Go ahead and have that second slice of pizza

Published 12:42 pm Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Today’s item on the comfort foods list is one of the world’s favorites. Pizza! The word pizza comes from the Latin “pinsere” which means “to pound or stamp.” It is also related to the Lombardic word “bizzo” or “pizzo,” which means “mouthful,” and is related to the English word “bite,” 

 

Pizza has quite a long history, as flatbreads with toppings were consumed by the ancient Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks, but the first pizza is thought to have been invented in the early 1500s in Naples, in southwestern Italy’s Campania region. Pizzas in Italy were originally square-shaped.

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Many folks think of pizza as nothing more than delicious junk food, but that’s just not true. This decadent food offers quite a few healthful benefits. The cheeses and meat toppings on pizza yield high-quality protein. In fact, the average pizza slice contains about 12 grams of protein. That’s the amount of protein equivalent to that of 2 chicken eggs. Protein is an essential component of muscle, hair, nails, connective tissue, antibodies, and enzymes. 

 

Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant that is responsible for imparting red to pink colors in fruits and vegetables such as guavas, tomatoes, watermelon, red peppers, red cabbage, and mangoes. Tomato-based pizza sauces not only provide lycopene, but processed tomato products supply 2.5 times the lycopene than that of fresh tomatoes. In fact, a typical daily pizza serving supplies more than half of the daily recommended allowance of lycopene.  Lycopene health benefits include sun protection, improved heart health, and a lowered risk for certain types of cancer. 

 

The vegetable toppings on pizza can be a fantastic source of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. Phytonutrients or phytochemicals are plant-based compounds that actually protect plants from germs, fungi, bugs, and other threats. The more than 25,000 different phytonutrients not only help protect plants, but help people too, as they have antioxidant properties that help prevent damage to cells throughout the body. Also, vegetables on pizza, give much-needed dietary fiber. 

 

Pizza crust provides complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates offer more nutrients than simple carbohydrates. Carbs are considered to be the body’s main fuel source. They are converted into glycogen. Glycogen is to you, what starch is to a potato…it’s animal sugar, and it fuels both the muscles and the brain. Another benefit derived from complex carbohydrates is that they’re higher in dietary fiber, so they digest more slowly, making them great for dieters.

       

 

Here are a few pizza facts you might not know: About 350 pizza slices are consumed every second in the United States, and 93% of Americans order a pizza at least once a month while about 13% of Americans eat pizza on any given day. Also, $38 billion worth of pizzas are sold annually in the United States, with 3 billion pizzas sold each year.  

 

Pepperoni is America’s favorite pizza topping, with 251.7 million pounds consumed every year in the US just from pizza. Mushrooms are the next most popular topping. Pizza was first developed as an easy and affordable meal for low-income families. One in six males aged 2 to 39 eats pizza for breakfast, lunch, or dinner on any given day. 

 

Speaking of breakfast, did you know pizza is much more nutritious than many breakfast cereals? Pizza does have a little more fat than most breakfast cereals, but provides as many carbohydrates, with more protein and less sugar. The first documented pizzeria in the world was opened in Port’Alba in Naples, Italy during the late 1800s. New York was home to the first pizzeria in the US. It was opened by Gennaro Lombardi in 1905. There are now approximately 70,000 pizzerias across the United States. Pizza wasn’t popular in America until after WWII.   

       

David Crocker is a nutritionist and master personal trainer. Questions? Email David at dwcrocker77@gmail.com or text to 864-494-6215.