The following ingredients can be found in any processed meats including deli meats, salami, pepperoni, or meat in a can. The difference in processed meats are the type of meat used, such as pork or beef etc, or the types of flavouring and spices added.
- Mechanically separated meat – this is all the “trimmings” left over after all the other cuts of meat have been removed and that includes tendons, cartilage, and skin…..which is actually not a bad thing. I don’t promote eating processed foods but the cartilage, skin, and tendons are not the bad part of wieners. When connective tissues are ground up we can digest them quite easily and absorb different proportions of amino acids compared to what is in skeletal muscle.
- Salt – about 800 mg per wiener, is used to kill bacteria and to add flavor. We should keep daily salt intake to around 3000 mg per day, which is doable if you cook your own whole foods and add a bit of salt for flavor, but total daily salt intake can skyrocket to 10,000 mg per day if you eat a lot of packaged process food, like hot dogs, and this will contribute to high blood pressure.
- Potassium lactate – an acidic salt made from combing lactic acid and potassium to kill bacteria and fungus and extend the shelf life and also used to enhance flavour. This is not bad for you in small amounts, we eat lactic acid when we eat yogurt, but too much potassium in combination with the sodium can throw our electrolytes a little off balance and could be a concern for someone with high blood pressure or kidney problems.
- Sodium diacetate – a combination of sodium and acetic acid (acetic acid is basically vinegar) and it is used to kill bacteria and fungus and increase shelf life. This is also the chemical used to give salt and vinegar ships their flavour. In small amounts it is not harmful, however, it is more sodium above the amount in the salt and will contribute to high blood pressure if consumed in high amounts.
Sodium nitrate – used to kill bacteria and have been shown to increase your risk of heart disease. Article from the Mayo Clinic says that nitrates in processed meats damage your blood vessels, and also impact how your body utilizes sugar, making you more likely to develop type 2 diabetes but there is actually considerable debate in the research about nitrates since they are also found in vegetables…will talk about this in another post.
Corn syrup or dextrose or maltodextrin (sugars) and corn starch – used to give the hot dogs a palatable texture, acts as a filler, and adds sweetness. This also increases the amount of carbohydrates making it higher in carbs than in protein, especially if you eat it on a bun.
- Autolyzed yeast extract/ hydrolyzed vegetable protein – this is basically MSG and gives the hot dogs flavor. When you process food it loses any natural flavours so they have to add flavouring back in otherwise it would taste very bland. MSG is monosodium glutamate and can impact some people that are sensitive to it. Glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter that makes your brain “excited” when you eat it, giving you a reward feeling. Food companies like adding MSG to foods for the flavor but also because it makes you really like the food and then you are more likely to buy more.
- Sodium erythorbate – is a synthetic variation of ascorbic acid (vitamin C, prevents oxidation) used as a preservative, kills bacteria and fungus and increases shelf life, also makes them pink so they look more appetizing.
So really, there is nothing super toxic or carcinogenic in wieners but that doesn't mean they are healthy. Let’s look at the macronutrients.
- Protein – 9g
- Carbohydrates – 13g (4g sugar, 9g starch)
- Fat – 23g
- Total calories – 290
1 wiener with bun
- Protein – 12g
- Carbohydrates – 34g (7g sugar, 27g starch)
- Fat – 25g
- Total Calories – 409
Conclusion: Wieners are high in salt, fat, carbs, and MSG and this combination is the worst for making your brain increase it’s satiety level so that you end up eating way more calories than you need, partly because of the high carb:fat combination and partly because of the salt and MSG flavor enhancing effects. Also, sodium will make you retain water and can increase blood pressure.
You could eat a whole plate full of non-processed healthy whole food for 400 Calories and get a lot more nutrients that will make you feel full and satisfied while also giving your cells energy, phytonutrients, and antioxidants.
Fun fact – Did you know that the world record for eating hot dogs is 74 hot dogs AND buns!! A guy named Joey Chestnut did this on July 4 2018 in Coney Island.