Pizza is a delicious go-to food loved by absolutely everyone, no matter the age. It is also one of the oldest foods ever produced, having been around in one form or another ever since the 1st century BC. Unleavened flat bread cooked in a mud oven was a popular food among the ancient Egyptians and Babylonians, but the first people to add toppings (usually olive oil and local spices) were the ancient Greeks and Romans.
Pizza as we know it today goes back only to the late 18th century when poor workers in Central and Southern Italy used to buy flat bread with toppings and tomato sauce from street vendors. But it was Neapolitan baker Esposito who catapulted the pizza to international fame. Legend has it that, when Queen Margherita of Italy visited the city, Esposito presented her with a pizza garnished with red tomatoes, white mozzarella cheese and green basil, a nod to the colours of the Italian flag, and that is still known as pizza Margherita today.
However, in recent years, pizza has got a bad reputation as an unhealthy food that has no place in a balanced diet. I believe this is a huge shame because pizza has the potential to be healthy and nutritious, being one of the few foods that covers all the most basic food groups and therefore meets most of your nutritional requirements.
The tomato sauce, as well as the vegetable toppings, are a rich source of antioxidants and vitamins while cheese contains plenty of calcium, which boosts the health of your bones. If you add a few pieces of chicken, which is the healthiest meat choice for pizza, you will get your daily dose of protein, too.
Pizza becomes unhealthy only when it is made with refined or processed grains that have been stripped of all their healthy nutrients, laden with cheese and fatty meats and generously sprinkled with salt. The result of this process is a highly-caloric food devoid of any nutritional value that increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and leaves you starving again after only a couple of hours.
If you love pizza as much as I do, you will be happy to know there are ways to enjoy a slice or two of pizza without compromising your health. Whenever I have a craving for pizza, I head to organic food stores and restaurants that use whole-grain dough and opt for a flavour that’s laden with vegetables, such as onions, bell peppers, olives and mushrooms. It’s a nourishing treat that satisfies my palate and, best of all, is completely guilt-free!