Indomie noodles have a permanent place in the heart of at least 90% of Nigerian children and adults. As a quick snack, or as a meal on days when one is tired, or when one lacks the time to cook a proper, balanced meal, Indomie noodles are always the rescue. In fact, Indomie noodles accounts for at least one meal per day in many households.
They were once only available in a regular 70g pack, but in recent years, the 100g, 120g, and ‘hungry man’ 210g pack have become available in flavours tailored to Nigerian tastebuds. In light of this, it is obvious that these noodles are very popular and can possibly be considered a traditional Nigerian dish, but are they really a healthy source of nutrition?
*Ingredients in Nigerian Chicken flavour Indomie Noodles
Noodles: Wheat flour (74%), Refined palm oil (contains antioxidant E319), Salt, Acidity regulators (E451, E501, E500), thickener (E412), Colour (E101).
Seasoning Powder: Salt, Flavour enhancers (E621, E627, E631), Sugar, Yeast extract, Pepper, Garlic powder, Artificial chicken flavour (1.0%), Anti-caking agent (E551), Ginger powder, Chilli powder.
Nutritional content (per 70g pack): 300kcal; 12g Fat (6g saturated fat), 39g Carbohydrate (1.0g sugar), 9g Protein, 1g Fibre, 2.9g Salt (1140mg of sodium). Vitamin A (20%), Vitamin D (15%), Thiamin (15%), Riboflavin (8%), Panthothenate (4%), Niacin (2%), Vitamin B6 (20%), Folic acid (15%), Vitamin B12 (6%), Iron (8%), Calcium (2%)
Indomie noodles are fortified with a range of vitamins and minerals that are essential for health and well-being.
It is particularly commendable that these noodles are fortified with vitamin B12, a nutrient that is important for blood production, and which can be difficult to get from non-animal sources. Vegans and some type of vegetarians are at an increased risk of being deficient in vitamin B12 unless they plan their meals carefully or take supplements. Therefore, vegetarians and vegans may benefit from eating these noodles.
Indomie noodles are very high in refined carbohydrates, saturated fat and salt. Since they are made mainly with refined wheat flour, they can cause spikes in insulin levels that are detrimental to the health of people with pre-diabetes or established diabetes.
With their low fibre content, noodles eaten on their own have minimal value to the health of the digestive system, and can leave consumers feeling hungry shortly after eating them.
The amount of saturated fat in one pack of noodles is also high. Eaten frequently, they can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease particularly in those who already have high cholesterol levels or who are overweight/obese.
Some of the E-numbers contained within these noodles are ‘safe’ for consumption, while others are suggested elsewhere to have negative side effects, particularly in children.
E319: Chemically known as tert-Butylhydroquinone, E319 is a preservative added to processed food to prevent it going rancid and prolong its shelf-life. The Hyperactive Children’s Support Group (HACSG) recommends that it should be avoided in food for children as it may cause nausea, behavioural disorders, vomiting and delirium. Although it should typically not be used at levels above 0.02%, at doses of 5g and over, it may be fatal. Chronic exposure to E319 has been linked to cancer.
E621: Chemically known as monosodium glutamate, E621 is widely used as a flavour enhancer. In people sensitive to it there are suggestions (although controversial) that it can cause headaches, migraines, nausea and asthma. The Feingold association of the United States (FAUS) suggests that it should be avoided.
E627 (disodium guanylate) and E631 (disodium inosinate): These may trigger gout and are not permitted in foods for infants and young children.
- 2g for 1–3 year olds;
- 3g for 4–6 year olds;
- 5g for 7–10 year olds and;
- 6g for ≥11 years.
By eating one pack of noodles, individuals aged over 11 years of age consume 50% of their daily recommended salt allowance.
Parents who feed their toddlers and young children noodles give them up to ≥100% of their daily recommended salt intakes.
Considering that some people will feed their children or themselves up to three regular packets of noodles per day, or perhaps eat the hungry man-size noodles (in addition to regular food that is cooked with salt), some may consume more than three-times the recommended salt intake in one sitting. It is no wonder that many people in Nigeria are either pre-hypertensive or have established hypertension!
Many people know that hypertension can cause heart attacks and strokes, but a lot of people are oblivious to the fact that hypertension is also a leading cause of kidney disease and kidney failure particularly in the black population who are most prone to it.
Remember that being healthy is not just about being at a healthy weight and looking slim. A healthy weight means absolutely nothing if your cholesterol and blood pressure levels are high, and your internal organs are partially or fully damaged.
The take home message here is that the amount and frequency at which noodles are eaten by the average Nigerian needs to be drastically reduced. When preparing noodles, use a quarter of the seasoning provided or better yet, discard the seasoning and make up your own by using spices from your kitchen cupboard. Always eat your noodles with a good proportion of protein to minimise blood glucose and insulin spikes, and with vegetables to provide more fibre.
It is only fair that an ingredient like E319 is removed and replaced with an alternative that is less detrimental to the health of children.