Is Ramen Inherently Unhealthy?

Ramen gets almost as bad of a reputation as Mcdonalds, and often for just as fallacious reasons as well (Imagine that “Mcdonalds burger that never rots” viral gag that shows absolutely nothing except that their burgers are too small and dry out too quickly). A similar viral gag would be how Ramen doesn’t digest, which makes no sense. Unless you are literally crapping out noodles, it digested. However, it brings up some good questions: Is it nearly as unhealthy as the opponents would have you believe?

Well, it’s not really as simple as a yes or no answer.

The first thing we need to look at is the Nutrition Facts and Ingredients:

Note that the serving size is just half a block… nobody eats that little, so all the numbers listed are actually double. That’s 380 calories for a whole pack. Is that a lot? Well, 180 of those calories are from added fats, which enhance the flavor and texture, but are otherwise unnecessary.

Looking at the Sodium content, it’s enormous! Over your whole day’s worth of sodium in just one bowl. You can, however, circumvent this by simply tossing out the seasoning packet and add your own seasonings to control the sodium intake. And this about does it for the nutrient properties. It has very little protein, no vitamins or minerals, and no fiber, so it provides very little in actual fuel for your body.

Now for the ingredients. Since we decided to toss out the seasoning packet and add our own, half of the ingredients are now gone. But what we have left is not pretty. But it pretty much only has 2 main ingredients:

Enriched Flour: Enriched flour, or bleached flour, is just white flour, or flour that has been stripped off all its nutrition and has some nutrition put back in later. It’s best to just stick with whole wheat flour

Vegetable Oil: Vegetable oil is best avoided, but would work great in cooking, such as sauteeing. It is not bad by itself, but there is very little reason for it to be added to a dry soup.

The other ingredients are preservatives, which are not bad by themselves, but is better if avoided.

Now Ramen is a staple of many college freshmen as a meal replacement and can be eaten every once in a while without issue, but is not something that should be a daily occurrence or even something that should be made for many meals, no matter how many vegetables you put in it. A healthier alternative is to just make your own soup using regular pasta noodles, which will reduce your fat and sodium intake. However, to make it healthier, I suggest whole wheat noodles and make your own if possible.

Ramen is not this horrible, life-threatening thing that will kill you or degrade your health if you eat it, but it isn’t healthy for you. There are many beneficial foods that are cheap that can replace ramen, such as regular pasta, or rice. So it’d be better if you ate it in moderation.

If You Want To Eat Non-GMO, or Like A Caveman, You're Sh*t Outta Luck!

There is a huge argument happening in which people who do not understand the basics of genetic modification, botany, biology, or any science for that matter, are claiming that there is a big difference between artificial plant cross-breeding, and genetic modification. There isn’t. Plain and simple.

Everything that we eat, from corn, to squash, to bananas, to strawberries, to watermelon have been genetically engineered over centuries to become more appealing, sweeter, larger, and tastier. This also includes meats, eggs, and dairy as well. Chickens have been selectively bred over decades to produce many times more eggs than they would in the wild. Wild hens, for example, only lay 10-15 eggs per year, but since we need a lot more than that as humans, chickens in farms are bred to produce upwards of 300 eggs in a single year. Other “Organic” “Natural” produce looked like this:

499px-maize-teosinte

Corn

carrot_lover

Carrots

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Watermelon

Eggplant

Eggplant

In terms of Paleo eating, where one is supposed to eat like their ancestors did in the Paleolithic era, it is impossible to eat this way. Because not only do foods that existed back then not exist now, but because Paleo peoples spanned many parts of the world, and ate drastically different diets. So Paleo is something that does not exist, no matter how much you think your ancestors ate like a 21st century elitist in the first world.

And that is OK. Because unlike what many people might believe, we in the first world have lower rates of disease, much higher lifespans, easier and more comfortable lives, etc. This is partly due to the genetic modifying of our food over the course of thousands of years, in order to feed an evergrowing population.

And to get to the nitty-gritty, in terms of by-products, plant-breeding and genetic modification though technological means are the same thing. The process might be slightly different, but the outcome is exactly the same: produce bred with a specific trait.

