You may be thinking, is a low cholesterol pizza even possible?
Yes, it is!
From the aroma to the fusion of flavors and textures, pizza is not only a treat for the senses but also an opportunity to create joyous memories with friends and family.
If you are living with heart disease, you too can enjoy a homemade heart healthy pizza night. Yes, pizza has been criticized as a contributor to high fat, salt, and caloric intake when prepared using traditional methods.
This has led many heart healthy conscious individuals to avoid partaking in pizza night. But I’m here to tell you not to give up on this culinary delight that brings joy to our tables.
When prepared traditionally, this comfort food often gets a bad rap for being high in fat, salt, and calories. However, with some clever adjustments, we can transform pizza into a heart-healthy, low-cholesterol meal that we can enjoy without guilt. Let’s dive in!
- Why Should We Worry About Cholesterol Levels?
- Food Can Lower Cholesterol
- Does Pizza Have Cholesterol?
- How To Make A Heart Healthy Pizza
- Ingredients Low Cholesterol Pizza Recipe
- How To Make Low Cholesterol Pizza Recipe
- Video Tutorial
- Frequently Asked Questions
- What Pizza Is Low In Cholesterol?
- What Is The Healthiest Pizza You Can Eat?
- What Kind Of Pizza Can A Heart Patient Eat?
- Is Frozen Pizza Bad For Cholesterol?
- Is Pizza Bad For Cholesterol?
- How Much Cholesterol In Pizza? / How Much Cholesterol In A Slice Of Pizza?
- Is Pizza High In Cholesterol?
- Does Pizza Have Cholesterol?
- How To Make Pizza Healthy?
- Low Cholesterol Recipes
- Final Thoughts
Why Should We Worry About Cholesterol Levels?
High cholesterol refers to a build-up of LDL or low-density lipoprotein (also known as the “bad” cholesterol).
This build-up creates fatty deposits in the walls of your blood vessels.
These deposits lead to the narrowing of the vessels which impairs the flow of blood and increases the risk of heart attack or stroke due to clotting.
Food Can Lower Cholesterol
Diet plays a crucial role in maintaining heart health. The foods we consume can significantly affect blood pressure, triglyceride levels, inflammation, and, of course, cholesterol levels.
Cholesterol, a waxy substance found in your bloodstream, is essential for building healthy cells. However, when we have too much in our blood, it can stick to our arterial walls, leading to heart disease.
There are two main types of cholesterol:
- Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL), often referred to as “bad cholesterol,”
- High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL), or “good cholesterol.”
LDL can build up in the arteries and form plaques, leading to atherosclerosis, a condition that can cause heart attacks and strokes. Conversely, HDL carries cholesterol away from the arteries back to the liver, which removes it from the body.
Sticking with diets like the Mediterranean diet, DASH diet, post stent diet, PAD diet, low cholesterol diet, MIND diet and portfolio diet can lower cholesterol levels because they are low in saturated and trans fats.
Read this blog post if you are interested in learning How long does it take for the diet lower cholesterol? Or check out these recipes to lower cholesterol, or the portfolio diet recipes section of the blog!
Does Pizza Have Cholesterol?
Traditional pizza, as delightful as it tastes, often contributes to high cholesterol levels due to the types of ingredients commonly used in its preparation. Pizza itself isn’t high in cholesterol, but it can increase blood cholesterol levels like LDL cholesterol because of its saturated fat content.
- Cheeses with a high content of saturated fats, such as cheddar, are a prime source of cholesterol. These cheeses also have a high sodium content, which can contribute to increased blood pressure, another risk factor for heart disease.
- Processed meats, such as pepperoni and sausage, are other culprits. They are not only rich in saturated fats but also contain trans fats. Both of these types of fats raise the level of LDL (Low-Density Lipoprotein), also known as “bad cholesterol”, in the blood. Trans fats, in particular, have a double negative effect on heart health as they also lower HDL (High-Density Lipoprotein), or “good cholesterol”.
- Even the pizza crust can be problematic if it’s made from refined white flour. These refined grains can lead to elevated blood sugar levels, which over time, can lead to insulin resistance and are associated with an increased risk of heart disease.
