Health

Can instant noodle pots really count as one of your five-a-day?

Loved by cash-strapped students and a guilty pleasure for many others, the humble instant noodle pot is now undergoing something of a healthy makeover — so could it be considered a virtuous choice? 

Mandy Francis asked Ruth Kander, a dietitian at Fleet Street Clinic in London, to assess some of the latest offerings. We then rated them.

Itsu Protein Noodles Mega Miso

63g, £2, ocado.com

Per 100g: Calories, 59; saturated fat, 0.2g; protein, 8g; fibre, 2.5g; sugar, 1.4g; salt, 0.52g

Claim: ‘Over 20g vegan protein. High in fibre. Low in fat and 186 calories per cup.’

Expert verdict: This provides a filling 25.1g of protein (per cup), the equivalent of four large eggs. The noodles are made with soya beans — a good source of plant protein, fibre and essential fatty acids (vital for healthy cell function) — and a range of vitamins and minerals.

This product has a comparatively short list of mostly natural ingredients, meaning it’s less processed. It is also lower in salt and sugar than many of the others here. There’s 26 per cent of your daily fibre intake, too. This would make a satisfying snack — or you could add to some stir-fried vegetables for a more complete meal.

Taste: Nice broth but rubbery noodles. 

4/10

Itsu Protein Noodles Mega Miso

Bol Posh Noodles Aromatic Thai Charcoal Ramen

345g, £3, sainsburys.com

Per 100g: Calories, 116; saturated fat, 1.2g; protein, 3.2g; fibre, 1.5g; sugar, 4.1g; salt, 0.5g

Claim: ‘Contains at least one of your five-a-day. Activated charcoal has toxin-clearing properties. Low in saturated fat and sugar.’

Expert verdict: The black, wheat-based noodles here contain activated charcoal. While this is used medically to treat poisoning, charcoal won’t help you ‘detox’.

The vegetables — including broccoli, cabbage and edamame beans — in a Thai curry sauce would count as one of your five-a-day. They will supply some gut-friendly fibre and protective antioxidant vitamins, too.

But there’s almost three teaspoons of sugar, despite the ‘low’ sugar claim.

At 400 calories, this is more of a meal than a snack, even though it only provides 11.2g protein.

Taste: Delicious Thai flavour. 

9/10

Bol Posh Noodles Aromatic Thai Charcoal Ramen

Bol Posh Noodles Aromatic Thai Charcoal Ramen

Naked Korean Style BBQ Ramen Veg Pot

60g, £1.50, tesco.com Per 100g: Calories, 69; saturated fat, 0.2g; protein, 3g; fibre, 2.4g; sugar, 3.7g; salt, 0.57g

Claim: ‘One of your five-a-day. Plant based. Nutritious and delicious.’

Expert verdict: This pot contains wheat noodles and is 21 per cent dried vegetables, including carrot, red pepper, green bean, spring onion and sweetcorn, which add up to one of your five-a-day.

Although fresh vegetables have the highest levels of nutrients, studies suggest that dried vegetables retain fibre and offer reasonable amounts of important nutrients, including some B vitamins.

This is quite sweet — with just over two teaspoons, coming from the veg and some added sugar — and there’s nearly a third of your daily salt limit here, too. There are also quite a few highly processed ingredients.

Taste: Sweet, with a hot chilli kick. 

6/10

Naked Korean Style BBQ Ramen Veg Pot

Naked Korean Style BBQ Ramen Veg Pot

Noodl Heavenly Harissa

80g, £1.75, ocado.com

Per 100g: Calories, 101; saturated fat, 0.1g; protein, 5.1g; fibre, 2.6g; sugar, 2.7g; salt, 0.78g

Claim: ‘High in protein. A good source of fibre. Packed with tasty vegetables.’

Expert verdict: The thick, shocking pink, beetrootflavoured wheat noodles in this take up to seven minutes to ‘cook’ once boiling water is added.

On the plus side, it has a fairly short, natural ingredients list. There’s also 7g of gut-friendly fibre in a pot — 23 per cent of the recommended daily amount.

The limited filling protein here — just over two eggs’ worth — comes from the wheat, cabbage and beetroot. And with its 78 per cent noodle content and tiny amounts of dried cabbage, sweet potato and onion, this isn’t ‘packed with vegetables’.

Taste: Smells good but tastes bland. 

5/10

Noodl Heavenly Harissa

Noodl Heavenly Harissa

Loma Linda Spicy Pad Thai with Konjac Noodles

284g, £2.80, morrisons.com 

Per 100g: Calories, 98; saturated fat, 0.4g; protein, 4.6g; fibre, 3.1g; sugar, 5.2g; salt, 1g

Claim: ‘The secret to a healthier life. Source of protein and fibre. Low in fat and saturated fat.’

Expert verdict: Almost calorie-free but very high in fibre, konjac noodles are made with glucomannan, a fibre from the root of the Asian konjac plant. The noodles themselves are usually around 97 per cent water and 3 per cent fibre, so are low in calories.