Many claim that genetic modification itself causes harm, but not only does no evidence of any harm exist through this method, but it is a complete myth. If one is to claim that genetic modification itself makes a thing toxic, than one must point to the specific toxin it produces, and it does not exist.

In the end, we should not fret over whether some papaya or corn are Genetically Modified, and focus more of our efforts into getting people to eat more fruits and vegetables at all. We have an abundance of fruits and vegetables, and a wide choice of each, but they are not eaten in high enough quantities. So whether it is organic, or conventional, or GMO, eat more produce, it’s good for you! But you can’t eat like a caveman anymore, and no produce on the market is in its “natural” state.

Food Waste And Reduction

I actually was inspired to create this post because of UnnaturalVegan, but also have been planning on making a post about this for while. I guess now I have very little excuse to be lazy.

Food waste is a huge issue in many parts of the world, but it has mostly become a first world problem. Not only is this seen at higher rates in countries with higher disposable incomes, but it is also seen in a person-by-person aspect as well. Richer people are more likely to be wasteful with their food.

This makes sense as if you live in a low income country, or live in poverty, you don’t exactly have the privilege to allow food to spoil, and you use as much of it as you can in order to save money on food. I try my best in regards to this as well, being a person who lives in poverty and tries hard to keep as much food as possible from spoiling, which is not always done.

In terms of food waste, creativity and composting are excellent ways to save a little money. I have known of people who make their own beef and chicken broth from bones left over from dinner. I make bread crumbs from end pieces and stale pieces of bread. And the best thing you can do to avoid food waste is to freeze everything you know you will not eat within the next few days. Some other things you can make with food waste includes:

  • Orange/Lemon Zest out of peels
  • Coffee Grounds as compost of deodorizers.
  • And more

Food waste also has ecological impacts as well. Since food decomposes anaerobically in a landfill, it creates a lot of Methane gas that contributes a lot to Global Warming. 18% of all the stuff we toss out is food waste, which is only second to paper. Food waste is also what often lures wild animals to landfills, especially birds, who can accidentally ingest bits of plastic, and suffocate, get pieces lodged in their stomach preventing digestion, or otherwise can harm or kill the animal, so reducing food waste is also pro-animal welfare.

food waste
Fresh fruit that are going to waste due to blemishes and minor cuts.

The biggest chunk of food waste comes from meat products. About half of all meat that is lost in America and Europe is lost at the consumer level. 20% of all meat produced is basically tossed out, and at the consumer level, this costs Americans over 19 billions dollars a year! Eliminating meat from your diet will actually reduce this a lot, as for every pound of beef wasted is thousands of gallons of water and several pounds of vegetables used to feed the cow wasted. But at least lowering intake will help as well.

Many people also live in America without food stability, and many cannot afford food at all. Donating food you know you won’t eat in time to churches, food banks, soup kitchens, charities, or simply giving to people who know are in need of assistance helps not only people in need, but also lowers food waste as well.

There is also Freeganism, which is the act of eating perfectly good food that has been tossed out mainly by grocery stores. A good documentary to watch on this would be Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story. Another good video to watch is HERE. Many food chains throw out perfectly good food, which you can often find piled up in their dumpsters. Sadly, most grocery stores have took it upon themselves to place locks on their dumpsters in order to prevent exactly that, and many stores will refuse to sell customers food that are being prepared to be tossed out.

Some supermarket chains, such as Kroger, have programs going as far back as 2008 that donate food to food banks and other places to help the needy instead of just tossing the food out. But these are not common enough. When I worked at Dollar General my manager told me they had a request sheet they could fill out to donate the items considered waste, but the store I worked at never utilized that, and I don’t know if that was a legitimate thing or if my boss was just confused.

The good news is that food waste is declining due to all of these efforts by people and organizations, but food waste among the privileged and rich are still really high, and need to be addressed. Anything you can do to lower food waste will benefit you, your wallet, the environment, animals, and the poor. So plan a little.

