While there is no doubt surrounding pizza’s popularity, some questions may arise regarding its impact on human health. For example, is pizza high in cholesterol and can it fit into a low-cholesterol diet?
This article will answer just that, along with breaking down what cholesterol really is, the cholesterol content of different pizza ingredients, the dos and don’ts when it comes to pizza, is pizza bad for cholesterol, and much more!
- Understanding Cholesterol & Heart Disease
- Is Pizza High In Cholesterol?
- Is Pizza High In Cholesterol? Pizza Ingredients & Their Cholesterol Content
- Factors That Contribute To A Pizza’s Cholesterol Level
- 3 Take Away Pizzas You Should Avoid
- Healthier Pizza Choices For Heart-Conscious Consumers
- Health Benefits Of Eating Pizza
- Dispelling Common Myths
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Recommendation: Can People With High Cholesterol Eat Pizza?
- Pizza Choices For A Low Cholesterol Diet
- Other Articles To Help Lower Cholesterol
- Final Thoughts
Cholesterol is a waxy substance critical for our body’s functions. It can be categorized into two main types including low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.
LDL cholesterol is often referred to as “bad” cholesterol, as high levels can lead to plaque buildup in the arteries. Alternatively, HDL cholesterol is often referred to as “good” cholesterol, as it helps in removing excess cholesterol from the bloodstream.
In order to minimize the risk of heart disease and promote heart health, LDL cholesterol should be decreased, and HDL cholesterol should be increased. This balance can be achieved through diet and choosing foods that can unclog arteries (1).
Our dietary choices significantly influence cholesterol levels. Saturated fats, for example, can increase LDL cholesterol levels (1). These fats are commonly found in animal meat, full-fat dairy, butter, and tropical oils.
Additionally, dietary cholesterol found in animal-based foods like eggs and shellfish can also contribute to elevated LDL cholesterol levels in individuals but to a much lesser extent than saturated fat. Saturated fat is the true culprit.
By making conscious choices to reduce your intake of saturated fats and dietary cholesterol, huge strides can be made towards maintaining a healthy balance of cholesterol and reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Does pizza have cholesterol? Yes. But before we answer the question “Is pizza high in cholesterol?” We must first consider where the pizza is coming from.
This is because how much cholesterol in a slice of pizza varies. The cholesterol in pizza can largely vary depending on the method of preparation and the ingredients used. Let’s dive into the details.
Store-bought pizza’s cholesterol content can vary depending on the type of crust, cheese, and toppings used. Typically, the cheeses and processed meats commonly found on these pizzas can contribute to higher cholesterol levels because they are higher in saturated fat (2).
Checking nutrition labels can help you choose options with a lower saturated fat and cholesterol content.
Frozen pizzas are known for their convenience; however, they are often higher in saturated fat and dietary cholesterol due to the use of processed ingredients and added fat in the pizza crust like butter or shortening.
The cholesterol content of homemade pizza largely depends on the ingredients used. Because there is much more control over the types of crust, cheese, and toppings; healthier choices can be made.
Using whole grain crust, lean proteins, and limited amounts of cheese and/or lower fat cheeses, can help create a homemade pizza lower in cholesterol.
Restaurant pizzas come in a wide range of varieties from thin crust to deep dish and are loaded with diverse toppings. While some restaurant pizzas might be made with fresher and leaner ingredients, they can also be high in saturated fats and dietary cholesterol, largely due to excessive amounts of fatty meats and cheeses.
Remaining aware of ingredient choices is key when it comes to ordering restaurant pizzas lower in cholesterol.
Is Pizza High In Cholesterol? Pizza Ingredients & Their Cholesterol Content
Pizza crust primarily constitutes carbohydrates, with a cholesterol impact linked to the type of carbohydrate chosen. Opting for a whole grain crust over white crust can provide more dietary fiber, thus lowering the overall cholesterol content (1).
