Summertime means warm weather, friends, family, and barbecues.
Which is probably why July is National Hot Dog Month!
But despite the hot dog’s popularity, it is difficult to find a food that is worse for you.
Fortunately, you can get your ‘hot dog fix’ in a healthful way.
At the end of this article, we will be sharing a fantastic whole food, plant-based ‘dog’ recipe.
But first, let’s discover what science says about the traditional meat-based hot dogs.
Hot Dogs: The Downside of an American Favorite
The popularity of hot dogs cannot be disputed.
In the US, it is estimated that as many as 20 billion hot dogs are eaten every year, about 70 per person.
The problem is that traditional hot dogs are nutritionally bankrupt.
As with all processed meats, hot dogs are linked to a whole host of disease risks such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, obesity, and premature death.
They are high in total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium; they are also filled to the brim with binders, fillers, flavorings, and preservatives including corn syrup, nitrates, and MSG.
Like any cured meat, hot dogs contain nitrates and nitrites that, when cooked, go through a chemical process which makes them carcinogenic.
Scientific studies have demonstrated the brutal, unhealthful truth about hot dogs (and all processed meats):
- In a 2012 study, the American Heart Association linked stroke risk to processed meat consumption; your risk for stroke increases by 13 percent for every daily serving.
- A 2010 study from the Harvard School of Public Health reported that eating processed meat (like hot dogs) is associated with a 42 percent higher risk of heart disease and a 19 percent higher risk of type 2 diabetes.
- A Swedish study examined the effects of unprocessed and proceed meats on heart failure on over 37,000 men and discovered that every 50-gram daily increase in consumption of processed meat (i.e. hot dogs) increased the risk of heart failure by 8 percent and the risk of death from heart failure by 38 percent.
- An American Institute for Cancer Research study showed that eating a single hot dog per day could raise your risk of colorectal cancer by 21 percent.
- A New World Health Organization report states emphatically that processed meats are ‘carcinogenic to humans,’ in the same category as asbestos, tobacco and other cancer-causing substances.
These are sobering facts that send a clear message—meat-based hot dogs are NOT good for us.
Enjoy Hot Dogs the Plant-Based Way!
If hot dogs are so bad for your health, why are we talking about them on a blog devoted to healthy living and following a whole food, plant-based diet?
Because we want to reassure you that you can satisfy that hot dog craving with some plant-based alternatives.
A brief history…
The origin of the vegetarian hot dog is not clear but appears to date back as far as the 1940s when a meatless hot dog was manufactured to meet the dietary needs of the Seventh Day Adventists, the very same population we looked at when exploring the Blue Zone in Loma Linda.
However, the popularity of veggie dogs really started to take off a few decades later when they were featured as a staple at Grateful Dead concerts, thanks to Gene Baur, a plant-based aficionado and the president/co-founder of Farm Sanctuary, an animal rescue organization started in 1986.
Baur and his partner would follow the Grateful Dead tour with his VW van, selling vegan hot dogs to Deadheads from morning to midnight. The fans nicknamed him the ‘guy with the veggie dog stand’ while the oft-cited invitation to ‘meet you at the meatless hot dog stand’ became part of the Grateful Dead legend.
Back then, veggie dog options were few and far between.
When you do buy a pre-made, plant-based hot dog, make sure to read the label carefully. While we have several alternatives, many veggie dogs on the market are made with processed soy and added sugar, oil, and salt.
And what about whipping up your very own whole food, plant-based hot dog?
It is unique, yummy and healthful!
Once again, proving that a plant-based diet is never about deprivation and always about finding creative ways to celebrate nature’s bounty.