Pizza may have had humble beginnings, but today it is one of the most popular foods worldwide. More than five billion pizzas are sold across the globe each year, and pizza accounts for 10 percent of all food-service sales.
Although pizza has many positive attributes, few consider pizza a healthy meal. Laden with cheese and high-calorie meats, pizza is often referred to as a guilty pleasure. However, there are a variety of ways to make the pizza you love better for your body.
* Downplay the cheese. Pizza originated in Naples, Italy, and it has been said the first pizzas were comprised of just dough and sauce and no cheese. Restaurants that favor more authentic pizzas of the past will not rely heavily on cheese when preparing their pizzas. Instead of ordering a pizza with extra cheese, opt for minimal cheese to add just a subtle component of flavor to the pizza. Such an alteration to the recipe can reduce the saturated fat and cholesterol in pizza by a considerable amount.
* Savor the tomatoes. Tomatoes provide a bevy of health benefits. The carotenoids, specifically lycopene, found in tomatoes have a number of beneficial properties, including preventing the oxidation of LDL cholesterol. According to a report from researchers at Athens Medical School that was published in Nutrition Research, a daily 70 gram portion of tomato paste containing roughly 33 mg of lycopene was associated with an improvement in flow-mediated dilation, a measure of a blood vessel’s ability to relax. Tomatoes can help lower blood pressure, and they provide other heart benefits as well. Enjoying extra sauce on pizza and supplementing with sliced, cooked tomatoes can help make pizza healthier.
* Choose whole-wheat crust. More restaurants are adding whole-grain pizzas to their menus. By switching to a whole-wheat crust, you can boost your fiber intake by as much as 50 percent. High-fiber foods help to regulate cholesterol levels in the blood and help you to feel fuller longer, reducing the likelihood that you will overeat. Fiber also helps the digestive tract by making a person more regular. Whole-grain foods have a lower glycemic index than processed grains as well, meaning they won’t cause rapid blood-sugar spikes, which can be advantageous to those with diabetes.
* Top pizza with vegetables. Instead of salt- and fat-heavy meats like pepperoni, ham or sausage, top your pizza with fresh vegetables. Peppers, tomatoes, olives, broccoli, and spinach each deliver a wealth of vitamins and minerals, and are a great way to add more fiber to your diet.
* Opt for thin-crust. Different areas of the country and the world favor different types of pizza. In the United States, New Yorkers prefer thin-crust pizza while the Windy City is synonymous with deep-dish pizza. While the debate continues as to which type of crust is better, switching to a thinner crust may have certain health benefits. Thick crusts pack more calories into each and every slice. When paired with cheese and other toppings, a slice of deep-dish pizza, while delicious, may contain more calories than is wise to eat in one sitting. Brick-oven pizza parlors generally offer whisper-thin crusts sparingly touched with cheese, sauce and basil to produce the classic Margherita pie, making such pizza a healthier alternative than New York- or Chicago-style pizza.
* Pair pizza with salad. One way to make pizza healthier is to avoid overindulging. It is easy to overdo it with pizza, but try to cut your portion size in half, replacing that extra slice of pizza with a salad or side order of steamed vegetables to fill up without overindulging.
Pizza is a popular food across the globe. And while pizza may not be the healthiest food, a few simple ingredient changes can make pizza a much more nutritional meal.
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