Spicy noodles are a staple in many Asian cuisines. In fact, some of the most well-known noodle dishes from countries like Korea and Japan are famously hot. Spicy noodles are versatile, easy, and inexpensive, but are they bad for you?
Super spicy noodles are not bad for you in moderation. How “good” or “bad” they are for you depends a lot on how they’re prepared. Instant spicy noodles aren’t as good for you as homemade spicy noodles, but you can adjust your recipes to make them healthier.
If you want the low-down on the nutrition of spicy noodles, keep reading. I’ll also go over whether spiciness itself can be bad for you.
Super Spicy Noodles Can Be Healthy or Unhealthy
You’ve probably heard the phrase “everything in moderation.” When applied to diet and nutrition, it means that it’s okay to eat less healthy foods every so often, so long as it isn’t every day or your only source of nutrition. In fact, depriving yourself of foods you love or crave can lead to binging them later.
If you want to know how healthy super spicy noodles are, the answer is “it depends.” Many factors determine how healthy a food is. Homemade spicy noodles will generally be healthier than instant spicy noodles, but it depends on your ingredients.
If you’re wondering whether “super” spiciness can be damaging to your gut, don’t worry. Capsaicin, the substance that gives hotness to spicy food, produces burning sensations, but it doesn’t cause any real burning.
In fact, spicy foods can actually be good for your gut. They can inhibit, rather than cause, the growth of ulcers by reducing the production of acid in the stomach. Spicy food may also help you lose weight and reduce your risk of cancer.
What can make super spicy noodles unhealthy is something that plagues all types of instant noodles: high sodium contents and lack of nutrients.
Why Instant Super Spicy Noodles Can Be Bad For You
Many of us went through a phase, often during college, when we subsisted on foods like instant ramen. It’s easy and quick to make, and it’s cheap. Unfortunately, that convenience comes at a price.
There are a few things that can make instant noodles unhealthy:
- The sodium content
- The type of carbohydrates
- The lack of nutrients
Sodium content is a big reason why many people prefer to avoid instant noodles and canned soups. A diet that is high in sodium increases your risk of high blood pressure, which can cause numerous health issues.
While humans need sodium, most of us eat too much of it. According to the FDA, Americans eat about 3,400 mg (.12 oz) of sodium per day, even though the upper limit should be around 2,300 mg (.08 oz.). The main reason for our high sodium intake is sodium’s use as a preservative—it’s in a lot of the packaged or prepared foods we eat.
Packaged noodles tend to be exceptionally high in sodium. One serving can have around 1,280 mg (.05 oz) of sodium. That’s half your recommended daily intake in one meal!
Type of Carbohydrates
Are carbs good or bad? It depends on what diet is trending at the moment. It also depends on your personal health needs and the type of carbs you consume.
Carbs are your body’s preferred method of fuel. Your body turns those carbs you’ve just eaten into sugar. Complex carbs take longer for your body to process, meaning your blood sugar rises slowly and stays steady. Simple carbs can cause your blood sugar to spike and then crash.
While you won’t find complex and simple carbs listed on nutrition labels, there are a few ways you can figure out the type of carbs in a food. Complex carbs include fiber and starch, while simple carbs are sugars. Nutrition labels often will show total carbs, and under that, how much is fiber and how much is sugar.
The higher the fiber content and lower the sugar, the better. You also want to stay away from added sugars.
Checking the ingredients of your noodles will give you a good idea of where those carbs are coming from. While the ingredients will vary between brands, many packs of instant noodles have high sugar content.
Lack of Nutrients
One of the biggest problems with instant noodles is the overall lack of nutrients. Again, this will differ between brands, but often you won’t find much protein in packaged instant noodles. You also won’t find many vitamins or minerals.
Instant noodles typically don’t have a source of protein, like chicken or egg, and often don’t have vegetables. Instead, packaged instant noodles are mainly carbs and sodium.
How To Fix Packaged Noodles
So, maybe you don’t have a choice but to use packaged noodles. Maybe you won a lifetime supply, or maybe you’re living frugally. That’s okay! We can make them better for you. The internet is full of ideas for improving instant noodles.
To make your noodles healthier, try some of these changes:
- Toss the flavor packet or reduce the amount you use. The flavor packet is where all the sodium comes from. Instead, you can use low-sodium broth plus whatever spices you choose. You can also try sauces like sriracha or soy sauce.
- Add protein. Try chicken, steak, or tofu. You can even scramble in an egg and make a spicy carbonara.
- Add veggies. Vegetables will add nutrition and increase your complex carbs. Broccoli, kale, peas—any veggies will work. It’s up to you.
Creating a bowl of homemade super spicy noodles is not all that different from dressing up packaged noodles. The biggest difference is that you’re using noodles from another source. To increase the nutrition of your spicy noodles, try choosing whole wheat noodles, chickpea noodles, or veggie noodles.
Finding inspiration for homemade super spicy noodles is as easy as typing “spicy noodles recipe” into Google or Pinterest. You’ll find plenty of recipes with slight variations to fit your taste palate. Here are some ideas to get started:
- Spicy Chili Garlic Noodles with a sauce made with soy sauce, chili garlic sauce, brown sugar, and red pepper.
- Spicy Pan-Fried Noodles that use eggs for protein.
- Spicy Sriracha Noodles, also with eggs for protein, but using a sauce mix with sriracha for an extra kick.
Reasons Super Spicy Noodles Make You Feel Bad
While super spicy noodles are fine in moderation, they aren’t for everyone. If you’ve noticed you typically feel awful after eating them, there could be a few things causing problems:
- Allergies or intolerances. This may sound obvious, but allergens can pop up where you least expect them. Additionally, cross-contamination during manufacturing could expose you to allergens not listed in the ingredients. Common allergens in spicy noodles may include soy, peanut oil, eggs, shellfish, and wheat.
- Your super spicy noodles are too spicy. Spice comes from a chemical in chili peppers called capsaicin. Capsaicin is what gives you the hot feeling when you eat spicy foods. Unfortunately, it’s also an irritant and causes your digestion to slow down. This can worsen heartburn and indigestion if you already suffer from them.
Super Spicy Noodles can be good or bad for you, depending on your personal health needs and how you prepare them. While packaged spicy noodles are fine in moderation, they often are high in sodium and added sugar while lacking protein, vitamins, and minerals.
To make super spicy noodles better for you, try changing up the recipe. By adding protein and veggies to your noodles, you’ll have a meal that’s delicious and a lot healthier for you.
- Health Partners: Dieting and Binge Eating
- Harvard: Carbohydrates and Blood Sugar
- Mayo Clinic: Added Sugars
- Healthline: Quick Ways to Make Instant Noodles Healthier
- Eating Well: Healthy Noodles You Should Be Eating
- The Spruce Eats: All About Capsaicin in Chili Peppers
- UChicago Medicine: A hot topic: Are spicy foods healthy or dangerous?
- SFGate: Can Eating Extremely Spicy Food Be Harmful to Your Health?