Are Hot Dogs Bad for You?
You often hear about nitrates in hot dogs. So what are they? Nitrites and nitrates are compounds added to hot dogs and cured meats to extend their shelf life and improve color. They occur naturally in some vegetables, like spinach and root vegetables.
Are they bad for you? Potentially yes, say experts. Once digested, nitrites and nitrates can form nitrosamines, which have been linked to cancer in test animals. To reduce this risk, the U.S. Department of Agriculture requires hot-dog makers to add antioxidants, like vitamin C, to their products.
How can I make a hot-dog meal healthier? Anyone with a hot-dog habit (say, one or more a week) should try pairing the hot dogs with an antioxidant-rich food, like tomatoes, or vitamin C–packed orange juice. Or opt for uncured dogs instead.