Ramen noodles are simple to make and hit the spot, so it’s no wonder why so many pregnant women crave them. But are they safe during pregnancy?
Ramen noodles are safe during pregnancy. However, certain toppings commonly served on ramen like bean sprouts or raw fish may not be as safe if you’re pregnant. During pregnancy, it’s best to check what you add to your ramen.
In this article I’ll walk you through how to safely enjoy ramen noodles during pregnancy and what toppings to avoid.
Is Ramen Safe for Pregnant Women?
Ramen noodles are generally safe for pregnant women, but ramen itself is a pretty broad term. In general, ramen noodles are wheat noodles served in broth, although sometimes egg noodles are used.
The toppings are what usually determine if ramen is safe or not, as they can often be made with raw fish, bean sprouts, raw eggs and other foods that are not ideal for pregnant women. When it comes to ramen, stick to cooked meats like beef and chicken.
Instant ramen noodles need to be cooked before consumption, usually in boiling water, and come with a pouch of seasoning and dried vegetables for flavor. Generally, this kind of ramen is safe as long as the other ingredients are pregnancy-safe. However, instant ramen can sometimes have unhealthy ingredients – more on this later.
Fresh ramen noodles are often made with egg noodles which is not an issue for pregnant women because they’re cooked in the broth, and do not contain raw or uncooked egg.
Like instant ramen noodles, the safety concern for pregnant women is not about the broth or the noodles but about the toppings; if you stick with cooked meats (but avoid deli meats), cooked low mercury fish such as cod, shrimp or sardines, and avoid sprouts, then fresh ramen is generally safe during pregnancy.
Ramen Toppings to Be Aware of When Pregnant
Cooked meat and some kinds of fish are safe in ramen while others should not be consumed during pregnancy, such as the following:
Bean sprouts are generally not recommended for pregnant women because they are more susceptible to foodborne illnesses.
Bear in mind that Sprouts is a broad term that also includes; mung beans, alfalfa, clover, radish, mustard and broccoli sprouts. Canned foods are always heated in the canning process so canned sprouts should be safe, but it is best to reheat them to be on the safe side.
Sprouts should not be consumed raw or undercooked. They are safe if cooked to 165°F/75°C before consumption. For a complete guide on how to make sprouts safe, check out our article here.
Ramen eggs are a common topping but are generally not suitable during pregnancy because the yolk is runny, which means it was not fully cooked. During pregnancy, ramen eggs should be cooked all the way through. For more on eggs during pregnancy, read more here.
Fish is only safe during pregnancy if it’s fully cooked but due to mercury concerns, some fish such as shark, swordfish, and some kinds of tuna should be avoided or eaten in moderation.
Raw fish cannot be eaten during pregnancy due to the risk of listeria bacteria and other parasites. Salmon and cod are common in ramen dishes and as long as they are cooked thoroughly both are safe to consume during pregnancy between two and three times per week.
Seaweed is common in ramen and miso soup and is safe during pregnancy. However, due to the high iodine content, some kinds of seaweed should be limited. No more than 32 grams of brown seaweed should be eaten per week during pregnancy but red and green seaweed do not need to be restricted as much (source: BDA, FSA/NZ).
Want to read more on seaweed and how it can benefit your pregnancy? Read more here.
Chili and spicy foods and wasabi paste are safe during pregnancy and will not cause miscarriage or premature birth like the urban myths suggest! However, they may cause heartburn – especially during the third trimester – so consume spicy ramen at your own discretion.
Tofu is a staple in a Japanese diet and many expecting mothers are cutting back on meat or are vegetarian or vegan. Tofu is safe during pregnancy but needs to be served hot and have been cooked to 74C/165F to make it safe. For more on tofu, check our dedicated pregnancy guide.
Are Ramen Noodles Bad or Unhealthy During Pregnancy?
Instant ramen is super convenient which is great if you don’t have the energy to cook, but ramen isn’t exactly a healthy food to eat often. A packet of chicken flavor Ramen Noodle Soup contains 12 grams of fat, 6 grams of which is saturated fat, and 46% (1118mg) of the recommended daily allowance of sodium.
The beef flavor of the same Ramen Noodle Soup has a slightly better nutritional breakdown with 7 grams of fat, 3.4 of which is saturated, and 30% (730mg)of the recommended daily allowance of sodium.
While sodium is a necessary part of your diet even in pregnancy, it’s not recommended to exceed 2,400 mg per day as overconsuming sodium on a regular basis has been liked to high blood pressure (source: National Library of Medicine).
Instant noodles are considered to be ultra-processed food. These foods have been linked to a greater risk of neonatal adiposity, obesity and increased gestational weight gain when consumed in large amounts during pregnancy (source: BMC Pregnancy Childbirth).
Tip: The kind of ramen you find in a restaurant or make from scratch at home, is generally a healthier option because it relies on fresh noodles and ingredients – and tends to have more vegetables than instant ramen does!
