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A Nutritionist Reviews: National Pizza Day!

Happy National Pizza Day!

The first time the word pizza was recorded was in Italy in 997 AD and spread world wide when Italians started to emigrate in other parts of Europe, the Americas and Australia in the late 1800s and even more after the Second World War.

What is not to like about pizza? A crowd pleaser easily available in supermarkets, take-aways and restaurant, with so many different toppings to choose from that anybody can find their favourite one.

But what does one of the Odhealth nutritionists think about pizza? How does it fare in our nutritionist reviews series? Let’s find out…

Pizza Nutrition Facts

A pizza margherita (tomato sauce and mozzarella toppings) from a pizzeria using a sourdough base has an average of 800 kcal, 93g of carbohydrates, 30g of fat and 17g of protein.

The same kind of pizza from a supermarket chain has an average of 636 kcal, 76.6 g of carbohydrates, 21.4 g of fat and 31.2 g of protein, but is important to note that the base is not a sourdough and the weight is 265g instead of an average of 300g for a restaurant pizza.

As a reference the NHS recommends a daily intake of 2000kcal for adult women and 2500kcal for adult men, even if those numbers don’t take into account specific age, fitness activity and lifestyle.

But nutrition is not just calories and macronutrients – food is about health – there is so much more, and actually pizza is full of all sorts of nutrients.

The Good

Tomato sauce is one of the richest sources of lycopene, a very powerful antioxidant that studies confirm is able to support cardiovascular health, protect the skin from sunlight damage and balance cholesterol levels. Lycopene is better absorbed when combined with a fat source – so olive oil or cheese which are usually on the pizza are a perfect combo.

Pizza is obviously very carb heavy, but is important to remember that carbs are not evil. Carbs are the preferred source of energy for our cells, and having a pizza for lunch if you plan a very busy afternoon or for dinner ahead of an evening dancing or at a gig will give you plenty of energy able to sustain you. A sourdough base will be easier to digest than standard ones, while a wholegrain base will provide you with extra fibre and minerals, all essential for gut and overall health.

Cheese on the pizza is a source of calcium and protein, and adding toppings such as grilled vegetables, spinach or rocket can increase the vitamin and fibre content of the meal. Fibre can help stabilising blood sugar levels after a carb heavy meal, leaving you fuller for longer and avoiding energy slumps.

The not so good

The more toppings that are added to the pizza, the higher kcal and fat content will have. For example, a pizza with spicy salami will easily be more than 1000kcal and 50g of fat, something to bear in mind if trying to manage weight or cholesterol levels.

If buying pre-packaged pizzas is also worth reading the ingredient list, as the cheese and toppings used might not be as high quality as the ones used in a pizza cooked from scratch from a restaurant. Also the salt and preservative content of frozen or ready-made pizza can be significantly higher than freshly cooked ones.

Our Take

Food is not inherently good or bad. As shown, pizza has many beneficial nutrients and can be a great “stomach liner” before a night out with friends. Not only that but it’s absolutely delicious, and it’s important to let yourself have delicious food of course! Often a meal of pizza isn’t particularly that expensive, and could even be shared, although we’ll leave that up to you!