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Home arrow Nutrition arrow Healthy Eating arrow Is Pepperoni Healthy? Take Control of Your Diet

Is Pepperoni Healthy? Take Control of Your Diet

HR_author_photo_Edibel
Written by Edibel Quintero, RD
Dr. Donika Vata
Fact checked by Donika Vata, MD
Last update: October 8, 2023
5 min read 420 Views 0 Comments
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It’s time to take a closer look at one of the most classic pizza toppings.

Is pepperoni healthy

If your mind immediately goes to pepperoni when you think of pizza, you are not alone. In the pizza world, this classic ingredient has become somewhat of an icon.

The salty and spicy flavor of this blend of cured meats makes it an important element in the ideal cheese pizza recipe. But does pepperoni have health benefits, and how can you integrate it into your diet?

If you are a pepperoni pizza lover, stay with us to find out all about pepperoni, its ingredients, and nutritional facts.

Is Pepperoni Healthy?

No, pepperoni is not healthy as it is processed meat high in saturated fat and sodium. It is a type of salami containing pork and beef, which is cured with salt and other additives and mixed with hot spices.

The World Health Organization includes in its nutritional guidelines recommendations to avoid the consumption of processed meats since foods high in fat and salt can cause cardiovascular problems. In addition, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) included cured meats in the list of foods with sufficient evidence to cause cancer, specifically colorectal cancer.

Pepperoni Nutrition

Before putting some pepperoni slices on a sandwich or pizza, make sure you know its nutrients to make wise dietary choices. While it is high in calories and sodium, controlling the portion you consume is the key to not overdoing it and avoiding its negative effects.

Calories/Nutrient (per 100g)Amount
Calories (kcal)504
Net Carbs (g)1.18
Fiber (g)0
Sugar (g)0
Fats (Total)46.3
Protein (g)19.2
Sodium (mg)1,580
Cholesterol (mg)97
Total saturated fat (g)17.7

Source: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/174575/nutrients

Health Benefits of Pepperoni

Pepperoni slices are made from meat and other meat byproducts, so even though it is a highly processed food, it can still retain some nutrients that you may want to add to your diet from time to time.

#1 Source of protein

Protein is an important macronutrient in a balanced diet, and pepperoni has a good amount as it is made primarily with red meat from pork and beef. However, there are some pepperoni options made with turkey meat.

While its protein content is good for you, moderate consumption is recommended because it is processed meat, after all.

#2 Contains manganese

If you are looking to increase your intake of foods containing manganese, an important mineral that protects your cells and is involved in energy production, pepperoni provides 1.07mg of manganese, which is about half of the recommended daily allowance of 2mg. 

Keep in mind that this amount of manganese is found in 100g of the product, which is quite a high amount of pepperoni to consume. Some healthier choices that contain manganese are legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seafood.

#3 Contains iron and B vitamins

Because it is a meat-derived product, pepperoni contains modest amounts of iron and B vitamins.

Iron is essential for the transport of oxygen to all tissues of the body. You can find 1.33mg of iron in one serving of pepperoni.

Animal products, including cured meats, are a good source of B vitamins. They are essential for the health of the nervous system and support various functions in the body.

Pepperoni contains these B vitamins and minerals, but a healthier way to consume them is to choose unprocessed lean meats.

Potential Downsides of Pepperoni

We know that the most palatable foods always have adverse effects, especially when they are highly processed foods such as pepperoni. 

Unfortunately, if you have a heart disease, you’ll have to think twice before ordering a pepperoni pizza and look for more heart-healthy foods.

#1 High sodium content

A 100g portion of pepperoni slices contains 1,580mg of sodium, a high amount knowing that the recommended daily value is 2,300mg. In the case of processed meat, this addition of salt is necessary for their preservation since salt inhibits the growth of bacteria.

In addition, the industry uses salt and monosodium glutamate (MSG), a type of salt derived from the fermentation of glutamic acid, to enhance the flavor of the products, which favors their mass consumption. This is why eating pepperoni can increase cardiovascular risk, high blood pressure, and metabolic diseases in the population.

