Healthy Pizza? Scientists Team Up to Build a Pie So Nutritious You Could Eat It For Every Meal

File this under science you can really use: A team of UK physicians and nutritionists are working on how to build a healthier pizza. For too long, pizza has gotten pegged as a junk food — but that doesn't have to be the case, they say. By taking pizza back to its roots we can trim carbs, cut saturated fat, and add vitamins and nutrients. "There really is no reason why pizzas should not be nutritionally-balanced," said lead researcher Mike Lean. "We have shown it can be done with no detriment for taste."

By the sounds of it, pizza really shouldn't be that bad for us. A little dough, a little cheese, and a lot of nutrient-packed ingredients like tomatoes, garlic and olive oil. But as it stands, conventional pizza is a mess of unhealthy fats, refined carbohydrates, sodium and calories. In analyzing nutrition info for 25 margherita pizzas, the researchers found one serving could contain anywhere between 200 and 562 calories. All were high in salt, with nine out of the 25 containing more than one gram sodium per serving. Most contained unhealthy levels of saturated fat and few contained significant amounts of vitamin C, vitamin A, iron or calcium.

But using a "health by stealth" method, Lean and team set out to build a more nutritionally ideal pizza. They came up with a range of healthier pizza recipes, each containing 30 percent of recommended daily nutrient levels per serving (making one serving an ideal meal). Core adjustments included:

  • reducing salt
  • adding more whole-wheat flour
  • adding red peppers to provide extra vitamin C
  • adding a small amount of Scottish seaweed to provide vitamin B12, iron, vitamin A and iodine
  • using less (not reduced fat) Mozzarella cheese

The healthier pizza was put to a taste test with members of the public, and both kids and adults gave their approval for both taste and attractiveness. Want to make your own? Here's one of my go-to healthy pizza recipes (a very autumn pizza with pureed pumpkin, pears and arugula); here's a vegan pizza recipe from Kino and Kuchnia; and this gluten-free goat-cheese pizza from Savoring Today has a crust made out of cauliflower.

Image: Flickr