Pizza: The Surprising Nutritional Powerhouse

When it comes to healthy eating, we often think of reducing fat and sugar while increasing our intake of fresh vegetables and lean proteins. But what about pizza, America’s favorite food? Despite its reputation, pizza can actually be quite nutritious. Let’s explore why pizza is good for you and how you can enjoy it in moderation.

A Nutritional Powerhouse

Contrary to popular belief, pizza packs a nutritional punch. It offers a good source of protein, complex carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. Plus, it’s relatively low in caloric density. So, as long as you enjoy it in moderation, pizza can be a part of a balanced diet.

Protein Boost

Pizza is a surprising source of protein, with levels ranging from 10% to just over 14%. This protein comes from the cheese and meat toppings, making it nutritionally beneficial, especially for growing children.

Fat Content

While pizzas may appear high in fat, research shows that most pizzas typically contain less than 10% fat. In comparison, even a juicy steak can contain upwards of 20% fat. Additionally, pizza crusts often use vegetable oil, olive oil, or oil-based shortenings, providing a good source of polyunsaturated fats with only modest cholesterol contributions from meat and cheese toppings.

Complex Carbohydrates

Pizzas are rich in complex carbohydrates, primarily from starches, which make them a great energy source. However, it’s important to note that regular white pizza flour may be low in fiber. Opting for whole wheat or multi-grain crusts can significantly increase the fiber content.

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The Health Benefits

Pizza’s nutritional value goes beyond macronutrients. Lycopene, an antioxidant found in tomatoes and tomato sauce, offers numerous health benefits. Cooked tomatoes, commonly used in pizza sauce, can help lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol levels, and even aid in cancer prevention for bone, lung, and prostate cancers.

Caloric Content

Contrary to popular belief, pizzas don’t have to be excessive in calories. A typical 13″ cheese pizza slice contains around 340 calories, while a pepperoni slice contains approximately 370 calories. Even a supreme-topped slice only amounts to about 400 calories. However, it’s important to note that these calorie counts apply to pizzas with normal cheese applications and that excessive toppings can significantly increase the calorie content. Moderation is key.

Sodium Concerns

One aspect of pizza that needs attention is its sodium content. With meat and cheese toppings being the main contributors, sodium levels can be controlled by using lower-sodium toppings and crusts formulated with a moderate amount of salt.

Making Pizza Even Better

If you want to enhance the nutritional profile of your pizza, there are a few simple steps you can take. Start by reducing sodium content through lower-sodium dough formulations and toppings without added salt. Expand your topping options to include a variety of fresh vegetables, such as onions, peppers, arugula, artichokes, broccoli, zucchini, eggplant, spinach, and mushrooms. Consider using engineered cheese products made with cholesterol-free vegetable oil and reduced sodium content. Alternatively, explore plant-based vegan cheese options. Finally, opt for lean proteins like poultry and seafood.

With its nutritional value, delicious taste, convenience, and endless variety, it’s no wonder that pizza is the world’s most beloved food. So go ahead, enjoy a slice or two of pizza in moderation and savor the surprising nutritional benefits it has to offer.

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Related: Check out 3 recipes for delicious and healthy pizzas.

Image Source: Hook’d Up Bar and Grill