Over the years, there has been controversy about if the daily consumption of noodles is healthy. Noodles that was once a favorite of kids is now a staple food. A lot of us grew up eating noodles and have still refused to outgrow it, even into our 20’s and 30’s. Also, I dare say some of our parents eat noodles, but maybe without the seasoning though.
Noodles are originally from China and can be made from rice, wheat, and potato. Instant noodles which were invented by a Japanese, are most common in this part of the world. They are made from wheat flour and require less moisture to cook, compared to noodles made with whole-wheat flour.
This makes it an easy meal option for anybody. It can be made for children rushing to get to school early. Or even adults who are trying to eat healthily but are too busy to prepare meals after a long day at work.
Now, as popular as it is, there have been some concerns about how healthy regular consumption of noodles is. Some people have even removed it from their diet. Healthfacts had a chat with the Assistant Chief Dietician at the University College Hospital, Mrs. T. M. Oduneye, about noodles and questions surrounding it.
Healthfacts: What are the nutritional components of noodles?
Noodles are mostly eaten by children and are therefore expected to be adequate in nutrients. The common noodles around are carbohydrate-based, although it does contain some bits of protein because of its wheat base. Some come with spices that have oil that falls in the group of fat and oil. It also has some micronutrients too, mainly sodium because of the spices. Basically, it is a refined form of wheat made into pasta and turned into noodles.
Is noodles healthy for babies?
After 6 months, children are expected to commence complementary meals. One of the things we advocate for is to be as natural as possible with food given to children. Noodles is not in a natural form, but we know that a lot of households give their children noodles. Our advice is that it should not be regularly given.
Can babies be given noodles as soon as they begin complimentary feeding?
It is better to not introduce noodles as early as 6 months. Let them be familiar with family diets like amala and ewedu which is suitable because of the texture. Babies are used to fluids as they have been taking breast milk. Whatever you want to progress to should be similar in texture and that is why many mothers give pap. Not just plain pap but fortified pap. When you eventually want to introduce noodles, it has to be well cooked and if possible mashed.
How should we eat noodles?
You can make noodles healthy in your own way. There is nothing bad in putting some fish in it or eating with boiled eggs. Also, bring in some vegetables like carrots, green peas to achieve nutrient density. This also makes it attractive for kids. So it can be eaten but not on a regular basis. The important thing is to eat it with something that will complete it.
Are you aware of ingredients that are not healthy in noodles?
To those that produce it, they don’t think any ingredients are not good. There may be concerns because it is refined food. But there is a lot of refined food out there, even the cereal given to babies are canned food already. There will be a number of preservatives in them, so it is not just noodles that is a culprit. However, the spices that come with it have MSG in them and it is the major thing that people crucify. You can actually do without the spices. You can add onions and salt for taste.
Since noodles shouldn’t be taken often and people take it because it cooks fast, what alternatives are available?
There are other fast food that people can take. We have cereals that adults take too. They may not be filling like noodles but it can serve the purpose. There are some pastas too made in tiny form which makes it faster to cook.
Are there people with health conditions that are advised to stay away from noodles?
Like I said earlier, noodles is a refined form of wheat and wheat is high in protein. This means there is a bit of protein in noodles. We advise patients with kidney problems to stay away from noodles as much as possible.
Asides the protein content, we advise them to stay away because of the spices. Since we have ruled out a whole lot from their diet, their options are limited. After some time when the patient is improving and we want to bring in variety to their diet, we may allow them to have noodles without the spices.
They can put lots of onion and very little salt because they must be conscious of their salt intake. In fact, they can make do with onions and other natural spices instead of salt.