Responding To Bad Anti-Vegan Arguments I Heard The Other Day

So I had a discussion with a coworker yesterday, and needless to say a lot of pseudoscientific hogswash was spewed. I hate to say this, but I am not surprised that a person who believes Evolution is false and that Global Warming is a governmental lie used to make money, also has awfully ignorant ideas about health and nutrition.

“Soy is Man Made”

Both him and another coworker tried to tell me that soy is man made. Sure, Tofu is man made, Soymilk is man made, but Soybeans have existed since the 11th century BCE. Tofu itself is simply Edamame (soy) curdles and was created in 179 BCE in China, not that anything being man-made makes things bad or good, and not as if I want to hear that argument from a guy who eats cheese, but OK.

There are many people talking about the supposed “dangers” of soy, but none really exist. Soy is good for you, an unlike dairy, which contains literal estrogen that our body can absorb, soy won’t give you a higher risk of prostate or ovarian cancer like dairy does.

“Mercury is a Necessary Nutrient, like Iron and Calcium”

No, honey… no, Mercury is NOT a necessary nutrient. There is a reason the FDA only recommends 8-12 ounces of fish a WEEK, or about 3 servings a fish AT MOST a week, for safe level consumption. I personally would recommend NO mercury in one’s diet.

But isn’t their gold in your body? Yeah, there are trace amounts of many nutrients in your body, doesn’t mean we should consume more gold powder, or Mercury. There are numerous case studies of people who consume lots of fish and get mercury poisoning. It’s not a necessary nutrient.

“Farm Raised Beef Is A Health Food”

Cooked beef is a possible carcinogen, regardless of whether or not the cow ate corn or grass. Beef also contain high levels of both saturated fats, and trans-fats, both of which cause inflammation in the body. Also, heme-iron, the iron found exclusively in meat, is possibly linked to colon cancer and higher rates of type 2 diabetes. So take this “health food” with a grain of salt.

You can get plenty of non-heme iron from plant foods, and while vegetarians and vegans have lower stores of iron, they are not more likely than  meat eaters to get Anemia.

“But you can’t get protein from plants, do you know how much beans you have to eat to meet protein requirements?”

As a vegetarian and former vegan, and possibly vegan again soon, I know full well how much beans you need to consume to get enough protein… if beans were all I ate for my protein. Other foods that contain protein include:

  • Wheat Bread – 2 grams a slice
  • 2 oz of pasta – 7 grams
  • 2 tablespoons of peanut butter – 7 grams
  • Half Cup Green Peas – 4 grams
  • 1 Cup Oatmeal – 6 grams
  • 1 Cup Rice – 4 grams

Your body only needs 0.38 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Meaning that I as a 165 pound woman only needs 62 grams of protein a day. You can easily get that when eating 2000 calories a day, even without consuming any beans. If you did consume beans, it is far easier. That said, if you want more protein in your diet, Boca and Gardein make awesome meat replacements full of protein, or you can just buy TVP, which is dried soybeans.

There are no benefits of a high protein diet, and in fact there may be plenty of negative effects associated with that. So unless you are an athlete, don’t worry about protein. Your chances of getting protein deficiency as a vegan who eats whole foods is extremely low.

Only one of these arguments is new, and that’s the one talking about how beneficial Mercury is for you somehow magically. I have talked about the “man made” argument before in an article about artificial sweeteners. The protein from plants argument, and the argument that beef is good for you, have both been highly overdone, and debunked so often it barely should garner a reply.

A Few Downsides Of My Strict Veganism

Veganism is awesome in terms of health, and I freely promote it as a dietary choice, despite no longer being a vegan myself. But there were many things I disliked when I was a strict vegan that you can decide for yourself if it is worth the jump or not:

It Takes A Lot Of Conscious Effort To Be A Healthy Vegan

Counting calories, checking nutrition facts, checking ingredient lists, making sure you are getting enough Calcium, Protein, Amino Acids, Vitamin D, etc, etc. You have to buy certain foods, and cannot just eat on a dime. I had to make sure I ate a lot of Lentils and Beans, and would sometimes force myself to eat just to meet certain vitamin and mineral values.

