as well as Indian Standard IS: 1485: 1993 (for macaroni, spaghetti, vermicelli and egg noodles) and the respective product claims. The tests were conducted at an NABL-accredited laboratory.
We purchased eight brands of instant noodles (with masala) from the retail market. Two of the brands were atta noodles. We tested the brands on a host of parameters including total protein, heavy metals, acid-insoluble ash, calcium, iron, fat, carbohydrate, sodium and, yes, MSG (monosodium glutamate – the thing that, along with lead, was in the eye of the Maggi storm). Apart from the physicochemical aspects, we gave high weightage (25%) to the sensory tests.
Top Performers - Instant Noodles - Maggi
Top Performers - Atta - Top Ramen
Value for Money - Maggi
- Based on the overall test findings, Maggi is the top performer followed by Reliance Select and Top Ramen (atta).
- Maggi also topped the sensory tests. Wai Wai was liked least in these tests.
- Wai Wai was found high (beyond the specified limit) in total ash excluding salt.
- Most brands did not list the amount of sodium on their packets.
- Heavy metals and aflatoxin were not found in most of the brands, the exception being Patanjali, where traces were detected but these were well within the permissible limits.
- Cooking time was lowest in Wai Wai (two minutes) and highest in Reliance Select (four minutes).
- Except Wai Wai, all brands took more time than their claimed cooking time.
- For Physiochemical Parameters
- For Microbiological Activity
- For Sensory Attributes
- For General Qualities
As per dietary guidelines for Indians, the visible fat intake in diets can go up to 50 gm/person/day based on the level of physical activity and physiological status. Adults with a sedentary lifestyle should consume about 25 gm of visible fat, while individuals involved in hard physical work require 30 gm to 40 gm of visible fat. So it is advisable that noodles be consumed in moderation.
- Noodles are ‘snack’ foods and so it’s best to reduce consumption.
- In any case, instant noodles can serve as breakfast or evening snacks but not as main meals.
- Check the shelf life. It varies from brand to brand.
- High salt is added to noodles through the seasoning supplied in sachets. You can reduce the sodium content by using a minimum amount of seasoning, preferably half of the sachet.
- You can increase the protein value of noodles by adding an egg or a small amount of soya products such as tofu or soya nuggets. Add vegetables and fruits either for garnishing or as an accompaniment.
Food Safety Regulator Plans Specific Regulations for Noodles
Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is working on new regulations for quality standards of instant noodles to better regulate the quality of the tastemaker and other ingredients. This is the first time that quality standards will be set specifically for instant noodles. So far, there have been one common standard for various kinds of ready-to-cook products including noodles.
You can read more about these tests here
You can see list of our CV Comparitive Test Instant Noodles below, perform Side-by-Side comparison. If you need further help, do have a look at Conzumr Guides and Tips. Alternatively you can view all Noodles to choose your own favourites.
The basic preparation method of instant noodle is simple enough: it has wheat flour and/or rice flour and/or other flours and/or starches as the main ingredient, with or without the addition of other ingredients. It may be treated by alkaline agents. It is characterised by the use of pre-gelatinisation process and dehydration either by frying or by other methods.
Atta noodles are made with atta (the coarse product obtained by milling or grinding wheat); most other noodles are mainly made with maida (the fine product made by milling or grinding wheat). Atta contains more dietary fibres than maida. Hence, atta noodles are better than maida noodles.
Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a food additive that is generally used to enhance flavour and is primarily used in Chinese food, canned vegetables, soups and processed meats. Too much MSG in food can lead to serious issues, especially in children. The jury is out on the long-term impacts of MSG, but in the short term it can cause hyper-tension, palpitations, nausea and headaches. It can also cause weight gain and liver inflammation and have other serious health implications.
Side by Side comparison
|Pack of 1||Per Unit|
|Big Basket||₹ 10 SELL||₹ 10|
|Top Ramen||₹ 10 SELL||₹ 10|
|Pack of 5||Per Unit|
|Top Ramen||₹ 100 SELL||₹ 20|
|SnapDeal||₹ 100 SELL||₹ 20|
|Pack of 10||Per Unit|
|SnapDeal||₹ 200 SELL||₹ 20|
|Pack of 15||Per Unit|
|Top Ramen||₹ 150 SELL||₹ 10|
|SnapDeal||₹ 150 SELL||₹ 10|
|Refreshed 1 day ago|
For Physicochemical Parameter
- Highest iron content was found in Joymee; the lowest was in Maggi.
- Maggi had the lowest sodium content, which is good for consumers.
- Highest sodium content was found in Reliance Select and Wai Wai.
- Most brands did not list the amount of sodium on their packets.
High sodium intake can contribute to high blood pressure and increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.
All brands except Patanjali Atta and Joymee were within the prescribed limit.
Microbiological contamination is a very serious issue for all food products. Microorganisms are responsible for many food-borne diseases. Due to improper or poor hygienic condition during the manufacturing process, microorganisms may occur in the finished product.
For Sensory Attributes
For General Qualities
- Name of material
- Name and address of manufacturer/packer
- Batch or code number
- Net weight
- Date of manufacturer
- Green/red dot mark
- Nutritional information
- Best-before date
- Direction for preparation
- List of ingredients
- FSSAI license number
- Customer-care details
- All brands provided the required information.
- Net weight in all brands except Wai Wai was found to be above the declared weight. In the case of Wai Wai, the difference between the declared value and the actual value was within the permissible limit.