We're the first to admit it's hard to pass up a piping hot bowl of ramen. It's one of those enduring comfort foods that seems to check off all the boxes — it's brimming with savory flavors and chewy textures, it's easy to make, and it's fun to eat.
But take one look at the nutrition labels of the top ramen brands out there and you'll find that they're far from being the healthiest option. Aside from the fact that most instant ramen noodles offer almost no nutritional value (they're low in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein), they're also high in carbs, saturated fat, preservatives, and sodium.
So, what's a ramen lover to do? In this guide, we'll break down the facts about sodium, and why ramen usually has too much of it. We'll also offer some easy ways that you can enjoy a bowl of low-sodium ramen without having to give up on flavor.
What Is Sodium?
While most people use the terms "sodium" and "salt" interchangeably, it's important to note that they're not exactly the same thing. Sodium is an essential mineral for healthy nerves and muscles. But since the human body can't produce it, you must get it through diet.
Sodium occurs naturally in many foods, including meat, dairy, veggies, and seafood. It's also added to food, particularly those that are processed and packaged like deli meats, canned soup, snacks, and instant ramen.
On the other hand, salt (i.e., sodium chloride) is a crystal-like compound that contains sodium (about 40%) and chloride (60% chloride). While it has less sodium than straight-up sodium, it's still a significant source of the mineral.
How Consuming Too Much Sodium Affects Your Health
Consuming excessive amounts of sodium has a number of harmful effects. It can increase your risk of stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, chronic kidney disease, and even stomach cancer.
You might be wondering how it is that people are consuming so much sodium. Well, it isn't because everyone is shaking too much table salt on their food. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has determined that the biggest source of sodium — more than 70% — for the average American is packaged foods and restaurant meals.
Why Does Ramen Have So Much Sodium?
The main reasons why instant ramen has excessive amounts of sodium are to enhance the flavor and extend the shelf life. Sodium is a cheap way to make food taste better and last longer. But while these might be good arguments for the food manufacturers, they're not ideal for your health.
For example, take a look at the sodium content of some of the most popular ramen brands:
- Nissin: 1160 milligrams per cup
- Nongshim: 1310 milligrams per cup
- Maruchan: 1660 milligrams per serving
Now, take a look at immi instant ramen's sodium content profile:
- immi: 850 milligrams of sodium per serving
As you can see, immi ramen has up to 40% less sodium compared to conventional brands. And because immi uses only high-quality sea salt, you can enjoy your noodles without worrying about sodium.
Even better, immi ramen is the world's first low-carb, high-protein instant ramen that gives you a nutritious and delicious noodle experience that won't compromise your health goals.
Not only is immi significantly lower in sodium than other ramen brands, but it also has five times more protein and three times the fiber. And if that weren't enough, immi instant ramen noodles are keto-friendly, 100% plant-based, and have that familiar chewy texture you love.
For more details on how mainstream ramen brands stack up, be sure to check out our complete guide to ramen noodles nutrition to see the facts for yourself.
7 DIY Low-Sodium Ramen Tips and Tricks
It's true that most traditional instant ramen noodles have high sodium content, but fortunately, not all instant ramen noodles are created equal. FYI, when we talk about ramen, we're referring to the instant grocery store versions that usually come in a dehydrated block or styrofoam cup with a flavor packet.
The homemade ramen bowls you find in many Asian restaurants are usually a much better option as they are not as processed and contain more nutrients thanks to the addition of protein and vegetables. That said, don't forget that many homemade noodles are made with wheat flour and high in carbs. As such, they aren't necessarily ideal if you're trying to follow a low-carb lifestyle. The same goes for rice ramen, which is similarly high in carbs.
With that in mind, here are seven simple ways to create your own low-sodium ramen:
Get rid of the seasoning packet: Since those little flavor packets that come with instant ramen are the biggest sources of sodium, the swiftest way to reduce your salt intake is to simply throw them away.
Use low-sodium chicken broth: A great way to maintain the flavor of your ramen noodle soup while lowering the salt content is to use a low-sodium chicken broth. You can also use low-sodium vegetable broth, which is perfect for vegan ramen recipes.
Use low-sodium soy sauce: Simply swap regular soy sauce for a low-sodium version to keep things in check. You may also want to consider tamari sauce, which is made from fermented soybean paste and is often lower in sodium.
Try low-sodium miso paste: You don't always have to use chicken or veggie broth for your ramen soup. Mix things up with either low-sodium miso paste or a small amount of regular miso to create a miso soup base.
Load up on no-sodium seasonings: To give your ramen a boost of sodium-free flavor, rely on fresh or dried herbs and seasonings such as garlic powder, onion powder, coriander, ginger, and black pepper.
Spice it up: Along with seasonings and herbs, don't forget the spices. Cayenne pepper, red pepper flakes, and Sriracha will not only add some heat to your ramen bowl, but they'll add that extra kick to punch up the flavor so you won't miss the salt.
- Add flavorful, whole-food ingredients: Rather than relying on the flavor packet to make your ramen noodles taste good, opt for real food. Add a protein source (be it beef, pork, chicken breast, tofu, edamame, or eggs) and pile on the veggies. From shiitake mushrooms and zucchini to green onions and bok choy, these ingredients will significantly step up the nutritional value and flavor.
For more ideas, be sure to take a look at our guide to healthy ramen hacks.
Rescue Your Ramen Cravings With Low-Sodium Solutions
As much as we all love ramen, the truth is that most instant ramen brands are loaded with less than ideal ingredients including excessive amounts of sodium.
Consuming too much of this mineral can be hazardous to your health and potentially lead to some serious conditions including high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. The good news is that there are ways you can reduce your sodium intake without giving up one of your favorite comfort foods.
By making some simple adjustments — throwing away the salt-laden flavor packet, choosing low-sodium ingredients, and relying on seasonings and herbs — you can make it work for you.
But the best way to enjoy a bowl of low-sodium ramen without giving up an ounce of flavor or convenience is to choose immi ramen. It's low-carb, high-protein, and gives you the tastes just like you remember. So, what are you waiting for? Sign up today for the ramen experience you've been waiting for!