I always believed that pizza was one of the healthiest takeaway options, especially if opting for the thinner crust vegetarian jobby. How wrong was I?Pizza’s guilty pleasure status has been confirmed by a study showing the fast-food staple is heaped with salt. More than two thirds of the take-away pizzas examined in the recent study were found to contain double an adult’s daily recommended maximum intake of salt.
Four pizzas had more than three times the government’s recommended daily limit of four grams of salt, led by Pizza Hut’s “BBQ Meat Lovers” pizza (13 grams of salt).
The study, by Sydney’s The George Institute, considered 115 different pizzas from three chains – Pizza Hut, Domino’s and Australian chain Eagle Boys. Jacqui Webster, Coordinator of World Action on Salt and Health, says no single pizza chain was found to be any better or worse than the others.
But a simple rule of thumb did emerge – just three slices of take-away pizza can contain an adult’s entire daily recommended salt intake. “There’s so much salt in pizza, because there’s so much salt in all of the components that make it up,” Ms Webster says. “You’ve got a bread-based dough and then cheese, which again is high in salt, then processed meats, another of the highest-salt foods, then tomato sauce …
“People should really think twice about going for the really high-salt pizzas and in general try and reduce the amount of pizza they eat, if they are going to eat pizza.”
Ms Webster says pizza with vegetarian or seafood toppings generally had lower levels of salt. “Meat lovers” options were generally the worst, and “trendy” toppings like anchovies and olives were also salt-rich. The study found all 115 take-away pizzas contained more than the daily recommended four grams of salt – posing a problem for one person eating the lot. The salt content of the different pizzas was obtained from the pizza chains’ websites, Ms Webster says, adding the information should be written on pizza boxes to encourage healthy eating choices. “Having too much salt leads to high blood pressure, which is one of the biggest contributors to heart disease and stroke, which is one of the biggest premature killers,” she says. “And as pizza is among the food children like to eat, it is getting them off to a really bad start.
“Their blood pressure will be increasing from a very early age and then increasing cumulatively through their life.”
The pizzas available at supermarkets were also assessed in the study, with slightly improved results.
The pizza with the lowest salt content was McCain Pizza Singles Ham & Pineapple, which still contained 63 per cent of an adult’s recommended daily intake – 2.5 grams.
It is estimated New Zealanders and Australians now consume around nine grams of salt daily.