Pizza, ah yes, one of those favorite meals for so many. It is quick and usually tastes great. It makes a fast meal while out, and is depended on as a weekly dinner for many families who depend on its contagious allure.
But what is pizza really? Some try to pass it off as healthy, while others pride themselves in artisan ways of making it. Whatever pizza may have been perhaps at the start of its inception, the pizza that most people eat today is one of the unhealthiest foods for us.
Even though it may sound like it, I am not trying to kill a comfort food for you, instead educate you on what you are actually putting in your body. Yes, there was a time when pizza was a regular part of my life, but it no longer is and no, I have not died without it.
Yes, there is life after pizza. But if we are to change our ways, stop battling weight issues and get really healthy, than we also have to get brutally honest. So today I am asking you to take a harder look at your typical pizza for the sake of your health, and definitely stop kidding ourselves that it is a healthy option for us.
While there are parts of a typical pizza that have their health problems, our focus today will be specifically on the cheese used in making pizza, as that is an ingredient that many still consider one of the healthiest parts of the pizza. What is actually in the cheese and the consequences that has on your health, may however shock you.
What’s In the Pizza Cheese?
So you ordered yet another pizza or slice from your local pizza shop, but have you considered asking them to see the ingredients of the products that went into making your pizza? Probably not.
Most of us see the dough and think flour. We see the meat and cheese and think – natural food. We see the veggies or fruits (should they hopefully end up on your pizza) and think nothing of it. But there is so much more hiding in your average pizza, than meets the eye.
I have recently gotten the specific ingredient and nutritional label for the cheese used in many typical pizza stores to see what was actually in it, as many people are under the idea that cheese, and most dairy in general is a healthy part of their diet. The label is from a popular Canadian pizza chain, and a popular Canadian dairy company. Since this applies to the average pizza shop, I will not single out which pizza chain this is.
Thus, first we are going to examine what is in the ingredients, and explain a little about each one in detail. Then, we will continue with the nutritional label of the typical pizza cheese and finish off with some closing remarks about what all this means for your health.
Pizza Mozzarella Cheese Diced Ingredients:
Partly Skimmed Milk
Not too much problem there at first glance, it would seem. After all for the sake of our weight as adults, skimmed milk is the way to go. Mind you this milk is pasteurized, which means it has lost most of its nutritional value and has to be re-fortified with external nutrients to make it actually worth it to be eaten and have some worthy nutritional value.
Now if you live in the US, you also have to consider what else is in this milk, like BGH (bovine growth hormone), which is illegal in countries like Canada and Europe. As well all the fat-soluble pesticides in the cows, depending on their food source.
To get to know more about milk and how it can be a serious health concern, read what Dr.Mercola has to say about why it is better to avoid milk unless you are 100% of the source.
Modified Milk Ingredients
“Modified milk ingredients” is an umbrella term for a variety of milk ingredients such as casein or whey. In essence, it is some factory made product, that was based on some part of milk originally, usually made from by-products of other dairy product manufacturing. This is done simply because it is cheaper than using real milk.
This term can also mean a butter-oil compound, which is actually made up mostly of sugar, and is more non-dairy than dairy.
In the end, the term “modified” should give one a clue as to the health aspect of this type of ingredient and whether one should be putting something of this nature in their body or not.
There is little to be said about this, as the process of making cheese is a fermentation reaction, which must have an organism like a bacteria culture or a fungi. In general, these are the healthy parts for us, as they add beneficial bacterial cultures to our gut, to aid in proper digestion. However, based on the processing done to make cheese, very little active bacteria is left over to actually make a positive impact on our health.
This ingredient speaks for itself, and is one of the reasons why pizza is a super high sodium food.
So, if you know you have problems with elevated blood pressure, yes you can continue to make every excuse in the world on how it is “just one slice” or you can of course look towards blood pressure drugs to save you, but remember no one ever died from not eating pizza. You can finally start taking accountability for your health and realize that pizza should not be part of your diet. In fact, in a general sense it should not be part of any one’s diet in the way it is made today.
Thus whether you already have high blood pressure or want to take action today to prevent having it in the future, this is one of the main reasons and ingredients why you should consider other meal ideas for your long term health.
Like the bacterial culture, there is not much to say about this ingredient as it is normally a necessary part of making cheese. Now as to what kind or type or enzyme that is used specifically, that is not normally known unless one inquires directly to the source of this cheese.
