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Synonymous with summer BBQs and baseball games, the hot dog has been “linked” with American culture since the early 1900s. Whether you love them plain, in a bun, or topped with ketchup, mustard, relish, onions, cheese, sauerkraut, chili or anything else you can think of, is likely influenced by where you live, but regardless of how you enjoy them, one thing is for sure – Americans sure do “relish” their hot dogs! (Hyuck, see what I did there?) In fact, each year it is estimated that Americans consume 20 billion hot dogs, which translates into approximately 70 hot dogs per person per year. Wow!
Hot dogs are a type of sausage made from meat trimmings and fat, flavor ingredients, and preservatives. Sausages have been around since ancient times; in fact, they are one of the oldest forms of processed foods. They were created out of the need to preserve meat and as a way of efficiently using up butchering by-products such as meat scraps, offal, blood, and fat, all stuffed into casings. Hot dogs are a specific type of fully cooked and cured sausage, which can be sold with or without the casing. They are typically made from pork, beef, chicken and turkey or a combination of meat and poultry. In general, the hot dogs we are familiar with in North America are inspired by the German frankfurter and Austrian wiener. Pork sausages originated in the German city of Frankfurt, which is why hot dogs are sometimes called frankfurters, while the wiener is a type of Vienna sausage typically made of a mixture of beef and pork, ‘wien’ being German for Vienna. German immigrants then brought these “hot dogs” to the United States via New York circa the 1860s, where they later became working-class street food, popular because they were convenient and inexpensive.
Today, the term hot dog can refer to the sausage itself or to the sausage in the bun, but who first combined the two? No one knows for sure though there are various theories as to who first served these sausages in a bun and why. Some say it came about because the wax paper the sausages were typically served in ran out or because the gloves provided to customers so that they could handle the sausages without burning themselves were not being returned. Others believe it was a practice handed down by German immigrants who always consumed the sausages with bread. Whatever the reason, the convenience of consuming hot dogs in a bun helped lead to their widespread success and the rest is history!
Nutrivore Score for Hot Dog – 117
Hot dogs have a Nutrivore Score of 117, making them a low nutrient-dense food! Plus, they are a low-carb food; hot dogs have 5.0 grams of net carbs per 3.5-ounce serving!
Per serving, hot dogs are a best source (>50% daily value) of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA); an excellent source (20-50% daily value) of linoleic acid, selenium, vitamin B12 (cobalamin), and vitamin C; and a good source (10-20% daily value) of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), phosphorus, protein, vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B3 (niacin), vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), and zinc.
Hot Dog Nutrition Facts
One serving of hot dog is standardized to 100 grams (3.5 ounces), which is roughly equivalent to 2 hot dogs. When you cook hot dogs, their volume remains relatively consistent: 100 grams of unheated hot dog is equivalent to 92 grams of boiled or grilled hot dogs.
|Hot dog, unheated||Nutrivore Score: 117||Nutrient Density: Low|
|Serving Size: 3.5 ounces (100 grams)||Protein: 9.7 grams||Net Carbohydrates: 5.0 grams|
|Calories: 277||Total Fat: 24.2 grams||Dietary Fiber: 0.0 grams|
|Vitamin A||31.0 μg RAE||3% DV|
|Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)||47.0 μg||4% DV|
|Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)||145.0 μg||11% DV|
|Vitamin B3 (Niacin)||2.8 mg||18% DV|
|Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)||0.6 mg||11% DV|
|Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)||63.0 μg||4% DV|
|Vitamin B7 (Biotin)||~||~|
|Vitamin B9 (Folate)||6.0 μg||2% DV|
|Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)||0.7 μg||30% DV|
|Vitamin C||22.5 mg||25% DV|
|Vitamin D (D2 + D3)||0.7 μg||4% DV|
|Vitamin E||0.7 mg||5% DV|
|Vitamin K||0.1 μg||0% DV|
|Choline||50.2 mg||9% DV|
|Calcium||106.0 mg||8% DV|
|Copper||42.0 μg||5% DV|
|Iron||1.0 mg||6% DV|
|Magnesium||11.0 mg||3% DV|
|Manganese||17.0 μg||1% DV|
|Phosphorus||175.0 mg||14% DV|
|Potassium||359.0 mg||8% DV|
|Selenium||12.4 μg||23% DV|
|Sodium||976.0 mg||42% DV|
|Zinc||1.1 mg||10% DV|
|AMINO ACIDS & PEPTIDES|
Hot Dog Nutrition Varies With Cooking
Hot dogs are a popular food that can be prepared in numerous ways, resulting in different flavors and Nutrivore Scores.
|Hot dog, cooked, boiled||111|
|Hot dog, cooked, grilled||113|
|Hot dog, unheated||117|
Hot Dog Nutrition Varies With Type
Hot dogs can be prepared from many different types of meat, which impacts their taste, texture, and Nutrivore Score.
|Hot dog, beef||94|
|Hot dog, chicken||1502|
|Hot dog, meat||1071|
|Hot dog, meat and poultry||117|
|Hot dog, meatless||2431|
|Hot dog, pork||1431|
|Hot dog, turkey||1332|
Health Benefits of Hot Dog Nutrients
Let’s take a closer look at all of the best and excellent source of nutrients found in a 3.5-ounce serving of hot dog and see how they benefit our health.
