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Can pizza make a healthy meal?

The researchers developed a Margherita pizza that meets FSA dietary guidelines for a single item meal
The researchers developed a Margherita pizza that meets FSA dietary guidelines for a single item meal

Pizza has a poor nutritional image – but it could be reformulated to meet dietary guidelines without losing its taste appeal, according to a team of Scottish researchers.

Writing in Public Health Nutrition, the researchers claim that theoretically, pizza could be a reasonably healthy choice.

“Historically, pizza was made from bread, with tomatoes and a little cheese,” they wrote. “It should thus be a low-fat meal containing at least one portion of fruit or vegetable. Moreover, key pizza ingredients have been associated with improved cardiovascular health and cancer.

“However, to enhance flavour, palatability and ultimately consumer acceptance, pizza recipes include higher proportions of cheese and salt than desirable.”

To counter the perception that pizza must be unhealthy in order to be tasty, the researchers developed a nutritionally balanced pizza, providing the required energy for a single-item meal (600 kcal), with all nutrients within recommended limits. Sodium was 473 mg, 45% below the recommended maximum level; saturated fat provided less than 11% of energy; and it contained 13.7 g of dietary fibre.

They then asked 49 untrained adults and 63 untrained children to taste the pizza. Seventy-seven per cent of adults and 81% of children rated it ‘as good as’ or ‘better than’ their usual choice.

Assessing existing pizzas

The researchers also assessed the nutritional composition of 25 commercially available pizzas. While they found wide variation, some were close to recommendations in several respects.

“Our overview of these twenty-five Margherita pizzas indicates that, while none of them matches all the nutritional recommendations for a healthy meal, many already meet several of the criteria, with several more being close to all criteria,” they wrote.

The ‘nutritionally balanced’ pizza recipe was a Margherita pizza, with a focus on energy, total carbohydrate, non-milk extrinsic sugars, total protein, total fat and saturated fat as a percentage of energy, fibre content and salt, as well as micronutrients iron, folate, zinc, calcium, vitamin A and vitamin C.

The recipe only used natural ingredients, with a mix of white and whole wheat flour fermented with baker’s yeast, rapeseed oil, salt, seaweed, red pepper, canned and cherry tomatoes, garlic powder, oregano and mozzarella cheese.

The researchers also asked adults how much more they would be willing to pay for a nutritionally balanced pizza, and most said they would be willing to pay 50 pence more.

 

Source: Public Health Nutrition

doi:10.1017/S1368980013002814

“Development of a nutritionally balanced pizza as a functional meal designed to meet published dietary guidelines”

Authors: Emilie Combet, Amandine Jarlot, Kofi E Aidoo and Michael EJ Lean

4 comments (Comments are now closed)

Why not 100% whole wheat?

Why compromise with wheat?...getting the maximum fiber should be a priority for health so use 100% wholegrain. I've yet to find a wholewheat pizza on offer in a restaurant...extraordinary really, but just like trying to find wholegrain pasta or brown rice too for that matter. I avoid restaurants! Why add salt to bread or cheese? I make my own sourdough bread and acid curd soft or hard cheese with no salt added and there is absolutely no need for additional salt. I put caraway in the bread dough for extra flavor, but the sourdough itself is tangy and savory. I use the natural acid process from lactic bacteria to curdle the cheese, preserve it, and give flavor and bite. Using rennet, as in commercial bread, leaves out this vital stage. Would you add salt to yogurt? Of course not. Milk already has an adequate natural salt content anyway.

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Posted by chris aylmer
21 November 2013 | 13h14

Healthy pizza for Food in the Hood

I want to make a healthy pizza to sell at lunchtime to school kids. We are launching a good food van (Food in the Hood - selling mince and potatoes, veg curry, sausage casserole, for example), which will serve a high school at lunchtime, and also the tea time crowd, who may normally order a takeaway (visiting the same communities at the same time every week). Any suggestions as to how to make it healthier without putting kids off are welcome! I read an article the other week, the gist being, not to make everything gluten free because only a small percentage of people have an intolerance, and the majority need it.

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Posted by Annette Currie
21 November 2013 | 10h30

a healthy pizza

the biggest problem by far is the gluten loaded bread base. It is slowly becoming evident that gluten insensitivity is much more widespread and affecting the whole body. Replace the bottom with gluten free and you're home free. The saturated fat issue is a fake issue based on faulty and often fraudulent science

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Posted by james
20 November 2013 | 14h07

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