Over the years, hot dogs have been synonymous with classic American summer past-times: baseball games, cookouts and of course weenie roasts with an open campfire. They are probably one of the most popular junk foods in the country – and that probably is not likely to change anytime soon. In cities like New York and Chicago, it is a staple of practically every street vendor and is very much a part of each city’s ethos.
Most people look on hot dogs as a sort of guilty indulgence, however, and know that they are not exactly a health food: apart from anything else, they are loaded with sodium and saturated fat and are completely lacking in vitamins, minerals and fiber. Though they are nutrient poor, they are a high-calorie food. What many might not be aware of, though, is just how many unhealthy ingredients these processed meat products contain!
So what exactly is in a hot dog?
Mechanically separated poultry
This is an ingredient in many hot dog brands and is a paste-like poultry product that is made by forcing edible tissues away from bones when those bones are forced through a sieve under a high degree of pressure. Not very appetizing, huh?
This will probably come as a surprise to most people who probably didn’t even consider the possibility that this artificially produced sweetener could wind up in their beloved hot dogs! Corn syrup is high in calories but has almost no nutritional value and has been linked to weight gain, diabetes development and heart disease.
Most people can taste for themselves that hot dogs are salty – but just how high in sodium are they? The truth is that the average hot dog contains around 20% of the recommended intake of sodium for the day, about 480mgs! And that is just the hot dog itself – it does not count the high-sodium toppings like mustard, ketchup, sauerkraut or relish that often get added later.
This ingredient is added to keep hot dogs moist, preserve their flavor and help prevent the growth of certain bacteria in the meat product itself. It is made in a factory through a chemical process of taking potassium hydroxide to neutralize lactic acid and the result is a white, solid lump of chemicals that go straight into the hot dog.
This “laundry list” of unhealthy ingredients should be enough to motivate most people into limiting their hot dog intake or avoiding them altogether. A healthier alternative to America’s favorite junk food could be, for instance, bratwurst made from local, organic beef or pork and served on a whole-wheat bun. It can help satisfying the hot dog craving in a way that is less damaging to the body!