Canadians can feel a bit better today about ordering a pizza. An international survey has found that takeaway pizza in Canada, while still high in calories, saturated fats and cholesterol, may have less sodium than comparable pizzas in other countries.
A World Action on Salt and Health survey looked at 572 pizzas from 54 brands in 11 countries. For five out of the eight most popular pizza topping categories (Hawaiian, Healthy Choice, Multi Meat, Pepperoni and Vegetarian), Canada’s take-away pizzas had the lowest-sodium, averaging 442 mg of sodium/100 gram serving compared to 620 mg of sodium/100 grams in the United States. Four of these options are offered by the international Pizza Hut chain while the Trio Pomodoro from Canada’s own Pizza Pizza leads the Healthy Choice category.
The World Health Organization has recognized that ailments like hypertension, diabetes and stroke – among Canada’s top killers – are largely preventable and controllable with healthier diets that include a reduction in sodium. In Canada, over 75% of our daily sodium intake comes from processed foods, like pizza. Recognizing the important role that food companies play, the WHO has called on the private sector to reformulate its products to contain less sodium. “We want to congratulate Pizza Hut and Pizza Pizza for responding to Canadians’ desire for less sodium to be added to our foods and to help us to reduce sodium over-consumption,” says Dr. Norm Campbell, HSFC CIHR Chair of Hypertension Prevention and Control.
But before you decide to dial out for your dinner, remember to take the results of this survey with a grain of salt. Dr. Debra Reid, a dietitian/nutritionist with Hypertension Canada reminds Canadians that “any food labelled with more than 15% Daily Value or 360 mg of sodium per serving, often listed as a 100 gram serving, is still considered a lot of sodium”. In fact, the survey shows that just by changing your choice of pizza crust, your lower-sodium choice can become a high-sodium option. Without readily available restaurant menu labelling at the point of purchase, consumers will continue to struggle to order the healthier option.
Dr. Campbell emphasizes that governments have an important role to play in helping consumers by regulating the amount of certain ingredients, like salt (our main source of sodium), in the food supply. Sodium reduction strategies are considered a ‘best-buy’ to reduce diet-related chronic diseases by the World Health Organization. “Regulation would cost nothing, protect consumers, improve health outcomes, reduce healthcare spending and level the playing field for food producers.” It’s a winning proposition, no matter how you slice it.