100 grams of rice noodles contains 108 calories, 0.2 grams of fat, 1% of the recommended daily amount of sodium and 1.8 grams of sodium (source: Nutritionix). The same portion of wheat noodles contains 149 calories, 1.7 grams of fat, 4mg of sodium (which is less than 1% of the daily allowance) and 6 grams of protein (source: Nutritionix).
While 100 grams of egg noodles contains 138 calories, 2.1 grams of fat, 5mg of sodium and 4.5 grams of protein (source: Nutritionix). While the nutritional breakdown of these kinds of noodles does not differ very much, if you’re looking to lower calories then rice noodles are the lower option.
Most of the “unhealthy” aspects of ramen are to do with the toppings and choice of soup. Miso soup only contains 24 calories per 100 grams and 2.1 grams of fat and contains 19% of your daily allowance of sodium (source: Nutritionix).
Meanwhile, a container of Tonkotsu ramen (including the noodles and toppings in the packet) contains 450 calories, 18 grams of fat, and 65% of your daily allowance of sodium (source: Nutritionix).
To keep things healthier, it’s best to avoid deep-fried fish in your ramen and opt for chicken, turkey or cooked salmon to cut back on unhealthy fats, and load up with vegetables instead.
Rather than getting a beef-flavor or chicken-flavor packet of instant ramen, try to go for homemade or restaurant ramen with rice noodles, miso soup, vegetables or seaweed and cooked chicken or beef. Pile on the veggies, too!
Instant Ramen and Pregnancy Safety
Generally, most kinds of ramen are safe during pregnancy.
Instant ramen is pre-cooked and then fried to shorten the cooking time for customers, which is why you often only need to add hot water to ramen products like Top Ramen, Maruchan or Pot Noodle. They usually come with a packet of seasoning, sauce and sometimes freeze-dried vegetables like carrots, corn and peas.
While they are convenient and generally safe, instant ramen is something that should be eaten in moderation.
Instant ramen usually contains additives such as MSG and TBHQ for flavor and to preserve the noodles which are safe in small amounts but chronic exposure may have adverse health effects.
Headaches are the most common side effect of consuming large amounts of MSG, while asthma, rhinitis, and convulsions have also been noted (source: CTA).
However, an examination into the effect MSG had on headaches, heart palpitations, tingling and flushes found that these symptoms were more common when consuming at least 3 grams of MSG while the amount of MSG in food is closer to 0.5 grams (source: FDA)
There is limited research on MSG and pregnancy but the FDA does consider the additive to be generally safe.
TBHQ has been linked to liver enlargement, convulsions and neurotoxic effects in animal studies (source: National Library of Medicine (NLM). However, the amount of TBHQ in food cannot make up more than 0.02% of the oil in foods (source: FDA).
Rice, wheat or egg noodles are considered safe in Japanese-style ramen in a restaurant. The real concern here is what you put in your ramen. As long as the broth, protein and vegetables are cooked, clean and pregnancy safe Japanese-style ramen is a healthy alternative to instant ramen.
Fresh miso ramen is generally safe during pregnancy but miso can be quite high in sodium with some kinds of miso soup making up to 50% of the recommended daily amount.
Tonkotsu is similar to a bone broth, and is made from pork bones. Bone broths are safe during pregnancy, and these kinds of soups have been cooked before serving.
A spicy Japanese ramen dish is also safe, but it may make you feel uncomfortable if you’re prone to indigestion.
What Does it Mean if I’m Craving Ramen?
Ramen is savoury and often spicy or salty which makes it a common pregnancy craving, so what does it mean if you’re craving ramen?
The truth is, the exact reason why we crave certain foods during pregnancy doesn’t have a straightforward answer.
There are theories that cravings could be due to a deficiency in your diet, for example, craving salty foods means you must be deficient in sodium but studies show that most people who crave salt aren’t actually deficient (source: HHS Public Access.)
A similar conclusion has also been drawn when it comes to trying to link specific food cravings with nutritional deficiencies (source: Frontiers in Psychology).
Cravings are also linked to cultural factors as Japanese women often crave rice while American women tend to crave chocolate compared to Egyptian women who might not crave sweet foods at all (source: Frontiers in Psychology).
When it comes to spicy ramen, some believe that pregnant women crave spicy food because it stimulates sweating. As pregnant women often feel too hot, this helps you feel cooler.
Spicy cravings may also be due to a change in taste and smell, which is why you find yourself eating foods you normally don’t like or vice versa (source: Appetite Journal).
Either way, there is nothing alarming or abnormal about craving ramen during pregnancy!
Overall, try to choose fresh ramen with healthy toppings over instant ramen, but if you want to satisfy a craving, or top up your water intake, you can turn to ramen every now and again when pregnant – just keep an eye on the toppings when you do.
|This article has been reviewed and approved for publication in line with our editorial policy.|