#2 High in saturated fats

With 17.7g of saturated fats per serving, pepperoni comes very close to the allowed saturated fat limit, which should not exceed 10% of your daily calories. That means, in an average diet of 2,000 calories, only 200 calories should come from saturated fat, corresponding to 22g per day.

#3 Might be fattening

Pepperoni slices are packed with calories and saturated fat, which can lead to weight gain. Just one ounce of pepperoni, roughly equivalent to five thin slices of pizza or a sandwich filling, contains about 143 calories. That same serving also contains 448mg of sodium. 

Consuming too much sodium can lead to weight gain from fluid retention, which increases the risk of heart disease. Plus, the combined fats from the cheese and sauce on a pepperoni pizza make it a calorie powerhouse that could derail your weight loss efforts.

#4 Contains nitrates

Nitrates are chemical compounds that can occur naturally in some foods. However, in the case of processed meats such as pepperoni, they are intentionally added to help preserve them by slowing the overgrowth of bad bacteria. Nitrates can also enhance flavor and color to make them more appealing for sale.

A major problem with nitrates is that they can create nitrosamines when cooked at high temperatures. Nitrosamines are associated with cancer, which is why meats cooked at high heat and ultra-processed meats are considered carcinogenic.

Turkey Pepperoni vs. Regular Pepperoni

Every unhealthy product has its healthy alternative, and pepperoni is no exception. 

If you compare the nutritional facts of regular pepperoni and turkey pepperoni, the difference in caloric and protein content makes turkey pepperoni a healthier choice.

Turkey pepperoniRegular pepperoni
Calories (per 100g)243504
Fats (per 100g)11.546.3
Carbs (per 100g)3.781.18
Protein3119.2
TasteMild, smoky, spicy, sweet and slightly drier because it is lower in fatSalty, spicy, smoky with strong notes of peppery spices and garlic

Sources: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/174593/nutrients
https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/174575/nutrients

FAQs 

Is pepperoni healthy for weight loss?

No, regular pepperoni is not a healthy option for weight loss, but you can find lower-calorie options made with turkey and chicken.

Is pepperoni fattening?

Yes, one ounce of pepperoni has 143 calories and should be consumed in moderation to prevent weight gain in the long term.

Is pepperoni a good source of protein?

Even though pepperoni contains a significant amount of protein, it’s advisable to opt for leaner and less processed meat choices.

Is it bad to eat pepperoni every day?

Due to its high sodium, fat, preservatives, and calorie content, pepperoni should only be consumed occasionally.

Is pepperoni good for a keto diet?

Pepperoni can be considered a suitable keto diet food, as it aligns with the practice of consuming high-fat foods to facilitate ketosis.

A Word From Our MD

Expert image border HR_author_photo_Rosmy
Rosmy Barrios, MD
Medical advisor for Health Reporter

Despite its global popularity, pizza, especially with pepperoni topping, isn’t among the healthiest food options. That is why healthier alternatives are constantly being proposed to please the palate.

To eat this dish without suffering the health consequences, you can substitute the pizza dough for a whole-wheat tortilla and use turkey pepperoni as a topping. Also, cheese pizza tends to be greasy due to the type of cheese used, so you can substitute it with fresh white cheese.

Finally, to convert junk food into a balanced meal, add lots of vegetables on top of the thin pizza slices to get a good fiber intake that will promote satiety.

Conclusion

Processed meats, such as pepperoni, are high in sodium and saturated fat, which can increase the risk of heart disease if eaten frequently. Just a handful of pepperoni slices can pack a significant caloric punch, leading to potential weight gain. 

For a healthier choice, it’s a good idea to skip the high-fat pepperoni pizza and explore healthier alternatives.

Written by Edibel Quintero, RD
Edibel Quintero is a medical doctor who graduated in 2013 from the University of Zulia and has been working in her profession since then. She specializes in obesity and nutrition, physical rehabilitation, sports massage and post-operative rehabilitation. Edibel’s goal is to help people live healthier lives by educating them about food, exercise, mental wellness and other lifestyle choices that can improve their quality of life.
The article was fact checked by Donika Vata, MD
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HR_author_photo_Edibel
Written by Edibel Quintero, RD
Dr. Donika Vata
Fact checked by Donika Vata, MD
Last update: October 8, 2023
5 min read 420 Views 0 Comments
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