Traditional pizza sauces generally have a lower cholesterol content due to the simple ingredients used including tomatoes and seasonings.
It is important to be mindful when using highly processed sauces or dairy-based sauces as these options contain a much higher saturated fat content, and thus may raise your LDL cholesterol.
Be sure to check out this low sodium pizza sauce which is a heart healthy alternative!
Cheese is rich in both saturated fats and dietary cholesterol, therefore, it’s important to focus on the types and quantities used when consuming pizza.
Choosing cheeses lower in fat, such as part-skim mozzarella, using pesto instead of cheese and/or being mindful of portion sizes can help mitigate your saturated fat intake.
Meat toppings such as pepperoni, sausage, and bacon that are commonly found on pizzas are often high in saturated fats and cholesterol. Consuming these in moderation or opting for leaner meat choices is a much more proactive way to incorporate pizza in a heart healthy diet.
Instead, check out Low Cholesterol High Protein Foods To Include In A Heart Healthy Diet for alternatives.
Vegetable toppings are typically low in cholesterol and saturated fats and offer a wealth of other essential nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, plant sterols, and antioxidants. Load up a variety of veggies on your pizza for added health benefits.
Ingredients such as anchovies, sardines and olives can also impact cholesterol in a positive way as they contribute to your omega 3 intake for the day.
Summary of pizza ingredients and their saturated fat and dietary cholesterol content:
|Ingredients||Saturated Fat and Cholesterol Content|
|Crust||Low in saturated fat and cholesterol, opt for whole grain for additional benefits|
|Sauce||Traditional sauces are generally low in saturated fats and cholesterol, be sure to watch the sodium content if you are concerned about your blood pressure|
|Cheese||Typically high in saturated fats and cholesterol, be mindful of types and quantity used|
|Meat Toppings||Typically high in saturated fats and cholesterol, choose lean meat options|
|Vegetable Toppings||Low in saturated fats and cholesterol, include a variety for additional benefits|
Factors That Contribute To A Pizza’s Cholesterol Level
As you’ve probably realized, there are a multitude of factors that contribute to a pizza’s cholesterol level. Below these factors are broken down and a conclusion is drawn regarding our initial question: is pizza high in cholesterol and can it fit into a low-cholesterol diet?
Pizza obtained from restaurants or purchased in stores may contain higher cholesterol levels due to factors like larger portions, richer toppings, and greater variability in ingredients.
Homemade pizzas offer more control over ingredient choices and portion sizes, allowing for healthier alternatives.
Cheese is one of the main ingredients that contributes to pizza’s cholesterol content. The type of cheese and the quantity used significantly influences cholesterol levels. Opting for leaner cheese options, alternative sauces like pesto and monitoring portions can help reduce overall cholesterol intake.
Meat toppings such as pepperoni, sausage, and bacon often contain high levels of saturated fats and dietary cholesterol. Eliminating these portions or choosing leaner meats such as grilled chicken or turkey can help mitigate pizza’s impact on your cholesterol levels.
Ingredients such as creamy sauces contain a varying degree of extra saturated fats and cholesterol. Adding these elements to your pizza can elevate the overall cholesterol content, especially when used excessively.
Instead opt for unsaturated fats like olive oil.
The cooking method of your pizza matters too. A fried or deep-fried crust can lead to higher levels of saturated fat. Opting for a baked crust can help keep the cholesterol content in check.
While pizza can potentially contribute to higher LDL cholesterol levels due to factors like cheese, meat toppings, and fatty ingredients, it’s not solely the pizza itself that matters.
By making informed choices, such as opting for whole grain crust, leaner toppings, and healthier cooking methods, the negative impact on cholesterol can be mitigated.
Moderation, balance, and mindful ingredient selection are key to enjoying pizza while maintaining healthy cholesterol levels.
For one large slice, this pizza contains 40 mg of cholesterol and 5 g of saturated fat (3). This is largely due to the excessive amounts of animal products included such as pepperoni, bacon, sausage, ham, and cheese.
