As college students, we all have had the experience of bumping into our friends in the kitchen at night and hastily making up excuses for eating allegedly the most unhealthy yet popular college snack, ramen. Even though we joke and even brag about how much ramen we consume during finals, we still get embarrassed if we get caught eating them.

Sure, ramen are cheap, savory, and accessible but they prove that you are guilty of living an unhealthy lifestyle. The convenience and addictive flavor, however, makes it hard to walk away from them. Especially for busy, constantly hungry college students, ramen can turn into a quick and efficient, tasty, and comparatively healthy meal with a few adjustments in preparation and ingredients.

Those skeptical of ramen’s appeal who fuss about its excessive amount of sodium can be found in every dorm. The noodles themselves, however, are not the source of the problem but the little spice packet that comes along with them. That problem can be easily solved by using only the half of the spice, replacing the rest with other spices in the supermarket or even in our dining halls, and the flavor would be the same since the seasonings have a strong taste.

Simply chopping garlic or onions also does the trick, a method that a lot of Japanese restaurants use when making more authentic and sophisticated noodles. That would significantly lower the sodium level and preserve the savory taste without going through the hassle of having to search up countless names of foreign spices.

Even if we take out the sodium in the spice packet, the issue of MSG still remains. Some argue that MSG contained in the spices as a flavor enhancer is an ultimate factor for the unhealthiness of ramen. Though the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classified it as a safe food ingredient to be consumed and cooked, MSG has long been unfairly criticized for inducing headaches, nausea, and other negative reactions.

Such effects, however, are only shown to a very small group of people, much less than the number of people allergic to peanuts, and do not appear when consumed in moderation, just like many other food products. According to a study held by American Chemical Society, MSG and resembling chemicals are often found in protein-rich foods like meat, milk, and cheese and are even produced in our bodies when we metabolize food.

Although ramen itself does not have significant vitamins or minerals, it is easy to add vegetables and proteins to balance out the containing carbohydrates and fat. A packet of baby carrots that come with sandwiches or a handful of spinach in the salad section of school dining halls would be enough to compensate for the lack of minerals.

Slice in some leftover chicken or add a boiled egg and the protein problem would be surely fixed too. Adding chopped up beef or pork into the pot also helps while enhancing the overall taste of the soup with rich broth. These ingredients are easily accessible in nearby supermarkets or may be already stocked in the fridge since they are our food staples.

As easy as it is to cook, ramen fits into every occasion and fulfills various purposes for college students. Students who do not have enough money to eat out or pay for dining halls can buy it for less than a dollar from the campus bookstore. The spicy taste of ramen helps the students to de-stress over finals and an endless pile of homework. Because it is simple and fun to cook, students can make ramen for study breaks or hold a midnight snack party in the kitchen.

Not only is it good for coping with studying on weekdays but it is also known to be a great hangover cure on weekends, which the majority of college students are equally in need of. In winter, instead of trudging through the snow to a nearby town bundled up in layers of clothing, we can stay in our rooms and pull out a packet of ramen from our bookshelves.

Ramen quickly and easily comforts the empty stomach of college students without draining their empty bank accounts. The additional vegetables and meat add taste, nutrients, and decorations to what would be a plain, salty pot of water, transforming it into a fancy cuisine. Next time when your friend catches you eating ramen, instead of acting like you are covering up a crime scene, you could surprise them with a warm dish of delicious, healthy ramen.

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