Researchers from the University of Michigan School of Public Health just published a depressing study for fans of the good old American beef hot dog. Their findings, published in Nature, indicate that among other things, consumption of just one frank could subtract 35 minutes from a total lifespan.
Fans of hanging at the ballpark with a dog in hand might be bummed, but kids looking for a quick snack in a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, however, don’t need to worry. When it comes to environmental impact as well as health effects tied to individual foods, the PB&J wins.
Fox reports that the study covered 5,853 “foods in the U.S. diet classified by health burden and environmental impacts.” The goal was to demonstrate, according to the University of Michigan’s writeup, how “small changes in diet could help you live healthier, more sustainably.”
In the words of the study authors, they developed “a new epidemiology-based nutritional index” which looked at how those 5,853 foods typically consumed by Americans. After comparing “nutritional and environmental impacts of individual foods” researchers classified them and used the “results to inform marginal dietary substitutions, which are realistic and feasible.”
The UM researchers indicated they found “that small, targeted, food-level substitutions can achieve compelling nutritional benefits and environmental impact reductions.”
The potential some foods have for subtracting or adding minutes to our lives was even broader than the difference between ‘dogs and peanut butter & jelly. Per serving, foods mentioned in the study subtracted as much as 74 minutes and added up to 80 minutes. Among the other losers were sugary drinks—sodas, processed juices, etc—burgers, and breakfast sandwiches.
However, if you are more of a fruits or veggies fan, enjoy cereals and cooked grains (think rice or quinoa), then breathe easy, as those came away looking almost entirely beneficial.
The villain of the study was, in general, processed meat. Other examples in addition to hot dogs included chicken wings—and 85-gram serving of those supposedly take just over 3 minutes off the average American’s lifespan, thanks to all the salt and trans fats.
While peanut butter and jelly sandwiches might have been a surprise among the positive foods, others items in the “more life” zone were the usual culprits in many healthy eating plans, like salmon and rice and beans.
The University of Michigan study benefits from not attempting to make any truly radical claims or recommendations regarding what people should do with this information. Research showed that a minimal 10 percent change in calorie sources could be hugely beneficial.
That is if you’re ready to balance calories by exchanging some processed meats for seafood (or fruits and veggies), you could add 48 minutes of life per day and over the course of one lifetime, reduce your carbon footprint by 33 percent.
Just learn the art of substitutions. Salted peanuts go almost as well with a beer at the ballpark as hot dogs.
And everyone can count it a win knowing that peanut butter and jelly sandwiches will never go out of style.