One could make a long list of the reasons pizza is a favorite food for many Americans. It can provide a quick solution for a satisfying meal when you do not have time to cook. Call your local pizza restaurant or shop the frozen pizza section of your favorite grocery store and serve up a hot, tasty meal in a hurry.
If you want to be adventurous or show off your culinary skills, you might want to make home-baked pizza to impress your family and friends.
Either way, chances are your pizza will contain a thick, high-calorie crust with a combination of cheeses and toppings that might not add nutritionally to your daily diet.
The good news is, whether ordering or baking at home, you can greatly enhance the health benefits of pizza by carefully choosing the ingredients included in the recipe.
STEPS TO ENJOYING A HEALTHIER PIZZA
Begin with a Healthy Crust
Most take-out or frozen pizzas have crusts made from refined wheat flour. The low-fiber content of this flour is less filling than whole wheat or gluten-free flour, leading to weight gain from eating extra slices.
Certain chemical reactions triggered by yeast add antioxidants to the crust. Add to this the fact that pizza crust requires a higher-protein flour than bread making, and it is clear that a well-made crust can add to the health benefits of pizza.
When making your own pizza crust, choose whole-food ingredients and avoid packaged crust mixes. Read the nutritional information on frozen pizza boxes and avoid added sugar in the crust. Most pizza restaurants make nutritional information available to customers upon request. Taking these proactive steps can increase the health benefits of pizza.
Choose Healthy Toppings
Maximize the fiber content of your pizza and get more antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals by adding plenty of vegetables. Mushrooms provide potassium and riboflavin which strengthen the function of the central nervous system.
Tomatoes are traditionally used in pizza sauces and diced tomatoes make a great topping. An antioxidant in tomatoes, lycopene, boosts heart health and promotes healthy blood vessels, bones, and skin. The lycopene is absorbed and utilized better by the body when tomatoes are cooked, making the sauce even more beneficial.
Onions make a healthy topping with their high levels of vitamin C and chromium. These nutrients help regulate cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels. Bell peppers promote healthy cells with ample antioxidants and high concentrations of Vitamins A, B6, and C.
The immune system, digestive system, vision, and metabolism also benefit from the intake of the above vitamins. The potassium and riboflavin in mushrooms promote a healthy central nervous system.
Nutrients in olives protect cells from damage, guard against inflammation, and increase HDL (good) cholesterol levels.
Cheese (especially freshly grated) provides vitamin A, protein and calcium. Meat is a favorite topping and a great source of protein, but try to avoid processed meats like bacon or pepperoni. Grilled chicken and Canadian bacon are delicious, healthy choices with better health benefits.
EXTRA TIPS FOR HEALTHY PIZZA
Always remember that portion size matters. Although pizza lacks the damaging effects of fried foods that many fast-food restaurants carry, eating pizza in moderation helps make it a good choice for a healthy lifestyle.
Partner your pizza choice with a nutritious green vegetable salad for a meal that you will not need to feel guilty about serving or eating!