In essence, the combination of saturated and trans fats in traditional pizza directly impacts cholesterol levels by increasing LDL and lowering HDL cholesterol, which significantly affects heart health. Thus, the cholesterol in pizza doesn’t increase blood cholesterol levels as much as the saturated fat and trans-fat in pizza.
Other Heart Disease Risk Factors
A typical fast-food pizza tends to be high in both calories and fat. Overconsumption of these high-calorie, high-fat foods can lead to obesity, which is another risk factor for heart disease.
Sodium, present in high amounts in fast food pizzas, also plays a detrimental role in cardiovascular health. Excessive sodium intake can lead to hypertension, a leading risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
Typical Fast-Food Pizza
The calorie and saturated fat content of a takeout pizza can vary widely based on the size of the pizza, the type of crust, the quantity and type of cheese, and the toppings.
However, to give you an approximate idea, a single slice of a large, 14″ regular crust pepperoni pizza from a popular pizza chain can have around 300-400 calories, 20 mg of cholesterol and about 5-7 grams of saturated fat.
If we’re talking about the whole large pizza, that’s usually 8 slices, so you’d be looking at around 2400-3200 calories and 40-56 grams of saturated fat for the entire pizza.
The American Heart Association recommends no more than 15 grams of saturated fat a day to control cholesterol levels (1).
How To Make A Heart Healthy Pizza
Whole Grain Dough
To Make a heart healthy pizza recipe start with a crust made from whole grains. A heart healthy pizza crust is a good source of fiber which can help to control blood sugar levels. They are also a great source of magnesium, a mineral that is essential for maintaining a steady heartbeat and normal blood pressure.
Use homemade low sodium pizza sauces. Traditional tomato sauce is rich in lycopene, a powerful antioxidant, but you can also experiment with other heart-healthy options such as pesto made from olive oil, basil and garlic, which are known to reduce blood pressure and unclog arteries.
Cheese adds a lot of flavor to pizza, but traditional full-fat cheeses like cheddar and mozzarella can be high in saturated fat and sodium. They are also rich in calcium which can lower blood pressure.
Instead, opt for cheeses that are low in saturated fat and sodium but still provide a good source of calcium and protein. Mozzarella part-skim is a great choice, and stronger-flavored cheeses like feta or blue cheese can be used sparingly for a lot of flavors.
Vegetables like spinach, bell peppers, tomatoes, onions, and mushrooms are all great choices. Many vegetables are also anti-inflammatory, rich in potassium, which can help manage blood pressure levels, and in nitric oxide, which can help to improve blood vessel health and lower blood pressure.
If you want to add meat to your heart healthy pizza recipe, go for lean proteins like grilled chicken, turkey, or seafood instead of high-fat meats like sausage or pepperoni. You could also consider plant-based proteins like tofu or tempeh.
Spice It Up
Instead of adding extra salt, season your heart healthy pizza recipe with a mix of herbs and spices. Fresh or dried herbs like oregano, basil, and rosemary can add a lot of flavors without the extra sodium.
Mind Your Portions
Even the healthiest low cholesterol pizza can contribute to weight gain if you eat too much of it. Be mindful of your portion sizes.
Making these modifications can turn pizza from a high-calorie, high-sodium, and high-cholesterol meal into a nutrient-packed, heart-healthy pizza recipe. Enjoy your pizza night with these healthier choices, without sacrificing flavor!
