[ Watch the Video: Tweaking Pizza To Make It Healthier Is Possible ]
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Pizza is probably among the top guilty pleasures for most people and a new study published in the journal Public Health Nutrition has examined how a couple of healthy tweaks can make that slice of deliciousness just a little bit healthier.
Conducted by a team of Scottish researchers, the study looked specifically at the more traditional, personal-sized Margarita pizzas, which have a flat crust, a ladle full of sauce and a sprinkling of cheese.
“Traditional pizza should be a low-fat meal containing at least one portion of vegetables, so mainly made from ingredients associated with better cardiovascular health,” study author Mike Lean said of Margarita pizzas. “However, to enhance shelf-life, commercial pizza recipes today include much more fat and salt than desirable.”
“Until now, nobody has stopped to notice that many essential vitamins and minerals are very low or even completely absent. From a nutrition and health perspective, they are hazardous junk,” said Lean, a physician and nutritionist at the University of Glasgow.
First, the team of researchers determined the nutritional content and quality of commercially-available pizzas. A total of 25 Margarita pizzas were included for analysis, varying in calorie content, ranging from 200 to over 560 calories. Few of the pizzas in the study approached the 600 calorie mark that would make it a proper meal, the Scottish team said.
Just 6 of 25 pizzas in the study contained too much total fat, or 25 percent of total energy, with eight having too much saturated fat and only two having a desirable level of less than 11 percent total energy. Most of the fat in the pizzas came from the cheese, the scientists said.
To make the tiny traditional pizza into a nutritionally-balanced meal, at least 45 percent of the energy intake should come from carbohydrates, the researchers said. Five pizzas in the study failed to meet this requirement because of high fat and protein contents.
Of the few pizzas that had readily available vitamin and mineral content information, none met the recommended value for iron, vitamin C and vitamin A, the researchers said.
“While none of the pizzas tested satisfied all the nutritional requirements, many of the requirements were met in some pizzas, which told us it should be possible to modify the recipes to make them more nutritionally-balanced without impacting on flavor – health by stealth, if you like,” said Lean.
To make the pizzas into a healthier food, the researchers modified a modern pizza recipe by reducing the amount of salt used and adding whole-wheat flour, a small amount of Scottish seaweed to increase flavor, vitamin B12, fiber, iron, vitamin A and iodine, as well as adding red peppers for additional extra vitamin C.
The ratio of bread to Mozzarella cheese was changed to correct the carbohydrate-fat-protein proportions and lower saturated fat content. After cooking, the new recipe was analyzed in the laboratory.
The team also conducted a taste test with members of the public, with both children and adults giving it positive reviews for taste and attractiveness, the study said.
“There really is no reason why pizzas and other ready meals should not be nutritionally-balanced,” Lean said. “We have shown it can be done with no detriment for taste.
“Promoting ‘healthy eating’ and nutritional education have had little impact on eating habits or health so far, and taking so-called ‘nutritional supplements’ makes things worse,” he added. “We can’t all make entirely home-made meals, so it’s about time that manufacturers took steps to make their products better suited to human biology, and we have shown then [sic] how to do it. Rather than sneaking in additives like salt, they could be boasting about healthier ingredients that will benefit consumers.”