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Julie Wilkinson, BSN, RN

Just How Bad Are Hot Dogs?

By February 27, 2013

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What do backyard barbeques, baseball, and street vendors have in common? They all sell our favorite processed sticks of meat - yes, I'm referring to hot dogs. Not surprisingly, the "are-hot-dogs-really-that-bad-for-me" question seems to be a popular one that I hear quite frequently when discussing colon cancer and diet.

Bottom line - the majority of these delicious frankfurters fall under the category of processed food. Processed foods are usually pretty easy to spot:

  • Unfortunately they taste pretty good (mostly due to high caloric and fat content)
  • They have a great shelf life (unlike the bananas you bought yesterday that are already browning, many processed foods are safe to eat for years)
  • These foods are convenient (a zap in the microwave and they're ready to eat)

Many conclusive studies have already proven that eating large amounts of red and processed meat (where "large" is usually more than five ounces per day, everyday) significantly increases your risk of developing colorectal cancer. Blame has been placed on the preservatives in processed meat, the high fat and cholesterol in red meat, and even on the cooking methods (grilling) that can release carcinogens in the meat once exposed to high heat.

Is one hot dog going to increase your risk of colon cancer? Unfortunately, I can't answer that -- I'm not a statistician or a scientist. Probably, if hot dogs are a staple on your family menu, it's time for a menu overhaul. Consider replacing the dogs with poultry or fish, or go crazy and add a no-meat day to your family's repertoire of meals to help decrease your family's dietary risk.

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