Eating a single hot dog can take up to 35 minutes off your life, according to recent research from the University of Michigan School of Public Health.
The study surveyed more than 5,800 different food items and released a nutritional index ranking them by minutes gained or lost per serving eaten by a healthy adult, with suggestions for choosing healthy substitutions.
“We use the results to inform marginal dietary substitutions, which are realistic and feasible,“ the authors wrote. “We find that small, targeted, food-level substitutions can achieve compelling nutritional benefits and environmental impact reductions.”
The health effects ranged from 74 minutes of life lost to 80 minutes of life gained per serving, with processed meats and sugary drinks ranking as the subtlest.
More specifically, researchers found that consuming an 85-gram serving of chicken wings translated to 3.3 minutes of life lost owing to the sodium and harmful trans fatty acids. Eating a beef hot dog on a bun resulted in 35 minutes of life lost.
“This is largely due to the detrimental effect of processed meat,” the researcher said.
Trans fatty acids are made when hydrogen is added to a liquid vegetable oil to make it more solid. Trans fats can be found in commercially baked and fried foods made with vegetable shortening such as fries and donuts.
For context, one juicy hotdog is worse than a cigarette, which reportedly takes 11 minutes off your life.
A peanut butter and jelly sandwich was associated with an increase of 33 minutes. Also, foods like salted peanuts, baked salmon, and rice with beans were associated with gains of 10 to 15 minutes of life.
“Previous studies investigating healthy or sustainable diets have often reduced their findings to a discussion of plant-based versus animal-based foods, with the latter stigmatized as the least nutritious and sustainable,” the study reported.
“Although we find that plant-based foods generally perform better, there are considerable variations within both plant-based and animal-based foods that should be acknowledged before such generalized inferences are warranted.”
The research also showed that a minimal 10 percent change in calorie sources could be hugely beneficial. Exchanging some processed meat calories for seafood or fruits and veggies could add 48 minutes of life per day.
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Researchers also categorized foods by nutritional and environmental impact.
Healthy environmentally sustainable foods included nuts, whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables and some seafood, whereas foods with poor nutritional value and production linked to high environmental impacts included processed meat, pork and lamb, beef and cheese-based foods.
Most poultry, dairy, egg-based foods and cooked grains fell into an intermediate zone.
“This therefore suggests that nutritionally beneficial foods might not always generate the lowest environmental impacts and vice versa,” study authors wrote.