Hot Dog and Apple Pie

Hot Dogs and Apple Pie: All American Toxic Food?

On this most American of holidays, perhaps we should reflect upon two icons of the American food environment: hot dogs and apple pie. Do these represent wholesome American nourishment with cherished histories? Or are they fixtures in a toxic food environment, loaded with processed meat and added sugar?

The American Hot Dog

Frankfurters date to 15th century Germany where they were a festive food for occasions such as the coronation of Maximillian II, Holy Roman Emperor. Many people get credit for the first American hot dogs. But perhaps the most noteworthy are the Coney Island hot dogs that German immigrant Charles Feltman first served in 1870.

Time tells us that four out of five nutrition experts give hot dogs a thumbs down. “They deliver a nutritional assault in many ways,” reports Mandy Oaklander. Public health researchers have linked them to increased risk of diabetes. The World Health Organization says they cause colon cancer.


Mom’s Apple Pie

If you worry about added sugar – currently public health enemy #1 – then Mom’s apple pie is pretty scary. Just how bad is it? That depends on how much she puts into it. But pies are on the government’s list of the top sources of added sugar in American diets. A single slice of this apple pie has a whopping 43 grams of sugar.

And yet apple pie dates back to the middle ages in England, and for that matter, all over Europe. In America, its pedigree is older than the hot dog’s. British, Dutch, and Swedish settlers brought it here in the 17th and 18th century. It’s a miracle we survived.

The Big Picture

A steady diet of hot dogs and apple pie would be nauseating. What matters for good health is the whole pattern of what we eat. A few indulgences will not cut our lives short. But constant indulgence is another matter. It becomes more burden than pleasure.

Click here for more on the history of American apple pie and here for more on the American hot dog.

Hot Dog, photograph © Alpha / flickr
Apple Pie, photograph © Steven Labinski / flickr

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July 4, 2017