Hot dogs are great any time, but sales of this particular food product tend to skyrocket in the summer when cookouts and barbecues are all the rage. While eating a hot dog is sure to bring back memories from childhood with its familiar tastes, there are a few health concerns that should be considered before buying and eating this food. However, there are a few health benefits associated with eating hot dogs, especially if you educate yourself on which varieties are the healthiest options. Read on to find out more about the pros and cons of eating this popular, family-friendly treat.
1. Easy Preparation: Hot dogs are almost always packaged and sold after being precooked. That means that they can be eaten cold or warmed in a microwave in just seconds. However, it's preferable to heat them properly in order to eliminate any potential bacteria from the packaging. According to recent studies, the minimum time that a hot dog should be microwaved in order to remove any bacteria is about 75 seconds. Of course, the hot dogs can also be boiled or cooked on a grill as well. Either way, this is an easy to prepare meal that saves time in the kitchen.
2. Healthy Condiments: Hot dogs can be dressed up with some truly health-conscious condiments that make them fun to enjoy. For instance, fresh chopped onions, peppers, lettuce and tomatoes are an excellent addition to any hot dog. Even mustard is a good choice because it is low in calories, plus a little mustard goes a long way when it comes to enhancing flavor. Ketchup is tasty with dogs, but it should be used sparingly. Some hot dog condiments you may want to avoid are mayonnaise, sweet relish, cheese and chili, which are usually high in fat and sodium.
3. Whole Grains: Although you can cut carbs by excluding the bun altogether, eating a hot dog is a great chance to get some good grains in your diet. When buying hot dog buns, go for the ones that are made from whole grains. This is a great compromise with kids who love hot dogs; let them know that they can have a dog as long as they use the healthy bun.
4. Healthy Options: Because hot dogs are so popular, companies have come out with a wide variety of options when it comes to what the dogs are made of to fit everyone's individual tastes. This offers hot dog fans an easy way to make healthier choices with hot dogs. When shopping for dogs, the healthiest options are those that are fat-free, low-sodium, lean and/or poultry-based. Veggie dogs may also be a good option, but check the nutritional label to make sure it has less sodium, fat and calories compared to other dogs.
5. Vitamins and Minerals: Hot dogs do contain some healthy vitamins and minerals, including several B vitamins, folate, vitamin E and vitamin D, albeit in very small amounts. Additionally, hot dogs tend to have a good amount of potassium. Hot dogs do contain about five grams of protein each. However, this is a very low amount compared to other types of meat.
1. Choking Hazard: Unfortunately, hot dogs prove to be a major choking hazard, especially for children. Studies have shown that approximately 17 percent of all food-related chokings for children under the age of 10 involved a hot dog. Because it is round, has a diameter similar to that of the windpipe and it has a thick, spongy texture, the average hot dog is very difficult to remove from the airway once it becomes lodged there. To avoid choking hazards with hot dogs, slice the dog lengthwise before eating or cut them into small pieces, especially when serving them to children.
2. Cancer Risk: When hot dogs are eaten daily, they may lead to an increased risk for developing cancer. Some of the types of cancer which have been linked to regular hot dog consumption are leukemia, brain cancer, lymphoma and colorectal cancer. This may be due in part to the fact that hot dogs are high in nitrite and sodium nitrate, which have been linked to cancer in other studies. To avoid these effects, limit hot dog consumption to only occasional treats instead of a daily or weekly meal.
3. Increased Risk of Disease: Processed meats like hot dogs have been proven to increase the risk for conditions like heart disease and diabetes. Researchers suspect that the chemical preservatives and extra sodium in hot dogs are to blame for this increased risk of disease. Avoid eating hot dogs and other processed meats on a regular basis to prevent this from occurring.
4. Unhealthy Additives: Hot dogs often contain fillers and other additives that may be unhealthy for regular consumption. Hot dogs often contain monosodium glutamate, or MSG. This enhances flavor but it may also cause headaches, allergic reactions and other adverse side effects. The casings of hot dogs are sometimes made with synthetic materials, which may contain carcinogens. Try to purchase hot dogs made with as many natural ingredients as possible and fewer additives to avoid these unhealthy effects.