Calcium chloride is actually a salt first and foremost, but it is not supposed to increase the sodium content, as this salt is based on calcium. It is used mostly as a desiccant or firming agent and recognized as GRAS by the FDA (not that that says much about its safety).
It is normally required in cheese making, primarily when using processed – pasteurized milk. This is to balance out the more natural ratio of calcium to protein that is lost, and make sure the cheese curdles properly. It also adds to the calcium content of the food.
This is naturally a carbohydrate that is indigestible by humans and found in all plant material. It is used to prevent caking or sticking together of the cheese.
However, in the form of the ingredient here, it is a powdered cellulose. It was approved for use in cheese by the FDA in 1986. While its origins are natural, the processing it undergoes are questionable.
Natamycin is an anti-fungal or fungicide product produced from a specific type of bacteria. It is used in the food industry as a preservative; it prevents growth of all known food spoilage moulds and yeasts. Natamycin is widely used on products such as cheese and sausages.
Experts claim that natamycin is completely non-toxic and poses no risk to human health whatsoever. However, critics claim that definitive studies on how it impacts our internal flora (micro-organisms) have yet to be seen. The most recent report from the European Food Safety Authority on Natamycin, found no reason to be concerned with the use of this product in food. Used as a drug, it is a whole other story.
Pizza Mozzarella Cheese Nutrition Facts:
The values stated are per 100g or 1/2 – 1 cup of the shredded cheese.
CALORIES = 277
FAT = 17.3 g
SATURATED = 11.05g
TRANS = 0.48g
CHOLESTEROL = 49.8mg
SODIUM = 662mg
CARBOHYDRATES = 3.2g
Fiber = < 0.5g
Sugar = 1.6g
PROTEIN = 27.1g
VITAMIN A = 168 RE
CALCIUM = 734mg
Based on the above information a few things need to be pointed out. First off, 1/2 a cup to a cup of shredded cheese is not an unusual amount to put on a personal size pizza. So while one may not eat these values in a slice, the health risk increases with the more one eats.
The most troubling part of the nutritional label is the amount of fat, especially saturated fat. For starters a serving of this cheese is 56% fat, which is way higher than the healthy 15%, or maximum 30% fat in a diet should be.
Secondly, 64% of the fat in this product is saturated fat – not a good thing where our heart health is concerned. Currently nutritionists and doctors advocate that saturated fat should comprise less than 10% of our daily food. So while this may not be a problem for one who eats a plant based diet and the odd cheese, it becomes a big problem for people whose diets are typically animal-product based.
What is odd about this picture is that there is such a high amount of saturated fat, and yet the product is based on skim milk. This makes one assume that there must be something else going on. Perhaps the majority of this fat is derived from whatever the modified milk ingredients were.
The second most troubling part of this nutritional information is the amount of sodium. Current guidelines advise not to exceed 2000mg of sodium per day. (An easy way to always know where one stands, is if we eat 2000 calories on average per day, the sodium content on a label should never be higher than the calories, but in a 1 to 1 ratio or lower.) Well this product has more than double the amount of sodium that is considered okay, and about a third (if one were to eat a serving) of what we should get in an average day. Remember, we are only factoring in the cheese here and not talking about how much sodium is in the dough or meat.
While the calcium amount is great, let us remember that calcium from dairy is not the most easily absorbable form. And while some may rejoice at getting so much protein, meals high in animal protein all at once are actually taxing on our systems, and we do not absorb as much of it as we think.
And if you are thinking, “but I am so addicted, how can I give it up?” Well, there is good reason for feeling that way. Experts now are clueing in to the actually addictive properties of cheese, thanks to the high concentration of casomorphins it possesses. These break down to opiod-like substances in the stomach, and have also been linked to increased mucous production.
In the end, pizza with this cheese is not a heart healthy food, and while having a slice in moderation (maybe once a month) won’t hurt you – that is a decision you will have to make based on your own comfort level. This information also applies to shredded or other processed varieties of cheese that you can buy at the store to make your own pizza or other foods – so read your labels!
The biggest issue here, is that this cannot be part of your regular diet if you are serious about good health and preventing the number one disease today – heart disease, as well as keeping a healthy weight.
Yes, there are ways to make pizza more healthy and less healthy, and you can definitely play around with that, if you are not quite yet ready to give up pizza altogether. You can check out of the recipes for healthier home made pizza I used, before I transitioned off altogether.
In conclusion, even without looking at the rest of the ingredients on a pizza, just the cheese alone should make one think twice, before ordering another slice.