I would freak out if I was getting close to 2000 calories in a day, and it really didn’t leave much room for snacking. I could not just eat some Oreos unless I was going to cut back on a meal.

Being Vegan Doesn’t Automatically Mean You Are Healthy

A lot of effort has to go into being a healthy vegan, like I mentioned before. But just because you are vegan doesn’t mean you are healthy, and you can also be healthy without being vegan. I mentioned this in a post I wrote before on this very topic, you can be a junkfood vegan, or even a plant-based whole-food vegan, and still be unhealthy. In fact, a video on this very topic was made by Vegan YouTuber UnnaturalVegan.

Eating a ton of bananas, potatoes, and lentils doesn’t automatically mean you are meeting all of your nutrient needs. You need to stay on your “A game” as a vegan, or you risk vitamin deficiencies.

Eating Out Was A Nightmare!

If I was going out to eat with some relatives, they had to make sure that wherever they ate accommodated MY dietary choices. Since very few places have vegan options, I felt bad whenever someone wanted to eat out, but had to shut down so many choices simply because of MY diet.

And that is not including the fact that most of the time, vegan menu options that DID exist was devoid of protein, and thus unsatiating.

Vegan Grocery Options Are Expensive!

Being someone who has the least amount of money to spend on groceries, unless I just ate a lot of beans or Pasta, I could not afford many of the products that would make veganism taste better, like Boca veggie Burgers, especially their Chik Patties, which my husband adores and can eat a whole box of in one sitting… a whole 4 dollar box.

Since vegan cheese and meats are so rare, there are no generic brands of them in any of my grocery stores, so unless they are having a sale, I often have to pay full price, and often at the more expensive grocery store, which means I have to decide on getting a ton of groceries for me and my non-vegan husband, or splurge on Boca for a day or two.

So Much Hate By Fellow Vegans/Tons Of PseudoScience

Unless you support a VERY specific viewpoint in terms of veganism, you will receive hate by fellow vegans. Vegan for health? Well, according to many vegans you’re just not as good a vegan as they are. Not extremist enough? Then you are not REALLY a vegan! You can’t eat sugar because of Bone Char, or Cheerios because of trace amount of possibly Lanolin derived Vitamin D3! And god forbid that you debate the ethics of Honey, or Oysters

And let’s not forget all of the unproven claims and pseudoscience by veganism, such as Raw Food diets, or Fruititarian, claims that ALL animal products are bad for you, or the lie that cheese is addictive.

Conclusion

I had a lot of stress and stuff to deal with elsewhere, so I stopped veganism for that reason, to make sure I was able to relax more and not freak out all of the time on that, along with several other things. Healthy Veganism is awesome to do if you have the time and motivation, unless you just plan on eating Oreos and Chips, in which case be as unhealthy as you desire.

That said, as I am writing this my stress levels are starting to go down, and I am attempting to go full vegetarian again. I am going mainly for plant-based foods first because of other issues I am facing right now, but I will try to be Lacto-vegetarian again by next month.

There are issues when it comes to being vegan, but I think that it is worth it if you have the time and energy to deal with it all.

Eating Healthy At: Taco Bell

Eating healthy foods at Taco Bell is surprisingly easy, and even moreso if you do a few substitutions. All beef items can be made with Pinto Beans instead, which is fairly healthy, despite being high in sodium.

In terms of making a food product Fresco Style, you simply remove all cheese, sauce, sour cream, and/or Guacamole, and replace it all with Pico De Gallo, which is simply a vinegar, tomato, and onion blend with cilantro. It is caimed to be able to reduce the calorie count by as much as 25%, but of course, that varies on food item, as the amount of calories reduced from a 7-Layer will be higher than that removed from a simple Bean Burrito.

Fresco Black Bean Burrito

22392_Burritos_BlackBeanBurrito_300x300One of the healthiest items you can buy would probably be a Fresco Black Bean Burrito, A Fresco black bean burrito is 340 calories and 14 grams of protein. It also has 8 grams of dietary fiber, which is wonderful for digestion. It is also high in sodium, but you can avoid some of this by asking for no or easy red sauce.