Hot Dogs Provide 50% DV Monounsaturated Fatty Acids (MUFA)
Hot dogs are a best source of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA), providing 50% of the daily value per 3.5-ounce serving! Note that hot dogs are not associated with cardiovascular health benefits like other sources of monounsaturated fats, however.
Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA), the most abundant of which is oleic acid, play an important role in cellular function due to its presence in phospholipids in cell membranes. Oleic acid is beneficial for cardiovascular health—both in reducing risk factors like high blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, inflammation, and oxidative stress, and in reducing actual cardiovascular disease incidence and events. Oleic acid has even demonstrated anti-cancer activity, with an ability to inhibit the progression, proliferation, and metastasis of several types of cancer cells. Research shows this fat could benefit body weight regulation and obesity through its effects on energy metabolism and lipogenesis. In fact, human trials show that enriching diets with oleic acid leads to decreases in central obesity, abdominal fat, body weight, and food intake, while also possibly increasing energy expenditure! Oleic acid also possesses some benefits for diabetics—influencing genes and pathways involved in insulin signaling and glucose metabolism, as well as helping protect against some complications of diabetes, like diabetic retinopathy and atherosclerosis. Learn more about oleic acid here.
Hot Dogs Provide 30% DV Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)
Hot dogs are an excellent source of vitamin B12 (cobalamin), providing 30% of the daily value per 3.5-ounce serving!
Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) is a water-soluble vitamin that serves as a cofactor for enzymes involved in energy metabolism, red blood cell production, DNA synthesis, neurotransmitter production, nervous system health, and folate metabolism. As a result of these roles, vitamin B12 is vital for maintaining brain and nervous system health, and may have a protective effect against dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and depression. There’s also some evidence vitamin B12 may be cancer-protective, possibly through supporting folate metabolism (which then assists in repairing DNA damage). Learn more about vitamin B12 here.
Hot Dogs Provide 28% DV Linoleic Acid
Hot dogs are also an excellent source of linoleic acid, providing 28% of the daily value per 3.5-ounce serving!
Linoleic acid is the only essential omega-6 fatty acid. Along with being required for human growth and development, it serves as a structural component of cell membranes, plays a role in maintaining skin health and integrity, and is a precursor for bioactive lipid mediators. Although linoleic acid can lower LDL cholesterol levels, research hasn’t consistently shown any protective effect against heart disease. Likewise, there’s mixed evidence (some showing benefit, some showing harm) for the effects of linoleic acid on cancer. Higher intakes have also been associated with depression and obesity, although it may have a protective effect against diabetes. Learn more here.
Hot Dogs Provide 25% DV Vitamin C
Hot dogs are an excellent source of vitamin C, providing 25% of the daily value per 3.5-ounce serving!
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that has powerful antioxidant properties (meaning it can help combat oxidative damage from free radicals and reactive oxygen species) and that serves as an enzyme cofactor (meaning it’s needed for enzymes to do their job, for example vitamin C is necessary for collagen synthesis, which is essential for bones, joints, teeth, blood vessels, skin and eyes) and playing important roles in immune system and skin health. Higher intakes of vitamin C are linked to reduced risk of heart disease, some forms of cancer, type 2 diabetes, cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, and gout. Vitamin C can also help regulate the stress response and reduce anxiety, and there’s preliminary evidence that it may also help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Learn more about vitamin C here.
Hot Dogs Provide 23% DV Selenium
Hot dogs are also an excellent source of selenium, providing 23% of the daily value per 3.5-ounce serving!
Selenium is a trace mineral needed by all mammals to sustain life. It serves as a component of the non-proteinogenic amino acids selenocysteine and selenomethionine, and also helps form over two dozen selenoproteins involved in reproduction, thyroid hormone metabolism, antioxidant defense, DNA synthesis, and immunity. Observational research suggests selenium could play a protective role against cancer, heart disease, asthma, and inflammatory bowel disease, although human trials have generally been lacking or contradictory. There’s also evidence that selenium can play a preventative role in asthma and inflammatory bowel disease, while also reducing mortality in patients with sepsis. Learn more about selenium here.
How Much Hot Dog Should We Eat Per Day?
If we’re being “frank”, it’s clear that hot dogs are definitely in the category of a sometimes food when it comes to our diet, but it’s also important to remember that they are a good source of protein and do provide some functional fats, minerals, and vitamins as well.
Processed meats encompass a range of meat products that undergo preservation methods like smoking, curing, salting, or the addition of preservatives. Common examples include ham, pastrami, salami, sausages, bacon, and hot dogs. These processes extend the shelf life of the meat products and enhance their flavor.
Numerous observational studies have linked high consumption of processed meat to an increased risk of cancer—particularly colon, breast, liver, and lung cancers—cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. The associations between processed meat and cancer or cardiovascular disease may be an example of what’s called the healthy user bias. The idea is that people who eat less processed meat also have a lot of other health-promoting behaviors, like eating more vegetables, not smoking, and being physically active. Because processed meat has been demonized for so long, people who make a lot of day-to-day choices geared at improving their long-term health, tend not to eat very much of it. While studies perform advanced statistical analyses to try to account for as many of these other factors as possible, there’s typically a residual effect—it’s impossible to account for every confounding variable.
While more studies are needed to understand the link between processed meat consumption and health, the current state of evidence is that it’s best to eat processed meat in moderation. A 2011 study makes a compelling case for staying below 50 grams (1 3/4 ounces) daily.
Expand to see all scientific references for this article.
USDA Food Central Database: Frankfurter, meat and poultry, unheated