What is in your pizza?

Pizza: one of the most popular and well-loved meals in the world. It’s said that the first pizzas were made in honour of the Italian Queen Margherita in 1889. Out of three different pizzas offered to her, the Queen preferred the one that resembled the Italian flag: red (tomato), white (mozzarella), and green (basil). Pizza has since radically changed. You may have heard how unhealthy or fattening pizzas can be, but how harmful are they really? Read on for the secrets of everyone’s favourite comfort food.

The ‘pizza boom’ that occurred in the late 19th century was largely a response to Italian immigration to the United States. From then on pizza became one of the most popular family dishes, with more and more food manufacturers and supermarkets taking interest in developing easy, quick and cheap pizza. Of course, where there is demand there is profit. And profit there was: a staggering 13% of the adult population of the US consume a pizza on any given day (22% when including children and teens), according to a report from the Department of Agriculture.

The biggest nutritional issues with takeaway and frozen pizzas are high levels of salt, carbohydrates, and saturated and trans fats. High levels of salt can be found in both takeaway and frozen, store-bought pizzas. The latter generally fare better in terms of nutritional content, because food manufacturers are obliged by law to include the nutritional information of their product on the packaging. Takeaway pizzas however, are not regulated as such. This is why a Domino’s “12-inch delight” classic crust pizza contains the same amount of salt as two McDonald’s Big Macs. By comparison, the saltiest supermarket pizza is Tesco’s “Full-on-flavour, Simply Pepperoni” thin stone-baked pizza, with 4.77g of salt per pizza.

Keeping track of how much salt we eat is important, as a high salt diet has been linked to serious health problems such as strokes and heart attacks. Of course, this is highly unlikely to happen when you’re still in your 20’s, but your life-long eating habits do tend to take shape in the first years after you move away from home. The occasional pizza is not a problem in itself, but it seems like more and more students stock up on cheap frozen pizzas while at university. Moderation is key: an occasional indulgence in commercial pizza is by no means catastrophic to your health. But if you find yourself having frozen or takeaway pizza multiple times a week, you may want to reconsider your options. A good idea would be to compare nutrition labels when shopping – try to look for less than 17.5g of fat per 100g. And why not try making your own pizza every once in a while with our own easy pizza recipe?