Fresco Bean Burrito

This one is like the Fresco Black Bean Burrito, but with Pinto Beans instead of Black Beans. Due to it being Fresco it is lower in both Fat and calories. It has 350 calories, 13 grams of protein, and 9 grams of fat. It does have 1050 mg of sodium, but by removing the Red Sauce you can remove 150 mg.

Chicken or Veggie Cantina Power Bowl

22488_Specialties_CantinaPowerBowlChicken_600x600The Chicken Cantina power bowl is delicious, but is high in calories and fat. it has 20 grams of fat and 6 grams of saturated fat, which by itself isn’t alot, but for some people that might be far too much. So here is a way to make the Cantina Bowl even more healthy. Do NOT ask for it Fresco Style, because you want to keep the Guacamole as a form of dressing, because Avocado might be high in fat, but it is still a rather healthy food.

Remove the Sour Cream, Avocado Ranch Sauce, and the Cheese. Doing so reduces the fat content to 11 grams, and the Saturated Fat content to 2 grams. It also reduces the Sodium content from 1300 to 1140, which is still high, but eating low sodium at fast food is near impossible. The chicken bowl still has 24 grams of protein, the veggie version would have 8 grams.

Grilled Chicken Crunchy Taco Fresco

This would be more expensive, and would turn a cheaper taco into probably 2 dollar plus taco, but is fairly healthy and low in sodium. The Flour shells are much higher in Sodium than the corn one’s tend to be, so if you are watching your sodium intake, it is vital to order crunchy taco shells instead of soft ones. It would be 270 mg of sodium per taco, with 9 grams of protein and 4.5 grams of fat. You can even add more vitamins an minerals, but also more on the price tag, by asking to substitute lettuce to Romaine.

Black Beans and Rice

teaThis could be a small staple to your Taco Bell visit, having only 180 calories, 5 grams of fiber, 6 grams of protein, and only 4 grams of fat. It also has 430 mg of Sodium, which is fairly high, but not too high.

Drinks

The healthiest drink that you can buy here at this store is Unsweetened Tea. You can then either drink it black, or combine it with some Splenda or Sweet-n-low for some non-caloric beverage options. Coffee the same way, without creamer, is also an option when it comes to Taco Bell. Although it is best if you can avoid it, you can also drink Diet Mountain Dew or Diet Pepsi as choices. Both are calorie free and won’t negitively effect your health if consumed in moderation.

Eating Healthy At: McDonalds

In my EVA article about Mcdonalds, I gave it a poor review due to a lack of veggie options. So let us see if it can recover from that by offering some more healthier food options. I personally don’t think that many really healthy food options will be available though, due to salt and other issues.

All burgers, especially those with bacon or cheese is a no-no due to saturated fats among other issues such as beef and pork being linked to colorectal cancer by the WHO. so in order to find anything healthy we must remove those items off the list, and what we have left, separated categorically by caloric content, is:

Under 400 Calories

  • Premium Southwest Salad with Grilled Chicken (Not crispy, as fried chicken is not healthy)
  • Premium Grilled Chicken Sandwich

Under 300 Calories

  • Fruit and Yogurt Parfait
  • Fruit Maple Oatmeal

Under 100 Calories

  • Side Salad (try for vinaigrette dressing instead of ranch or Caesar, or simply not use as much)
  • Apple Slices
  • Cuties (Tiny oranges)

And to wash it all down there are only a few different options to choose from, of which there is:

  • Diet Coke
  • 1% Milk
  • Coffee (plain, with few creams/sugar, or substitute with calorie-free sweeteners)

So in terms of food there are quite a few options for those that are health conscious. Although I would still be careful, as they are often really full of salt, such as the Grilled Chicken Sandwich has a whopping 960 mg of Sodium. So these foods are healthier than most, but if you have a chance, I’d just recommend baking skinless boneless chicken breast in the oven.

The side salad costs about the same price as the cheeseburger, and is comparable in terms of size. The oatmeal and the Parfait are also cheap, so I don’t want to hear the tired excuse of “7 dollar salads vs 1 dollar burger” that constantly sweep the nations excuse-record for why obesity is rising.