Nutritionist Exposes Everything Fake About Hot Dogs

If you're at a backyard barbecue or a ball game, nothing beats a hot dog (unless that ball game is in Milwaukee, the only major league stadium where sausages outsell hot dogs, according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council). And if you want to experience a hot dog in its true glory, then a beach, a bonfire, and a few sticks will magically transform your humble dog into a meal finer than filet mignon.

When it comes to hot dogs' health value, the filet mignon metaphor no longer holds up. Prime beef tenderloin they are not. As long as you are limiting your hot dog consumption to special occasions, it won't hurt you. If, on the other hand, you choose to eat a hot dog every day, you're committing a nutritional no-no. Mashed spoke with Dr. Daryl Gioffre, a celebrity nutritionist and the author of "Get off Your Acid" and "Get Off Your Sugar." Gioffre told us, frankly, he's no fan of frankfurters.

The processed meat in hot dogs is extremely unhealthy

Whatever meats went into your hot dog, chances are they were highly processed. Gioffre warned against processed meats, saying they cause inflammation and increase cancer risk. The reason for this is that they come from animals fed unhealthy diets loaded with grain that contain an excess of Omega-6 fats. Omega-3's, he said, are "fats that heal," but Omega-6's are "fats that kill." The average human body contains 20 times more Omega-6 fats than Omega-3's, something Gioffre said "creates a massive imbalance." This imbalance leads to cardiovascular disease, brain fog, and dementia.

Hot dogs also contain nitrates and nitrites, which can lead to "an acid-forming nightmare in your body," Gioffre said. "These toxic chemicals also stress your gut, with the potential to cause bloating, abdominal pain, and bloody stools when consumed in large amounts," he added. If you're not scared off yet, Gioffre cited Environmental Protection Agency warnings linking nitrates to leukemia, brain tumors, and nose and throat tumors. "Nitrates and nitrites can also increase the risk for diabetes and respiratory tract infections in children," Gioffre said.

Antibiotics also are added to some hot dogs. "Every time you eat a hot dog, you are ingesting these gut-wrecking chemicals," Gioffre said. Just how gut-wrecking are they? "These antibiotics are like a napalm bomb going off in your gut," Gioffre said, killing good bacteria and potentially inducing a gross-sounding leaky gut.

Hot dog buns and condiments aren't great, either

Gioffre didn't reserve his ire for hot dogs alone. His warnings included the buns and condiments that typically accompany them. He bashed buns as being "processed gluten, a prime driver of microbiome inflammation, dysbiosis, and leaky gut" (eek, a double dose of gut leakage!). Hot dog buns may also contain high fructose corn syrup – "the most toxic sugar of all," in Gioffre's estimation. The preservatives in the bun also may contribute to that "acid-forming nightmare" mentioned earlier with respect to nitrates and nitrites.

Then you've got the mustard, ketchup, and relish — all the usual suspects that dress up an otherwise dull dog. "All of these toppings add tons of refined table salt," Gioffre said. Sticking to his theme, he called good ol' sodium chloride "a salt that kills," noting that it is the leading cause of heart disease. Many brands of ketchup, meanwhile, add more high fructose corn syrup to the hot dog experience. Children are getting so much high fructose corn syrup in their diets — a lot of it from ketchup — that 13% of kids have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, according to Gioffre. It sounds like Chicagoans were right to ban ketchup from their hot dogs.

How to minimize the damage from hot dogs

Gioffre wanted to be clear, he wasn't out to spoil everyone's backyard barbecue or beach bonfire. "I'm all about moderation, not deprivation," he said. "If you are really craving a hot dog as a once-in-a-long-while food, that's okay. Do what you can to minimize the damage." 

The most important way to do that, Gioffre said, is to choose a hot dog that uses organic, grass-fed beef, as opposed to a mystery meat. That will ensure that you get more of the healthier kind of fat and less of the inflammatory fats. He also said to be choosy about your condiments, limiting yourself to an organic mustard. (Gioffre might approve of sauerkraut, too. According to Healthline, sauerkraut provides some of those good bacteria your hot dog might be napalming.) One piece of advice Gioffre offered may not be too easy to follow, though: "Skip the bun altogether." This would be pretty darn messy if you're eating hot dogs in their natural state — while you're out having fun in the sun.