Treating yourself to a classic pepperoni pizza once in a while won't upset your long-term health. There are some healthy pepperoni pizza benefits from the 5.4 grams of protein provided by each ounce of pepperoni on the pizza, but be aware of its high amount of calories, fat, cholesterol and sodium.
Although pepperoni is not the best food choice for good health, it can still be part of a well-balanced diet as long as you limit the amount you eat.
Be Aware of High Fat
Pepperoni is loaded with calories and fat. Per 1-ounce piece weighing 28 grams, pepperoni delivers 141 calories, according to the USDA (https://tools.myfooddata.com/nutrition-facts.php?food=7057&serv=wt3&qty=1).
Of the total calories, 84 percent is fat. That equates to 13 grams or 20 percent of the daily value (DV). The amount of pepperoni in 28 grams is about five thin slices found on a pizza.
You need fat in your diet to help with the absorption of vitamins and provide energy for your body to carry out many functions, so that is one of a few potential pizza health benefits. However, Dietary Guidelines recommend that your total fat intake only be 20 to 35 percent of your daily calories.
Of the total fat in an ounce of pepperoni, 5 grams comes from unhealthy saturated fat, which amounts to 25 percent of your DV. Pepperoni also contains some trans fats, which can increase LDL ("bad") cholesterol and foster the buildup of fatty deposits in your blood vessels, warns the Heart and Stroke Foundation.
Dietary Guidelines suggest that you should limit your intake of saturated fats to less than 10 percent per day and avoid trans fat whenever possible. Replacing saturated and trans fats with healthy unsaturated fats is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, according to Harvard Health.
Minerals in Pepperoni
Although pepperoni and pepperoni pizza offer some nutritional benefits from minerals, the high sodium content is not one of them. Dietary Guidelines recommends consuming less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, and one 28-gram serving of pepperoni, with 443 milligrams, is 18 percent of that recommendation. Too much salt is related to elevated blood pressure, which can put you at risk for developing heart disease, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Pepperoni, like all high-sodium foods, or foods of low nutritional quality, can still be enjoyed when rated as part of a balanced healthy diet and offset by exercise or other activity.
Many healthy essential minerals are found in pepperoni, including manganese. With 13 percent of the DV provided in a 48-gram serving, manganese helps your body with proper enzyme function for the metabolism of protein, cholesterol and carbs, bone development, muscle contraction and wound healing.
Pepperoni contains selenium, an important antioxidant that keeps your immune system strong by controlling harmful free radicals produced as byproducts of metabolism and from environmental factors, such as pollution. Selenium also plays a role in reproduction, thyroid hormone metabolism and DNA synthesis. Per 48 grams, pepperoni contains 15 percent of your daily value for selenium, according to USDA.
Other minerals in pepperoni include zinc, for immune function, neurotransmission, vision and reproduction; phosphorus for strong bones and teeth; iron for healthy red blood cell production; and copper, which helps with iron absorption.
Beneficial B Vitamins
Topping the vitamin content of pepperoni are the B vitamins. Your body needs B vitamins to provide energy for the proper functioning of your brain, nerves, muscles, skin and every cell in your body. According to USDA, 28 grams of pepperoni contributes the following amounts of B vitamins:
- Vitamin B12: 15 percent of the DV
- Thiamin: 6 percent of the DV
- Riboflavin: 6 percent of the DV
- Niacin: 9 percent of the DV
- Pantothenic Acid: 5 percent of the DV
- Vitamin B6: 6 percent of the DV
Read more: How Does Vitamin B Complex Help Your Body?
In addition, pepperoni contains smaller amounts of vitamins D, E and K.
Concern With Nitrates
As with most cured meat, pepperoni may contain nitrate preservatives to prolong shelf life and increase its distinct flavor and color. In some people, pepperoni containing nitrates can trigger migraine headaches, according to the Office on Women's Health.
If you have a concern about the safety of nitrates during pregnancy, a study in March 2013 assessed samplings of 6,544 mothers of infants with neural tube defects, oral clefts or limb deficiencies and total nitrate intake. The results, published in Nutrition Journal in 2013, did not find sufficient evidence of an association between dietary intake of nitrates, nitrite and nitrosamines and developmental problems in the fetus.
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry says any hazard from nitrates usually comes from drinking water. Nitrates from processed food is normally excreted by your body and is safe in limited amounts. A high intake in infants and people sensitive to nitrates may result in changes in hemoglobin, causing less oxygen to be available to the body.
- Linus Pauling Institute: "Zinc"
- Linus Pauling Institute: "Manganese"
- Dietary Guidelines: "Daily Nutritional Goals for Age-Sex Groups Based on Dietary Reference Intakes and Dietary Guidelines Recommendations"
- MyFood Data: "Nutrition Facts for Pepperoni"
- Heart and Stroke Foundation: "The Facts on Trans Fats"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "The Truth About Fats: The Good, The Bad, and The In-Between"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Study of U.S. Adults Finds Strong Association Between Higher Sodium Excretion and Higher Blood Pressure and Association Between Higher Potassium Excretion and Lower Blood Pressure"
- National Institutes of Health: "Selenium"
- Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry: "Nitrates/Nitrites Poisoning"
- Office on Women's Health: "Migraine"
- Nutrition Journal: "Maternal Dietary Intake of Nitrates, Nitrites and Nitrosamines and Selected Birth Defects in Offspring: A Case-Control Study"
- Kansas State University Research and Extension: Blue Baby Syndrome