For many children and adults, hot dogs in a bun are a favorite. Hot dogs are a tasty meal that can be quickly put together after school or at the end of a workday, and they are also easy to eat while outdoors. In fact, the combination of comfort, taste, and cost has created a situation where hot dogs are part of many birthdays, parties and sporting event memories. However, many of us know that hot dogs aren’t particularly healthy, and if you didn’t know this, you should check out these new research findings.
Potassium nitrate: the dangerous additive in hot dogs
Mass production of hot dogs began in the 19th century which soon gave rise to the need for technology to preserve the meat. This need led to the integration of potassium nitrate, a preservative that is also responsible for making hot dogs look fresh and for their color. Originally, nitrate was used as gunpowder, but later it turned out that it gave the meat a special smoky flavor and taste, and thus became an almost inseparable part of this industry.
How does nitrate endanger the health of our children
Several studies have linked the consumption of hotdogs among children to the development of cancerous processes. In a comprehensive study on children, researchers found that children who eat more than 12 hot dogs a month are at risk of developing leukemia nine times more than other children. In another study, teens who consumed one hot dog per week were at a higher risk of developing tumors in the brain area than other teenagers. At the same time, it was found that children born to mothers who consumed one or more hot dogs a week during pregnancy have an increased chance of developing brain tumors.
Although nitrate has an aesthetic purpose, after being consumed it mixes in the stomach with amino acids and creates compounds known as nitrosamines. These compounds promote cancerous processes that lead to tumors in the mouth, bladder, throat, stomach, and brain.
Other foods containing nitrate
The source of many of the nitrates that reach our and our children's bodies are actually vegetables, because nitrate is usually found in green vegetables such as spinach, celery, and green lettuce. However, vegetables also contain other substances such as vitamin C and D, which suppress the dangerous compounds and therefore can be eaten in large quantities without fear of malignant or problematic processes.
What can be done to protect our children?
Although this is one of children's favorite foods, there are several important things that can be done to protect their health:
• Nitrate-free hotdogs - In light of the latest cooling techniques available in every store and factory, the use of nitrate in hot dogs today is solely aesthetic, rather than the desire to keep them fresh. In some shops and supermarkets, you can buy hot dogs without nitrate, which taste the same as regular hot dogs, but have a color that resembles soil and therefore turns off many shoppers. A cooked hot dog without nitrate is just as tasty and, moreover, much healthier.
• Switching to vegetarian - Try to incorporate vegetarian hot dogs into your children's menu at least part of the time. Today there are many alternatives such as tofu or seitan hot dogs that your children may find just as tasty as the hot dogs they’ve eaten to this day.
• Become involved in their schools - If the children's school has a cafeteria, contact the school's faculty to inquire about the type of food served or sold, and ask to look into the possibility of changing the type of hot dogs if they are regular hot dogs. Also, involve other parents so that they to become aware of the risk, and help you clarify the importance attributed to the issue and the demand for change.
• Read label on all food products - it is important to note that other types of processed meat, such as pastrami and salami, may contain nitrate in order to prolong their shelf-life. Therefore it is very important to read labels carefully and choose the food products that don’t contain nitrates.