Heart Healthy Pizza Toppings To Consider
Whole Grain Dough Options
- Whole wheat dough
- Whole grain pita bread
- Spelt flour dough
- Heart healthy pizza crust like quinoa or brown rice
Healthy Sauce Options
- Low-sodium tomato sauce
- Homemade pesto (basil, garlic, olive oil, and a sprinkle of Parmesan)
- Olive oil and garlic
- Pureed roasted vegetable sauce (e.g., bell peppers or butternut squash)
Low-Fat Cheese Options
- Part-skim mozzarella
- Low-fat feta
- Ricotta cheese
- Goat cheese
Vegetable Topping Options
- Dark leafy greens: Spinach, arugula, kale
- Colorful veggies: Bell peppers, tomatoes, red onions, zucchini, artichokes
- Mushrooms: Portobello, white button, shiitake
- Others: Olives, broccoli, sweet corn, thinly sliced sweet potato, asparagus,
Lean Protein Options
- Grilled chicken breast
- Turkey breast
- Seafood: Shrimp, tuna, salmon
- Plant-based: Tofu, tempeh
- Avocado slices
- A drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil
- Nuts and seeds: Pine nuts, flax seeds, chia seeds
- Olive oil-based pesto sauce
Herbs and Spices
- Fresh or dried basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme
- Crushed red pepper flakes
- Garlic (fresh or powdered)
- Ground black pepper
Ingredients Low Cholesterol Pizza Recipe
- Whole grain pizza dough – from fresh or store bought
- Mushrooms – Mushrooms are high in vitamins, especially B-vitamins such as riboflavin and niacin, which are important for heart health. They are also a good source of potassium, a mineral that helps regulate blood pressure, and are low in sodium
- Spinach – Spinach is a leafy green vegetable that’s high in dietary fiber, which is beneficial for heart health. It’s also rich in potassium and magnesium, which are important for maintaining healthy blood pressure. Moreover, spinach is packed with antioxidants like vitamin C and beta-carotene, which can help reduce inflammation, a risk factor for heart disease
- Bell Pepper – Bell peppers, especially the red ones, are high in heart-healthy antioxidants including vitamin C, carotenoids, and flavonoids. They are also high in fiber and low in calories, making them a healthy choice for heart health.
- Low Sodium tomato paste or low sodium pizza sauce – Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that’s been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease. Choosing a low-sodium version of tomato paste or pasta sauce helps control sodium intake, which is essential for maintaining healthy blood pressure levels.
- Ricotta cheese – Ricotta cheese is lower in fat than many other types of cheese. It provides a good amount of calcium, which is essential for heart function. Ricotta cheese is a lower sodium option relative to many other cheeses, which can help control overall sodium intake.
How To Make Low Cholesterol Pizza Recipe
- Making a heart-healthy pizza begins with preparing the base: roll out your chosen whole grain dough to your desired thickness, keeping in mind that a thinner crust can reduce the overall calorie content.
- As the dough rests, preheat your oven and prepare your vegetables, washing and chopping, to top the pizza.
- Then, spread your low-sodium tomato paste or sauce evenly over the rolled-out dough, leaving a small border for the crust.
- Top your pizza with mushrooms, spinach, and bell pepper.
- The final touch is to sprinkle your low cholesterol pizza recipe with ricotta cheese. The mild, tasty flavor of ricotta blends well with the other ingredients, while reducing the overall fat and sodium content.
- Pop your prepared low sodium heart healthy pizza into the preheated oven and bake until the crust is golden and the cheese is melted and slightly bubbly.
Can be stored in the fridge for 3-4 days, and I’d recommend reheating it in the microwave for 20-30 seconds before eating.
Variations Of Low Cholesterol Pizza
Try other low cholesterol pizza recipes:
- Breakfast pizza – with egg whites, cheese, onion and this better-than-bacon topper (trust me it’s good! And it’s made with cholesterol-lowering pinto beans)
- Veggie pizza – be sure to sauté the vegetables in olive oil instead of butter
- Mediterranean – tomatoes, garlic, artichoke, onion, scallions, and pesto sauce
- Or this Sardine Pizza
What To Serve With Low Cholesterol Pizza?
- Side of dark leafy green salad
- Bean salad
- Soup like this protein tomato soup or carrot lentil soup
- Protein like this roasted black bean snack
- Oats can lower cholesterol too
Other Things To Consider When Making A Low Sodium Heart Healthy Pizza
- Order a thin crust pizza
- Could also use cauliflower crust for more vegetables
- Choose a heart healthy crust unlike cheese or sausage stuffed crust
- Choose softer, lower saturated fat cheeses or part skim mozzarella
- Choose lean meats or keep it vegetarian
- Get creative with heart healthy pizza toppings for flavor and enjoyment!
Frequently Asked Questions
What Pizza Is Low In Cholesterol?
A pizza that is low in cholesterol should have whole-grain crust, which has more fiber and nutrients than a white flour crust. Low cholesterol pizza toppings should primarily be vegetables, which are high in fiber and antioxidants. If you choose to add cheese, opt for a reduced-fat cheese or plant-based cheese. If you’re including meat, opt for lean meats such as grilled chicken or turkey.
What Is The Healthiest Pizza You Can Eat?
