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With anything enjoyable in life there is sometimes a cost. Sleeping in means the chores might not get done and we all know the struggles of splurging one week only to have to scrimp the next. But, this is nowhere more apparent than when it comes to the foods we eat. Logically most people understand that certain foods aren’t very good for you, but once you smell or see that food resisting it can be really difficult- in part because you already know how good these “bad” foods taste. Now, a new study seeks to put those decisions into context by outlining the benefits and detriments of various foods in terms of minutes added or taken away from one’s life span. And -you guessed it- hot dogs didn’t fare so well.

hot dog and banana art photo
Via: Jack Baty/Flickr

According to the study recently published in the journal, Nature Food, there are various factors that can affect how a food will change the course of your life. Most fruits and vegetables will add time to your lifespan, while processed foods will take away time.

The authors of the study estimate that each hot dog you eat will take 36 minutes off of your life. That sounds extreme, but the salad or watermelon or grilled veggies you (hopefully) have alongside that dog will in some cases offset some of the harm that is done.

bowl of fruit
Via: Dane Deaner/Unsplash

Hot dogs are notoriously not good for you, as they are processed and contain nitrites and/or nitrates, which can contribute to cancer and other health problems. But, rather than using the knowledge of how unhealthy foods affect us to tally how bad our diets are, the lead author on the study, Olivier Jolliet, said in an interview that the purpose of giving these kinds of numbers is to help people make better choices with minimal effort, not to “determine your life expectancy”.

Hot dogs have gained attention from this study because they are considered such a nostalgic and American food, but hot dogs and sausages are enjoyed in many parts of the world as well. Even uncured hot dogs, considered to be the healthier alternative, can contain nitrates and nitrites thanks to the cultured celery juice that’s added to help preserve them. Celery juice has naturally-occurring nitrates and nitrites.

grilling hot dogs
Via: CPL. Adaecus G. Brooks/US Marine Corps

The old adage “everything in moderation” comes to mind here as many experts advise that an occasional indulgent treat of hot dogs as part of an otherwise healthy diet is not going to dramatically affect your health for the worse. However, it’s interesting to think of how certain foods can directly affect your lifespan.

The study looked at 5,800 foods and catalogued not only the cost to your health for each one, but also the carbon footprint associated our food. They found that replacing 10% of your beef and processed meats with plant-based foods could cut your carbon footprint down by 1/3 and add 48 minutes of life per day.

rainbow salad
Via: Anna Pelzer/Unsplash

A diet rich in a variety of plant foods and the “rainbow” approach to eating are the best ways to ensure that your overall diet is contributing -not diminishing- to your lifespan. But, having a hot dog now and again might be worth it to some.

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