Pineapple or no pineapple, pizza lovers are united in the love for their favourite food. To celebrate it, the United States, where it’s consumed with maniacal fervour, the National Pizza Day is observed every year on February 9. Americans are so crazy about pizza that they chow down three billion freshly-made pies every year and a billion frozen ones. Lately, pizza has also managed to elbow its way into the “nutritious” category after people started calling it the “Perfect food.” Pizza is considered a complete and a balanced meal, comprising all of the major food groups – bread, vegetables, meat and cheese. It also supplies your body with the major macronutrients – carbs, proteins and fats. So it has to be healthy right?

A pizza pie is made of dough, olive oil, tomatoes, vegetables, cheese, meat and herbs. Individually, each ingredient can provide nutrition: the dough, cheese and meat supply proteins. Olive oil and cheese provide fats. Tomato sauce and the vegetables supply micronutrients and fibre. In theory, pizza is a meal in itself. Indians Love Pizza With Lots of Cheese and Toppings: Italian Chef, Renato Viola.

So where does it get all the bad press from? Pizza has been risked to prostate, ovarian and breast cancer according to a 2006 study in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention. A 2003 study found it responsible for bowel cancer. Another 2004 study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that some of the pizza ingredients could be increasing the risk of cardiovascular diseases. The answer lies in the way it’s prepared. Melty, Delicious Pizzas That Will Give You a Foodgasm Just By Looking (Watch GIFs and Videos).

The Crust

The crust of the pizza is refined flour, which only provides empty calories. White or refined flour is made of wheat with the germ and bran stripped off, which means all the good, healthy stuff is removed.

Studies say that consumption of refined grains was related to higher plasma PAI-1 and C-reactive protein concentration, which point towards inflammation. These factors can raise the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

Refined flour has also been linked to an increase in visceral fat that leads to weight gain, diabetes, heart diseases, colon cancer and breast cancer.

And that’s just scratching at the surface. Readymade pizzas have harmful transfats such as hydrogenated vegetable fats kneaded into the dough, which makes the dish all the unhealthier. Having Pizza at Work Makes You More Productive.

The Sauce

Commercially sold pizzas are slathered with a tomato-based sauce or paste. Although tomatoes are healthful ingredients, replete with the cancer-fighting lycopene, the same cannot be said about store-bought processed sauces.

These condiments often have an unhealthy amount of sodium and other preservatives added to increase their shelf life. Too much sodium in food can affect vital organs such as heart, brain, kidney and blood vessels.

The Meats

Apart from the veggies, cured meats such as sausages and pepperoni are traditionally used as toppings on pizzas. Cured meats contain an unhealthy amount of preservatives such as nitrates, which has been associated with migraine.

Heterocyclic amines, a class of compounds created when meat is cooked in high temperature, is also responsible for cancers.

Processed meats used as pizza toppings have been linked to many chronic diseases like high blood pressure, heart diseases, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder and bowel cancer.

The Cheese

Some may say that the best part about pizza is the stretchy, melty cheese. But a single serving of pizza contains almost 20gms of saturated fat in the form of cheese. It’s a nightmare for cardiovascular health since it raises the cholesterol levels in the body.

In addition to the cheese, the meat added to the pizza and the lard used in kneading the dough raise the saturated fat content of the dish.

How to Make Pizza Healthy

Believe it or not, but your beloved pizza will taste just as good if a few switches are made as far as the ingredients are concerned.

For the crust, many are opting for a whole wheat base that is less harmful and easier on the waistline. Ketogenic pizzas where the crust is made entirely of cauliflower and egg is fast gaining popularity in the healthy-eating circles.

Instead of depending on the store-bought sauces, many homemakers have been whipping up fresh tomato paste at homemade with fresh ingredients and relatively lower sodium content.