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Brooks warns that those suffering from high blood pressure, taking diuretics or certain antidepressantmedications (MAO inhibitors), or suffering from congestive heart failure should avoid the high sodium and MSG content supplied by instant noodles.

Of course, most of the young adults who have propelled these low-cost rations to best-selling snack status are free of circulatory problems and blissfully oblivious of the bodily harm they're causing. Luckily, most of them outgrow the product after either learning how to cook real food or earning enough money to move on to healthier fare.

"I haven't eaten Top Ramen in months," said Chris Bank, 24, a newly graduated software designer in San Francisco. "I used to live off that stuff, but I haven't thought to buy it recently. I think I might scrounge up some change and pick up a case."

After stocking up, Bank might consider searching for "instant noodles" the next time he's on the Internet. The Web offers sites devoted to clever recipes using instant noodles. Some of the more interesting include ramen pancakes, ramen chili, and cream cheese ramen. And many of the recipes don't incorporate the sodium-laden flavor packs.

Now that you know the facts about instant noodles, perhaps it's time to start worrying about that other staple food of your youth: macaroni and cheese.

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