This Sunday is National Pizza Day—YAY!—and that’s something we can all sink our teeth into. Pizza is the best food on earth and nothing (NOTHING!) can change that—even though the stuff has long been vilified as a junk food because it’s high in calories, saturated fat, and sodium.
Spoiler alert: On average, a large slice of pepperoni pizza contains 311 calories, 13.5 grams of total fat (5.5 grams saturated), and 720 milligrams of sodium. And that’s just one slice, which almost never happens.
So, how does indulging in this all-time fave really affect your body? Is it as bad as we think? Here’s the breakdown:
10 to 15 minutes:
Sugar begins to hit your bloodstream—even though fat and protein from the cheese and pepperoni slow the surge. You’ll feel less sluggish than you did before eating, but might develop belly bloating as your body continues to digest your food and residual gases—especially if you overate.
15 to 20 minutes:
Levels of leptin, that tells you to stop eating, rise steadily as your cells absorb glucose from the bloodstream. If you keep eating, your cells will reject the fuel and send it to your liver to be turned into fat.
Unless you’ve grossly overeaten, which can make you feel sluggish, you’ll feel fully charged. Your body stops spewing out ghrelin (the hunger hormone), so “Satisfaction” is your new middle name. As your body digests fat from the cheese and pepperoni, and spews it into your bloodstream, levels of triglycerides (fat in the blood) rise, which could contribute to clogged arteries in people who eat unhealthy fats all the time or have preexisting health risks.
45 to 60 minutes:
Your blood pressure rises temporarily, which could promote dangerous blood clots in people who are at risk for heart disease. But good news: Leptin levels are at an all-time high, so you’re not even thinking about food. Unless you scraped off the cheese and meat, you should be good on energy. (If you only ate crusts, you might feel sleepy from the hormone serotonin that’s released when you only eat carbs.)
3 to 4 hours:
Hours after eating, your blood sugar is back to normal and your hunger hormone ghrelin starts to flow again. Because your triglyceride levels are still soaring (and will stay elevated for a few more hours), a lower-fat snack or meal is your best bet.
If you’re pretty much healthy, indulging in a slice of pepperoni pizza every once in a while will not (repeat will NOT) kill you. It won’t even affect your weight, which will only increase by the actual weight of the pizza.
As you can see, cheating a little with a slice or two of regular pizza isn’t the worst thing in the world. The fear of carb consumption has led to an explosion of creative carb substitutes, cauliflower pizza crust being one of many. But when you dive into the details… is it really that good for you?
Take any food you love, make it out of cauliflower, and it’s magically healthy. Or at least that’s what most people think when they hear about mashed potatoes, rice, bread, and pizza made out of cauliflower.
“People are so anti-carbohydrate and think white flour isn’t good for you. So they wonder, ‘How can we still eat pizza?,’” says Keri Gans, author of The Small Change Diet.1 “[Cauliflower pizza crust] also has a health halo because it’s associated with a vegetable.”
But look beyond that halo glow and check the labels. Then you can really see if cauliflower crust is better for you than regular crust.
Choosing the best pizza crust requires a bit of detective work. Luckily, all the clues you need are in clear sight—on the product’s label.
Every product is different. Some cauliflower crusts are higher in calories and may have just as many carbs as a thin-crust, 100% whole-wheat pizza crust.
Alternative crusts that are high in calories won’t help you with weight loss, since calories have the most direct impact on weight. If too many of your calories come from fat and protein, you can gain weight—even when you’re on a low-carb diet.
Also, when food companies try to make traditional carbohydrate-based foods out of low-carb vegetables, nutritional chaos can ensue. For example, some manufacturers add extra saturated fat in the form of cheese to make cauliflower crust bind together and taste better.
Be sure to read the ingredients list and nutrition facts to make your own call. Factor in the serving size and review the calories, total carbs, saturated fat and fiber.
Does this crust crush it? Let’s break it down.
Trader Joe’s* Cauliflower Pizza Crust (one slice):
Fat 6 g
Sodium 105 mg
Carbs 26 g
Fiber 2 g
Protein 2 g
*Trader Joe’s just replaces regular white flour with corn-and potato-based flour alternatives.
When it comes down it, what is your reason for opting for a cauliflower crust? Whether you hope to save calories or cut carbs, or you’re trying to eat more vegetables, be sure to read the nutrition facts so you can confirm you’re achieving what you want.
It’s also important to be mindful of the serving size and toppings, since that’s the other part of the pizza picture. You can’t eat the whole pie, and you can’t throw all the other health ‘guidelines’ out the window. Are you building your pizza and making it a healthy vehicle for more vegetables, or are you adding processed meats like pepperoni and sausage?
To make the healthiest pizza (regardless of crust), choose plenty of vegetables, such as fresh tomatoes, spinach, garlic, and artichoke hearts. Give this recipe a go when you want to indulge, just not too much:
CAULIFLOWER PIZZA CRUST
This is a really low carb approach to pizza. By using a cauliflower pizza crust, you can really cut a ton of calories when compared to a traditional pizza recipe.
1 cup cooked frozen cauliflower, riced or minced
1 large egg
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1/2 tsp. fennel seeds
1 tsp. oregano
2 tsp. dried parsley
Beat egg, add the cauliflower, and shredded cheese. Mix, then press into a greased pizza pan then sprinkle with the spices. Bake at 450 for 12 to 15 minutes. If you double the recipe cook 15 to 20 minutes.
Add desired pizza topping (not included in nutritional info) such as red sauce, mushrooms, green pepper, onions, cheese, etc. Bake until brown and cheese is bubbly. This makes four pieces.
As we embrace National Pizza Day with gusto, maybe just take a spin on the wild side and go for it. Pizza is one of our holiest indulgences. And In this Month of #PURESelfLove, cheating on our diets once in a while can go a long way in making us feel like we’re really taking a slice out of life and enjoying ourselves a little, as well as helping us to stay on a healthy diet long term because we’re not constantly denying ourselves. (You can use code PURESELFLOVE on our site to save 10% off any purchase: https://livepure.com/shop)
So for now, as the Italian’s say, buon appetito! And whichever pizza option you choose, rest easy knowing that eating bad pizza, no matter what’s on the top OR the bottom, is pretty hard to do.