It seems to be a fact of life that everything yummy is bad for us. So the same’s has to be true for pizza, right? Wrong!
I’m happy to report that there’s lots of ways to enjoy really good, really tasty pizza without sacrificing your health – or your waistline. Pizza can in fact be very healthy.
So let’s jump into the health benefits of pizza!
Back to Basics
OK, so let’s get the bad, more obvious news out of the way. Fast food and frozen pizza is not great for us, especially when it’s loaded with all kinds of processed meats and cheese. And eating an American-size large pizza in one sitting, by yourself, probably isn’t great either.
And we also know this instinctively, based on how we feel the day after eating that whole meat-lovers pizza by ourselves.
The good news is that there are so many other ways to enjoy pizza! And I’m not just talking about fancy ‘low-carb pizza’ (although if you’re interested in some lower carb options, see here).
I’m talking real, fresh-out-of-the-oven-with-melty-cheese pizza.
The secret to healthy pizza? Make it at home! Don’t worry – it’s not as intimidating as it seems. There’s a small learning curve, but I’ve shared all the mistakes I’ve learned becoming a home pizza cook, so that you don’t have to make them yourself.
Follow my simple recipe and method, and you’ll be making yummy, healthy pizza in no time.
Alternatively, if you’re looking for healthy pizza but not in the mood to turn on your oven, see if you can find an authentic pizzeria near you that serves Neapolitan pizza.
Pizza Health Benefits
If you’ve never had a Neapolitan pizza, then get ready to change what you think of pizza, in a good way.
Neapolitan pizzas are made with simple, fresh and wholesome ingredients. And they’re cooked in a hot oven, using simple, fresh and wholesome dough (seeing a trend here?).
Plus, they’re relatively easy to make at home.
The thing that makes a lot of store-made pizza so bad is the dough, which is loaded with sugar, salt and preservatives to make up for its lack of quality.
But when you make your dough at home, it’s made with flour, year, water and a pinch of salt. That’s it.
And the pizza is topped with fresh tomato sauce, also without added sugar or salt (another place the pizza chains will get you). And I probably don’t need to tell you how healthy tomatoes are, but just in case, read this.
Nex, we’re topping the fresh tomato sauce with fresh mozzarella, a lovely and simple dairy that adds protein to the meal. I mean, we’re using it because it’s insanely tasty (I always like to treat myself to a few raw pieces while I’m cooking), but it doesn’t hurt to know that it’s also really healthy.
The pizza is then drizzled with heart-healthy olive oil, as well as some basil leaves if you like them – for, voila, some greens.
Suddenly, your pizza has become something that can be enjoyed regularly as part of a complete diet. My wife and I eat at least one a week (often many more), and we maintain a healthy weight and low blood pressure.
Honestly, cooking and eating pizza makes me so happy, that I think I’m a healthier person because of it. Obviously I can’t prove this, but we do know that stress and relaxation contributes to health. And there’s nothing more stress-reducing that sitting down to a piping hot pizza.
I will say that if you’re only used to the big corporate pizza chains, then you might be surprised at first. Neapolitan pizza is a lot smaller, with a thinner crust (although don’t worry – I think the crust is the best part!).
It may take some people to get used to fewer ingredients and smaller pizzas. But … I mean … it’s still real, warm bread topped with tomatoes and gooey cheese … so it’s a pretty easy thing to get used to!
And if the idea of nothing but cheese bums you out, don’t worry! Since you’re making this at home, you’re in control! It’s certainly easy to add a little pepperoni or sausage if you miss it. And since everything else in the pizza is light and fresh, a little extra indulgence won’t set you back as far, health wise (I’ll go over some more healthy toppings you can add below).
But isn’t pizza crust packed with gluten? And it’s gluten, like, really bad for you?
Once again, I am the bearer of good news.
It’s absolute true that if you are part of the 1% of the population that has celiac disease, then gluten can kill you. And if you’re part of the .063 – 6% of the population that has real gluten sensitivity then gluten is really bad for you (source).
But for the vast majority of us, there’s no real scientific proof to back up claims that gluten is the diet-equivalent of the boogey-man. People who claim otherwise are probably trying to sell you their gluten-free cookies!
Does that you mean you should gorge on donuts morning, noon and night? Obviously not.
It does mean that you can enjoy ‘carbs’ of all sorts, in moderation.
Moderation is the key word here. Everything that swirls around us in our diet-obsessed, food-obsessed, weight-obsessed culture tells us there’s ONE food to give up, ONE way to eat perfectly, that we’re ONE detox away from the waistline of our dreams.
And this black-and-white, all-or-nothing mentality when it comes to our food makes us more inclined to deprive ourselves, then binge, then start the whole unhealthy practice over again.
Instead, what if we just tried to eat real, whole foods that we love, that we make at home as much as possible?
I’m not suggesting that you have a pizza for lunch and a pizza for supper every day, but I hope you’re now convinced that A) pizza (and gluten!) isn’t evil, B) you can make delicious, healthy pizza at home, and C) you deserve to enjoy good food!
If you’re interested in learning more about the ‘gluten myth’ and/or trying to free yourself from unnecessary anxiety about what you eat, I highly recommend The Gluten Lie and Other Myths About What You Eat by Alan Levinovitz, Ph.D.
Add Even More Health Benfits To Pizza
So – now we know that simple Neapolitan pizzas can be good for us. Are there ways to make pizza even healthier?
Of course. The simplest way is to pair your pizza with a salad. This makes your meal more filling, and adds greens and veggies to your diet.
And for all the debate that goes back and forth among dieticians and scientists about fat and butter and calories and sugar and eggs and dairy … what we’ve ALWAYS known is that vegetables are really good for us.
We’re getting vegetables in the sauce of course, so adding a salad is just a great way to get even more health benefits.
You can also get creative with your toppings. I know instinctively that when we North Americans think about a ‘loaded’ pizza, we’re imagining piling on every cured meat known to man.
But have you ever thought about loading your pizza with vegetables? Bell peppers, onions, garlic, sliced or diced tomatoes, olives, and pineapple can all make great additions.
And maybe think about adding a bit of ground flax seed into your dough (see how to make your own healthy pizza dough here).
Finally, if you still find that pizza makes you feel bloated, even if you’re making it at home, I’ve got you covered. This article explains how to make your dough more gut-friendly, plus some ideas for other types of pizza you might enjoy.
For now, Buon Appetito! (That’s Italian for Bon Appetit!).
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