Ramen is a tasty Japanese soup filled with noodles, heavy broth and plenty of calories. It's often topped with some type of meat, green onions, bean sprouts, seaweed and corn. But to eat ramen as a diet food, you might need to make your own tweaks.
Ramen may be delicious, but it’s often packed with salt, calories and carbohydrates. To make your ramen healthier diet food, aim to reduce its sodium, choose the right broth and pack it with vegetables and other healthy additions.
Lower the Salt Content
A bowl of restaurant ramen noodles can contain over 1,000 calories, nearly half the recommended daily calorie intake for an adult. Ramen noodles calories are often filled with carbs, fat and sodium. If you're hoping to lose weight, you may want to eat smaller amounts of ramen noodles to reduce its calories.
Find ways to reduce the sodium in your ramen bowl. You may want to stay away from packaged ramen entirely, and choose to make ramen at home rather than going out to a restaurant. When you cook at home, it's easier to choose healthier ingredients. To make a clean, low-salt ramen at home, choose low-sodium chicken broth and low-sodium soy sauce.
Read more: 4 Health Benefits of Rice Noodles
Choose the Right Broth
In the traditional Japanese ramen dishes, there are four main types of ramen broth: shoyu, which is flavored with soy sauce, shio (salt), miso (soybean paste) and tonkotsu (pork bone). But if you're molding your ramen dishes to fit into your diet, you can experiment with different types of broths that may be lower in fat and salt content.
Mix a low-sodium chicken broth with some miso paste, for example. Miso, a staple in the Japanese diet, is made from fermented soybeans and contains protein, manganese, vitamin K and zinc.
Miso is also a source of probiotics, which are live "good" bacteria that live in our guts and can improve our digestive process and immune system, according to Harvard Health. It does have a high salt content, however, so be careful with the amount you use.
You can also make your own vegetable broth using mushrooms and other green veggies. Add in low-sodium soy sauce and some hot sauce to give it flavor.
Pack It With Vegetables
Typical restaurant ramen bowls come with soft boiled eggs and certain types of vegetables, like leeks or corn, in addition to seaweed and bean sprouts. But if you are hoping to lose weight with a ramen diet, you may want to add even more vegetables to your dish, and choose tofu instead of pork for your protein.
In theory, you can throw any vegetable you want into your broth to experiment. But a few options that may work well with ramen include cabbage, broccoli, spinach, scallions or bok choy.
Bok choy, for example, is filled with vitamins A and K and is an excellent source of fiber. These dark leafy greens have been linked to a variety of protective health benefits, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and they can help you lose weight.
If you're trying to eat healthy but are hoping to gain muscle, you can even tweak your ramen noodle diet to one that will aid in bodybuilding. Pack your bowl with not only vegetables but also protein options like pork, chicken or fish. Because ramen noodles have such a high calorie count, and you have the ability to pack it with nutrition, they can actually be a good choice to fuel muscle building.
Read more: Are Udon Noodles Healthy?
Home in on Healthy Additions
The Japanese diet has famously been touted along with the Mediterranean diet as one of the healthiest cuisines in the world, as it's been associated with lower cardiovascular risk and overall mortality, a February 2016 study published in BMJ found. It's no secret that Japan has had a higher life expectancy than most countries, and many claim it's the diet of fresh fish, vegetables, soy and fermented foods.
An April 2017 study published in the Journal of Atherosclerosis and Thrombosis found that men eating a Japanese diet improved in cardiovascular risk factors like body weight and cholesterol. That being said, you can be creative with Japanese staples like fresh fish, soy products and seaweed to add into your ramen mixes.
- National Health Service: "What Should My Daily Intake of Calories Be?"
- American Heart Association: "How Much Sodium Should I Eat per Day?"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "The Benefits of Probiotics"
- United States Department of Agriculture: "Dark Green Leafy Vegetables"
- Journal of Atherosclerosis and Thrombosis: "Effects of a Japan Diet Intake Program on Metabolic Parameters in Middle-Aged Men: A Pilot Study"
- BMJ: "Quality of Diet and Mortality Among Japanese Men and Women: Japan Public Health Center Based Prospective Study"