ERIKA DITZMAN | OPINION COLUMNIST
Entering college marks the transition between a dependent and an independent lifestyle. We are no longer provided the homecooked meals of our youth, forced into this new world of microwave dinners and Ramen noodles. This is often the cheapest alternative for those students paying for an education with too little financial assistance. Despite the fact that these meals are quick and inexpensive, fat and preservative content are regularly neglected, making the Freshman Fifteen a very real possibility. This is not only isolated to incoming freshman though! As classes pick up and free time becomes less available, attempting to crunch in as many credits as are required to graduate on time, eating healthy becomes less of a concern. Pay attention! You are what you eat!
Ramen noodles: the stereotypical college student dinner on a busy night of classes and studying. Although a tasty and cheap choice, little explanation of what we are consuming is provided. Increasing shelf life, the preservative Tertiary-butyl hydroquinone (TBHQ) is added with absolutely no additional nutritional value.
Furthermore, prolonged exposure to TBHQ can result in stomach tumors, cancer and even death. Nonetheless, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has no concern unless TBHQ concentration exceeds 0.02% of oil and fat content. Yet, with only five grams or more, toxicity levels are easily reached. Consumption of one gram
has often led to effects such as heightened anxiety, nausea, vomiting, body rash, diarrhea, swollen lymph nodes, ringing ears, delirium, anaphylactic shock and collapse. This byproduct of the petroleum industry, delaying product expiration, also prevents digestion in the human stomach.
In an experiment by Dr. Braden Kuo, the director of the GI motility laboratory at Harvard University, test subjects who ate fresh Ramen were compared to those eating instant Ramen noodles. With the invention of the “smart pill”, a vitamin sized camera, the results collected from over 32 hours of video were staggering. “What we’re seeing here is a stomach contracting back and forth as it’s trying to grind up the Ramen noodles,” stated Dr. Kuo. “The most striking thing about our experiment when you looked at a time interval, say in one or two hours, we noticed that processed Ramen noodles were less broken down than homemade Ramen noodles.” As a result, less nutrients are successfully absorbed into the bloodstream for bodily functions due to the extensive amount of time that TBHQ remains within the stomach cavity. Perhaps this college favorite is not the be-all and end-all of cheap eating. After all, the doctor bills will weigh much more heavily upon the limited funds in our bank accounts.
As the food industry haphazardly throws dangerous chemicals into products for greater convenience to the American people, eating wholesome meals on a sparse budget is quite difficult. Further concerns exist within the understanding of limiting carbohydrates and fats. As students attempt to cut these seemingly negative macronutrients out of their diet, little do they comprehend the content behind the label of ‘low fat’.
Although fat content may be lessened, alternatives such as high sugar and sodium are often substituted to maintain equal flavor, and therefore sufficient customer satisfaction. Sugar, if not used by the body, will eventually develop body fat. High salt consumption increases blood pressure, often causing heart disease.
Although troublesome, avoiding various obstacles set in place by the Food and Drug Administration and eating healthy is not impossible. At St. Norbert College, meal plans are offered to students to help them avoid scrounging for inexpensive food at various gas stations and vending machines around the campus. Nonetheless, this can still be detrimental. Watching portion sizes is key to making healthy choices at the St. Norbert College Marketplace. The buffet style dining service can be especially tempting, forcing self control as students live on their own. As with any lifestyle though, exercise is an essential part that keeps the body in shape, avoiding the likelihood of weight gain and any of its lasting health effects.
Striking a balance between college success and personal health is a common struggle for students throughout the country. Using this knowledge to refine our lives takes time, yet will prove to be essential in creating the rest of our adult lives.