08 July, 2011
Pizza is a favorite food for many people, but it can be high in saturated fat, calories and salt. However, pizza can be nutrient-dense food if you know what toppings and ingredients to choose and which ones to leave off, Jennifer Leigh Youngs notes in her book, "Feeling Great, Looking Hot and Loving Yourself."
One of the most common ingredients on pizza is cheese. Cheese adds calcium for strong bones and teeth and protein for muscle health. Many pizzas include large amounts of cheese, which also increases your intake of unhealthy saturated fats. Pizza would not be the same without the gooey cheese, but you can get plenty of health benefits by using a small sprinkle of cheese rather than a full cup. Mozzarella cheese is often made using part-skim milk, which reduces the saturated fat content but retains the calcium and protein.
Tomatoes are rich with vitamin C and they are cooked and pureed to prepare the sauce on many types of pizza. Vitamin C helps you ward off germs and bacteria that cause viruses and infections, and getting plenty in your diet is one way to improve your immune health. Adding a generous amount of sauce to your pizza increases the vitamin C content of your pie and makes it a healthier meal. Other vegetables, such as bell peppers, onions and raw tomatoes, also add vitamin C to your pizza, so use several varieties to make your slice even healthier.
If you enjoy your pizza with meat toppings, you are getting a dose of protein. Your body needs protein to function well, and eating enough boosts your energy. Meri Raffetto reports in her book, "The Glycemic Index Diet for Dummies," that it is important to choose the right type of meat to add to your pizza in order to keep the saturated fat content in a healthy range. Pass on pepperoni and sausage because they contain several grams of fat and too much sodium. Canadian bacon and lean ground beef are more nutritious options.
In addition to supplying vitamin C and vitamin A, vegetables also provide fiber. Fiber is an important part of your daily diet because it promotes digestive health and may also reduce your risk of serious health problems, such as heart disease and cancer. Increasing the amount of vegetables on your pizza helps you get more fiber from the meal. Tomatoes, bell peppers, spinach and onions are nutritious choices that contain some fiber, and choosing a whole wheat crust is another way to boost the fiber content of your pie.
- Feeling Great, Looking Hot and Loving Yourself; Jennifer Leigh Youngs
- The Glycemic Index Diet for Dummies; Meri Raffetto
- Barbara Dudzińska/iStock/Getty Images