San Diego Experts Weigh In – Pizza, Health and the Economy

In recent years, an increasing number of studies have emerged offering evidence that some pizza may actually provide a number of health benefits. Between the cheese, crust, toppings, and oils, pizza fulfills servings in each of the recommended six categories that make up the food pyramid, created by the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. These studies may come as a pleasant surprise for many, as pizza is not only an economical food, but the American Dairy Association also reports that the pies are America’s fourth most craved food behind cheese, chocolate and ice cream.

Pizza and Health
According to a Men’s Health article in 2005, scientists contributing to the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that eating pizza can reduce your risk of a heart attack. In a four-year study of nearly 1,000 Italians, those who ate pizza at least once a week were 30% less likely to experience a heart attack than those who did not consume pizza. This is contributed, in part, to pizza’s cardio protective ingredients, including natural olive oil and tomato sauce.

Further elaborating on the health benefits of tomato sauce, Lisa Mozing, MS, RD, FADA reported in a 2005 article in LifeScript, that lycopene, a natural antioxidant chemical found in tomatoes and tomato sauce, is thought to reduce the risk of certain types of cancer. Dr. Mozing reports that Italian scientists also discovered that in a study of 8,000 people, those who ate pizza as a healthy snack one or more times per week were several times less likely to get mouth and colon cancer. The tomato, she reported, Pizza near me is suspected to be behind the results that pizza lowered esophageal cancer by 59%, colon cancer by 26% and mouth cancer by 34%.

With more than 69,000 pizza restaurants in the United States as of July 2006, as reported by Pizza Marketing Quarterly, Americans have a variety of options when it comes to choosing pizza. But most experts agree that healthier pizza options are not found in the frozen food section or at major fast food chains. Patrick Farley, owner of Knockout Pizzeria of Carlsbad and Oceanside and FLIPPIN’ PIZZA, New York Style, of La Costa, Vista and Encinitas notes, “While these studies offer an interesting perspective on pizza, it’s important to be selective about what kinds of pizza you choose and where you purchase pizza from. If you choose to eat out, look for pizzerias that use all fresh, whole food ingredients and don’t add extra sugars and oils to the dough or sauce. These additives may taste good, but they don’t provide any nutritional benefits. Also, consider adding fruit, vegetable or meat toppings to ensure you’re touching upon each of the recommended food groups.”

Jessica Janc, owner of Body & Soul Nutrition, agrees. “A lot of my clients don’t want to give up pizza because it’s a Friday night family tradition, and they don’t need to. If you’re going to eat pizza, make it healthier by ordering it in a certain fashion. Choose thin crust pizzas that are lighter on the cheese and heavier on the vegetables. And always have a salad on the side for extra vegetables and fiber to avoid overeating on the pizza. It wouldn’t hurt to add some lean protein to the salad or pizza to help you feel more satisfied at your meal while eating less. As a general rule of thumb, stick to two slices with a nice salad on the side.”

Janc also recommends that you compare nutritional information of different pizzerias and pizza types before ordering. “The top three areas to pay attention to when considering nutritional information are serving size in relation to calories, fat grams and sugar count.” For pizzerias like FLIPPIN’ PIZZA, New York Style, that don’t add extra sugar and oil to the dough or sauce, Janc notes, “For sugars, you want to consume right around 1-2 teaspoons per serving, which is the equivalent of 4-8 grams. The sugar count in an average slice of FLIPPIN’ PIZZA falls well within this range.”

Pizza and the Economy
The media have said it, “SD Economic Forecast Looks Pretty Bad” (San Diego Union-Tribune, Sept. 2007), “San Diego Economic Prosperity Falls Behind Rest of Nation” (KPBS, Mar. 2008), but what does it mean for the food and beverage industry? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, food costs have increased over 4.5 percent, partly due to higher fuel costs.


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