For one large slice, this pizza contains 30 mg of cholesterol and 5 g of saturated fat (4). Despite it being simply cheese pizza, the extra cheese in the crust significantly contributes to higher levels of dietary cholesterol and saturated fat.
For one large slice, this pizza contains 35 mg of cholesterol and 7 g of saturated fat (5). Similar to the meat supreme, the meat and cheese are the number one culprits that raise the overall cholesterol and saturated fat content.
Healthier Pizza Choices For Heart-Conscious Consumers
For those mindful of their heart health, crafting a nutritious pizza without compromising on flavor is entirely possible. Here are some smarter choices to consider:
Opt for whole grain or whole wheat pizza, thin crust pizza, or even a trendy cauliflower crust. These alternatives provide more dietary fiber and fewer refined carbohydrates compared to traditional options, promoting better cholesterol management.
Trim down on cheese usage or go for low-fat cheese versions like mozzarella cheese. This not only reduces saturated fat intake but also allows other flavors to shine.
Swap out high-fat meats like pepperoni and sausage for leaner options such as grilled chicken, turkey or omega 3 rich fish like anchovies or sardines. This decreases saturated fat, contributing to a heart-healthy pizza.
Pile on colorful vegetable toppings for a burst of nutrients without the saturated fat. Plenty of vegetables like peppers, spinach, tomatoes, and other veggies enhance both taste and health benefits since they are anti-inflammatory.
Consider creating your own pizza masterpiece at home. This way, you’re in control of the ingredients, allowing you to select healthier options and control portion sizes. Check out the recipes below!
Be mindful of portion sizes. Even with healthier choices, consuming excessively large amounts can still contribute to a high cholesterol or saturated fat intake.
Contrary to popular belief, pizza can offer more than just a delightful taste. Below are some unexpected health benefits that will make you appreciate your favorite slice even more.
Cheese, a staple topping, is an excellent source of calcium. This essential mineral plays a vital role in maintaining strong bones and teeth, as well as supporting muscle contractions, normal heart rhythms, blood pressure, and nerve functions.
Veggies commonly found on pizzas such as peppers, tomatoes, and spinach are loaded with vitamins and antioxidants. These nutrients contribute to improved health by offering a protective effect against chronic disease and healthy problems like heart disease, PAD, and stroke.
Opting for a whole grain crust and loads of veggies adds a healthy dose of dietary fiber to your pizza. Fiber helps your digestive tract stay healthy and decreases the production of bad cholesterol within the body.
Lastly, the act of eating pizza can also provide health benefits! Sharing pizza with loved ones can foster a sense of community and happiness. Engaging in these social meals will therefore contribute to reduced stress levels and enhanced well-being.
Pizza has long been subjected to misconceptions, but it’s time to set the record straight on a couple of common myths.
Reality: Not all pizza is created equal.
While it’s true that certain pizzas such as those with excessive cheese and high-fat meat toppings can be detrimental to heart health, pizza’s potential should not be overlooked.
As discussed in this article, many heart-conscious choices can be made so that pizza can fit into a heart healthy diet!
This includes choosing a whole grain crust, reducing the amount of cheeses and meats used or opting for lower fat options, loading your pizza with veggies, using olive oil, and preparing your pizza at home!
Reality: Cholesterol sources on pizza are more diverse than you might think.
While meat toppings like pepperoni and sausage can indeed be high in saturated fats and cholesterol, they are not the sole culprits.
High fat cheese, particularly when used excessively, contributes significantly to cholesterol intake. Additionally, certain creamy sauces can also introduce extra saturated fats into your pizza.
Pizza’s impact on cholesterol varies. Making mindful ingredient choices can make pizza a part of a heart-healthy diet.
Cheese can be bad for high cholesterol because it is rich in saturated fats and dietary cholesterol. Choosing lower-fat cheese options and moderating portions is advisable.
