In all of my years, I can still remember the one person who claimed they did not like pizza. And I can still remember the look I gave them. I thought they were crazy. But I have yet to come across anyone else who does not like pizza.
Pizza is pretty much the go-to food for any event. Birthday parties, poker night, movie night…it’s a given that almost everyone will be happy to indulge.
But because pizza is arguably one of the most popular foods, it doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Or is it? Is pizza healthy, or is it junk food?
Yes, common pizza found in America that is picked up from “fast food” style pizza chains could very well be considered “junk food” due to the low-quality ingredients and choices of toppings. However, a truly home-cooked pizza can be very healthy if thoughtful ingredients are selected.
I’ve written this article to take an honest look at what is actually in pizza, and you can decide for yourself whether you think it’s healthy or not.
Is Pizza Healthy, or is it Junk Food?
As mentioned above, it depends on who you ask, but basically, yes.. Most Americans have pizza once a week or at least twice a month. That is a lot of pizza with many ingredients that may not be so healthy after all.
Let’s take a look at what makes these cheezy pies so tasty.
It’s not pizza without that stringy mozzarella cheese. No matter how you slice it (pun intended), you can’t have enough cheese on your pizza. But is cheese so bad?
Overall, the cheese on pizza is fairly high in saturated fats, which does not look good for your cholesterol. Saturated fat also increases your risk for heart disease.
The cheese, or saturated fat, in pizza is about 1/3 of the ingredients.
Cheese also has sodium, which, if consumed in large amounts, can lead to high blood pressure and kidney and heart problems.
Mozzarella cheese is packed with protein. In fact, every once has seven grams of protein. Protein is necessary for your body’s energy system, and it is often encouraged that we have more protein in our diets.
In terms of sodium, mozzarella has almost 50 percent less sodium than other cheeses. And like protein, sodium is vital for your body to function properly.
Mozzarella also wins when it comes to saturated fat, as it has lower amounts for the same serving size as other cheeses.
I think it would be safe to say that most of us are carb lovers. I know I am. And we are always told carbs are bad for us, but what are the details? How bad are they?
Pizza crust is usually made with flour that has had the bran and germ(that’s the healthy stuff) removed, resulting in a lower amount of fiber. Refined flour is one of the foods we are always told to avoid or at least consume in moderation.
The carbs in pizza crust increase your risk of abdominal fat, diabetes, breast cancer, and heart disease. It’s not looking so good, is it?
While there isn’t much good about traditional pizza crust, you can try alternatives.
Cauliflower crust is huge right now, and understandably so. It’s lower in carbs, calories, and fat.
Whole wheat crust is also another option. Because cauliflower crust is also lower in protein and fiber, your best bet may be whole wheat crust. It’s more likely to leave you feeling fuller.
But while whole wheat crust has more fiber and protein, it is also much higher in calories than cauliflower crust. However, those extra calories may not be such a bad thing as they can give you more staying power.
And, of course, between the cheese and the crust, we have the sauce. I swear to this day, nothing beats my Nana’s homemade sauce.
Pizza sauce usually contains a lot of ingredients to get that perfect flavor. And some of those ingredients are generally salt and sugar, both of which are not good for you in large amounts.
Too much salt in your diet can lead to high blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease. It can also work against the calcium levels in your body.
Sugar, as we know, is not much better. Large intakes of sugar can cause inflammation, high blood pressure, weight gain, fatty liver disease, and diabetes.
Pizza sauce often includes oregano, which is a total immunity booster. Oregano can help with liver health as well as helping to balance your blood sugar.
Pizza sauce is almost always made from tomatoes, which are high in lycopene and other antioxidants. Lycopene is good at reducing blood sugar and cholesterol. Plus, cooked tomatoes absorb lycopene better, which is an added benefit.
I’m a plain Jane when it comes to pizza toppings. But many of us can’t get enough of the add-ons.
Whether it’s hamburg or pepperoni, red meat seems to be a favorite when it comes to pizza toppings. But red meat is the worst if you are trying to control your blood pressure, and it also likely has added salt and many more calories.
Barbecued chicken is another favorite, but the biggest ingredient is high fructose corn syrup, a known contributor to weight gain.
Pineapple, which I personally do like on my pizza, is not that healthy. Yes, it is a fruit, but most pizza places will use canned pineapple, which is loaded with sugar.
Chicken, when not covered in sugary sauces, is very high in protein and makes a great topping for pizza.
Most of us know the obvious, if you are trying to be healthy about it, then stick to veggie pizza. Broccoli, peppers, onions, and mushrooms are some of the most popular choices when it comes to veggies on pizza.
And you can’t go wrong as they come with many healthy vitamins and nutrients.
Is pizza healthy or junk food? I think that all depends on how you consume it, with what ingredients, and how much. This way, you can make your own argument about the nutrients (or lack of) in pizza.