Before you BBQ: What's really in your hot dog?

Hot dogs were a summertime favorite of mine until I read these three not-so-magic words: Mechanically Separated Turkey. What is it? You can find out below, but it's definitely not something I want smeared with mustard and sauerkraut and wedged in a bun. In fact, your average tube steak has a few more dubious ingredients you may want to take note of before this weekend's BBQ. (Hot dog mavens don't despair: There are healthy brands that taste great.)

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Both are high in protein-and in unhealthy saturated fat and cholesterol; the meat could come from pig and cow skeletal muscle and by-products.


A paste-like substance produced when tissue is removed from bones through a high-pressure sieve. This product is versatile and cheap-and not just for turkey dogs.


Helps preserve the red tint of cured meat. Studies have shown that consuming sodium nitrite may increase cancer risk and trigger migraines.


A combo of cornstarch and acids, corn syrup is used as a thickener and sweetener. It contains no nutrients but does add extra calories.

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As a spice, paprika is a good source of fiber and vitamins A and E. However, the extractive form doesn't offer much aside from color.


Another color and flavor preservative, ascorbic acid helps to neutralize the potential harmful side effects of sodium nitrate.

BETTER BUY: Applegate Farms Organic Beef Hot Dogs

Made with USDA-certified organic beef and without nitrites and corn syrup, these dogs are lower in saturated fat, calories, and sodium than typical supermarket or ballpark fare.

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[photo credit: Getty Images]