Cheese pizza contains dietary cholesterol, primarily from the cheese. The actual amount can vary depending on the type and quantity of cheese used.
Pizza’s healthiness depends on ingredient choices. Pizzas with whole wheat crust, lean proteins, and plenty of veggies can be nutritious with low grams of fat.
Pizza can be safe for people with high cholesterol. Smart ingredients like including whole grain crust, lean proteins, plenty of veggies and portion control are key.
Toppings you should avoid to reduce cholesterol in pizza are high-fat meat toppings and excessive cheese. These ingredients can be avoided or consumed in moderation to manage dietary cholesterol intake.
Cooking methods do affect the cholesterol levels in pizza. Baking crusts is healthier than frying or deep-frying, as it reduces the amount of saturated fat in the pizza.
Yes, the type of cheese affects the cholesterol content of the pizza. Full-fat cheeses contain more cholesterol than lower-fat options. Choosing wisely can help lower cholesterol intake.
Yes, you can find nutritional information about pizza at restaurants or pizzerias. Many restaurants and pizzerias provide nutritional information on their menus or websites, helping you make informed choices.
The cholesterol content of a slice of pizza can vary widely depending on the ingredients used. Generally, cheese and meat toppings contribute to the cholesterol content. Checking nutrition labels or asking for details at restaurants can provide specific information.
People with high cholesterol can indeed enjoy pizza, however, it requires thoughtful choices and moderation. Below are some recommendations to help you navigate pizza for high cholesterol.
Firstly, it is important to understand the difference between occasionally indulging in pizza versus its frequent consumption. Pizza can be a part of anyone’s diet, including those with high cholesterol, however it’s essential to consume it in moderation.
Reserve it for special occasions rather than making it a regular part of your diet.
Whether ordering out, buying frozen, or making your own pizza, being informed about ingredient choices is crucial. Remember to opt for whole grain crust, lean proteins, and plenty of veggies to reduce cholesterol intake.
Even with healthier choices, portion control is crucial. Don’t overindulge in pizza but instead enjoy it as part of a well-balanced meal. This can be done by pairing your pizza with a side salad or veggie sticks.
Lastly, other lifestyle factors can also affect cholesterol. Smoking, lack of exercise, stress, alcohol, and being overweight or obese all contribute to higher cholesterol levels.
Interested in learning more about lowering cholesterol with diet, read How Long Does It Take To Lower Cholesterol With Diet?
Pizza Choices For A Low Cholesterol Diet
Pistachio Pesto Pizza– Snacking In Sneakers
Low Cholesterol Pizza – The Heart Dietitian
Smoked Salmon Pizza With Goat Cheese– Garlic & Zest
Lemon Ricotta Pizza– Snacking In Sneakers
Tasty Sardine Pizza– The Heart Dietitian
Other Articles To Help Lower Cholesterol
15 Oatmeal Recipes To Lower Cholesterol– The Heart Dietitian
Homemade Juice To Lower Cholesterol By A Registered Dietitian – The Heart Dietitian
Smoothies To Lower Cholesterol – The Heart Dietitian
When discussing pizza in relation to heart health, it’s crucial to emphasize the significance of making heart-healthy choices. Does pizza have cholesterol? Yes.
How much cholesterol in a slice of pizza? Well, this can be lowered by making a couple simple swaps, pizza can not only be a delightful indulgence but also a nutritious meal for those who have high cholesterol levels.
In the end, pizza can be more than just a guilty pleasure. Is pizza bad for cholesterol? Not always. It can be a source of nourishment and enjoyment that aligns with your heart-healthy lifestyle. The possibilities are endless, so go ahead and discover a pizza combination that both your taste buds and your heart will love.
I’d love to hear from you! Let me know what you like to add to your pizza to make it heart healthy.
Article was written by Brooke Harris. Reviewed by Veronica Rouse, MAN, RD, CDE.