The healthiest pizzas are usually ones that are made with whole-grain crusts, topped with a variety of vegetables, lean proteins, and a minimal amount of low-fat cheese.
Additionally, the healthiest pizzas typically avoid processed ingredients, are low in sodium, and served with a side salad for an extra veggie boost. You can also consider alternative crusts made from cauliflower or other vegetables for additional nutrients.
What Kind Of Pizza Can A Heart Patient Eat?
Heart patients can eat pizza that is low in sodium, cholesterol, and saturated fats. This means choosing a pizza with a whole grain crust, low-sodium sauce, and plenty of veggies for low cholesterol pizza toppings.
Lean proteins like chicken, turkey, or even tofu are better choices than high-fat meats like sausage or pepperoni. Low-fat or plant-based cheeses are better choices for heart patients as well. Lastly, portion control is also essential, even with healthier pizzas.
Is Frozen Pizza Bad For Cholesterol?
Many frozen pizzas can be bad for your cholesterol levels. They are often made with refined-flour crusts, are high in sodium, and use high-fat and processed meats as toppings like pepperoni, bacon, and sausage, which can increase your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.
However, not all frozen pizzas are created equal. Some brands offer healthier options, including pizzas with whole grain crusts, low-sodium content, and vegetable-heavy heart healthy toppings. Always read the nutrition labels before purchasing and consider adding your own fresh veggies to increase the nutritional value.
Is Pizza Bad For Cholesterol?
Traditional pizza can be bad for your cholesterol. Especially when choosing pizza from fast food chains or restaurants, can be high in ingredients that can increase cholesterol levels.
These include high-fat cheeses, processed meats, and dough made from refined flour. However, pizza can be modified to be more heart-healthy and lower in cholesterol, such as by using whole grain dough, low-fat cheese, and plenty of vegetables.
How Much Cholesterol In Pizza? / How Much Cholesterol In A Slice Of Pizza?
On average, a slice of cheese pizza from a fast-food chain might contain around 20 mg of cholesterol, but this could be much higher if the pizza includes high-cholesterol toppings like sausage or other processed meats.
The cholesterol content in a slice of pizza can vary greatly depending on its size and the toppings used.
Is Pizza High In Cholesterol?
Pizza can be high in cholesterol if it’s made with high-cholesterol ingredients like full-fat cheese and processed meats. However, the cholesterol content can be controlled by choosing heart healthy toppings carefully.
Does Pizza Have Cholesterol?
Yes, pizza usually does contain cholesterol, primarily from cheese and any meat toppings. Vegetable toppings and plant-based foods do not contain cholesterol. This is because cholesterol is made in the liver, and plant foods don’t have livers.
How To Make Pizza Healthy?
To make a pizza healthy, start with a whole-grain heart healthy pizza crust, which provides more fiber and nutrients than a crust made with refined white flour. Choose a low-sodium sauce, and top your low sodium heart healthy pizza with plenty of vegetables, which add fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Use cheese sparingly and opt for lower-fat versions when possible. If you want to add meat, choose lean options like grilled chicken or turkey. This is how you to make a healthy pizza at home.
Low Cholesterol Recipes
Enjoy mouthwatering low sodium heart healthy pizza to help manage cholesterol on weekends or weekdays, it’s that simple! Enjoy this homemade pizza, that is delicious and loved by the whole family. Make cooking together fun again.
What’s your experience making low cholesterol pizza? Please share your comments and tips below on how you make pizza night heart healthy. And be sure to share this article with anyone you think would benefit!
Recipe and photo by Isabelle Mah, Nutrition Student. Article was written by Veronica Rouse, MAN, RD, CDE.
Low Cholesterol Pizza
- 1 parchment paper
- 1 Baking sheet
- 1 wholewheat pizza dough
- 1 cup white mushrooms sliced
- 1 cup spinach
- 1 bell pepper color of choice
- 1/2 cup low sodium pizza sauce
- 3/4 cup ricotta
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Place the dough onto a sheet of parchment paper, and roll it out to about a 1/2 inch thickness.
- Wash and cut bell pepper and mushroom into slices.
- Spread the tomato paste or sauce on the dough, then top with your vegetables.
- Add the ricotta in small dollops around the pizza.
- Bake the pizza in the oven for 20 minutes.
- Slice and enjoy! You can also top with some fresh basil, if desired.