While they don’t contain many nutrients, they provide heart-friendly soluble fibre which can slow down the rate at which the body absorbs carbohydrates — and as a result, some people with diabetes say they help avoid blood sugar spikes.

This has a simple ingredients list but with just 6.5g of soya protein in the recommended half-pack portion, I wonder how filling this will be.

Taste: Lots of spicy peanut flavour. 

7/10

Loma Linda Spicy Pad Thai with Konjac Noodles

Loma Linda Spicy Pad Thai with Konjac Noodles

John West Sweet & Sour Noodles Steam Pot

 140g, £2.50, sainsburys.co.uk

Per 100g: calories, 139; saturated fat, 0.6g; protein, 9.8g; fibre, 0.7g; sugar, 2.6g; salt, 1g

Claim: ‘Naturally high in protein. Low sugar, low saturated fat.’

Expert verdict: With 382 calories, little saturated fat and 27g of filling protein from the tuna, this would make a reasonable meal if you added a portion of vegetables on the side. Tuna is a good source of vitamin B12, important for red blood cell manufacture.

However, this has the highest amount of salt of all the products here — 2.8g in a pot, 46 per cent of the daily limit.

Taste: Generous amount of tuna but a bit bland. 

4/10

John West Sweet & Sour Noodles Steam Pot

John West Sweet & Sour Noodles Steam Pot

Lighter Life Chicken Ramen Fastpot

Lighter Life Chicken Ramen Fastpot

Lighter Life Chicken Ramen Fastpot 

54g, £1.99, superdrug.com

Per 100g: Calories, 85; saturated fat, 0.34g; protein, 6.7g; fibre, 2.7g; sugar, 1.36g; salt, 0.62g

Claim: ‘Only 200 calories. High in protein. High in fibre.’

Expert verdict: This pot doesn’t actually contain any chicken — the flavour comes from spices and soy sauce ‘flavourings’. There are lots of unfamiliar chemical names and a string of added vitamins and minerals on the ingredients list which mark this product out as a highly processed food.

Sold as a meal replacement, it has a useful 15.7g of filling protein from soya and milk protein. It’s lower in sugar than most here but provides almost a quarter of your daily salt.

Taste: More ‘soup’ than noodles. A bit powdery. 

3/10

King Soba Buckwheat Ramen with Zesty Ginger Miso & Tofu

190g, £3.59, planetorganic.com

Per 100g: Calories, 80; saturated fat, 0.2g; protein, 3g; fibre, 2.3g; sugar, 0.6g; salt, 0.72g

CLAIM: ‘Gluten-free. Buckwheat may have prebiotic properties and can lower blood sugar.’

EXPERT VERDICT: There are two servings in each pack of these noodles, which are made with buckwheat — a nutritious, gluten-free wholegrain.

A good source of protein and fibre, wholegrains are good for gut and heart health and, because they take longer to digest, should help to keep you feeling fuller for longer. Early studies suggest buckwheat may have prebiotic properties (that is, it can help to feed gut bacteria), but more research is needed.

Tofu is a source of protein, though you will only get a tiny amount here. There is no added sugar but 40 per cent of your daily salt limit.

Taste: Slim noodles, tasty broth. 

4/10

King Soba Buckwheat Ramen with Zesty Ginger Miso & Tofu

King Soba Buckwheat Ramen with Zesty Ginger Miso & Tofu

Mr Lee¿s Hong Kong Street Beef

Mr Lee’s Hong Kong Street Beef

Mr Lee’s Hong Kong Street Beef

Six 62g pots, £13.50, amazon.co.uk

Per 100g: Calories, 52; saturated fat, trace; protein, 2.2g; fibre, 0.4g; sugar, 0.7g; salt, 0.6g

Claim: ‘Chunks of real beef with real veggies. Low sugar. Source of protein.’

Expert verdict: The ingredients list looks nice and simple — 8 per cent freeze-dried beef and 5 per cent freeze-dried vegetables — but you are unlikely to get many nutrients from these tiny amounts. 

The rice noodles are gluten-free and this has one of the lower sugar contents.

Taste: This has a punchy beef and five-spice flavour. 

7/10

Future Noodles Smoky Mushroom and Miso

Six 130g pots, £22.50, futurenoodles.com

Future Noodles Smoky Mushroom and Miso

Future Noodles Smoky Mushroom and Miso

Per 100g: Calories, 109; saturated fat, 0.2g; protein, 7.1g; fibre, 2.89g; sugar, 3.2g; salt, 0.52g

Claim: ‘Nutritionally complete, plant-based, with 26 vitamins and minerals.’

Expert verdict: This is a mix of wholemeal noodles, soya pieces and powdered natural flavourings, including mushroom juice and stock. The soya gives this pot an impressive 34g of protein — the amount you’d get from a salmon fillet.

This comes with a sachet of 26 additional nutrients, from vitamin A to zinc, to sprinkle over, which is only really helpful if your diet is very poor.

This is quite a processed product, though, containing the anti-caking agent silicon dioxide, for instance.

Taste: Nice and savoury. 

7/10

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