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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Krea chapter.

The comfort of home for many of us, is the comfort of food. The scent of that fresh tadka that wafts into your room on a summer afternoon, gently stirring you awake. Those familiar conversations and bellowing laughs shared over a hearty breakfast. Now, you sit alone in the dimness of your dorm room after a long day of classes. Having missed out on dinner, you resort to a watered-down cup noodle. Mumbling into the soundless room, trying to convince yourself, “at least it’s better than nothing”. You reap your days of fulfilled eating, and the lost savor of a home-cooked meal. Still, you persevere, it is you and your cup of instant ramen against a mountain of overdue assignments, and you make it work. But in the midst of this noodle-powered essay-writing frenzy, you may hardly ever stop to wonder, “what am I really eating?” and more importantly, “why?” 

The first instant noodle was introduced by Nissin in 1958, followed by its even lazier successor, cup noodles. But it wasn’t until the 80s that this food marvel took the world by storm, filling the stomachs of overworked office goers and college students everywhere. In fact, some countries seem to have adopted an instant noodle ambassador of sorts, with masaledar Maggi in India, or Indomie mi goreng in Indonesia. The concept is simple enough: noodles are flash fried and seasoned, resulting in a sumptuous taste and an instantaneous cooktime. They’re then sealed in vibrant plastic or packed into styrofoam cups, and on the shelves they go, ready to serve the masses. But what is it that makes them so addictive? The culprit, or culprits rather, are the exorbitant fat and carbohydrate content coupled with a high dose of sodium. The excessive combination releases feel-good chemicals like dopamine in the brain. This is also a cause for its popularity amongst college students, who seek a salty break from their otherwise bland routines. 

The main issue with the average college student’s meals, is the lack thereof. Finding a student who eats three sufficient meals a day is alarmingly rare. There simply seems to be no time at all to squeeze in a decent meal. Enter, instant noodles. A relatively affordable, easily available option, that takes hardly any time to prepare. It then comes as no surprise that the “instant-noodle-eating college student” trope is a very apparent reality. But the catch here is that its nutritional value is just as minimal as its cooking time. Its complete lack of fiber and protein makes it a low satiety food, essentially meaning that it fuels hunger more than it appeases it. A frightening statitistic also links the consumption of instant noodles with metabolic syndrome, opening the floodgates to a slew of health concerns, from high blood pressure to diabetes. But wait – it wouldn’t be fair to plainly villianize that which appeases the hunger of so many, would it? Admittedly, eating instant noodles when cramming for that final exam is an inevitable occurrence. Perhaps managing to integrate them into a balanced diet, in moderation, is just fine. Rather, it is their overconsumption that not only poses health risks, but uncovers issues of far greater proportions.  

The shiny packaging, bouncy sheen, and overall fad-culture of instant ramen makes it the perfect guise for food insecurity on college campuses. Insufficient nutrition in students stems from a number of deep-seated collegiate issues. For one, student finances can be a huge detriment to eating enough, wherein cheap, albeit nutrient-devoid, instant noodles save the day. Yet, of course, it is only an interim replacement that scarcely provides the nutrients found in real foods. The low nutritional value has even been linked to consequent academic underperformance, data from colleges in the US depict a relation between instant noodle consumption and a significantly lower GPA. The harmful implications of this diet dispel the comical “broke college student” archetype, instead illuminating a serious crisis. From a larger standpoint, food insecurity is a symptom of the multiple inadequacies faced by scholars worldover. The consumption of instant food and the disparity of mental health share a disturbing connection. The dwindling mental state of students often corresponds to a poor diet, consisting of low-effort foods like instant ramen. Those with mental disorders undergo an exacerbation of symptoms due to the academic and social stress of college, leading to poorer food choices, which could in turn derail lives. The sad reality is that food insecurity on college campuses is shrouded in normalcy. It is discounted as “a part of the college experience” while the consequences of this dietary epidemic grow increasingly dire. People still continue to brush it off, and undersell its importance when it is an intrinsically human issue overshadowed by the so-called “college experience”. 

Hi :) I'm Shipra, an avid literature major at Krea. I'm a bit of a homebody, so you'll usually find me in my room, curled up with a good novel or a horror flick. I absolutely love writing, I think it's a great means to communicate the most intricate human emotions.