Monday, May 3, 2010

What's in my...Pizza: Sodium

The Expert's first reaction to my version of Domino's pizza was that it was way less salty. Since sodium has been in the news a lot recently - last week, 16 food companies pledged to reduce the sodium levels of their products over the next few years - I thought it would be interesting to compare the amount of sodium in my pizza to the takeout version. After all, a recent government-commissioned report found that too much sodium may be responsible for 100,000 deaths a year in the U.S. (from sodium related health issues like high blood pressure) and most Americans consume twice the daily recommended limit!

Although the sodium levels I've listed for Domino's come from their nutritional information, the levels in my pizza were a little harder to calculate. I found varying information on how much sodium one teaspoon of salt contains, perhaps due to the amount to which the weight and volume of different types of salt varies (kosher salt weighs less than table, for example). I decided to go with the calculations of the High Queen of Nutrition, Marion Nestle, who writes on her blog that a teaspoon of salt weighs four grams, and each gram contains 400 mg of sodium. The rest of the information below is from the nutrition information printed on each product I used (except for the onions, which I found at Calorie Count).

Marinara sauce



1190 mg
800 mg
1250 mg
1030 mg
5 mg

4275 mg

1600 mg
498 mg
862 mg
500 mg
2 mg

3462 mg
Keep in mind that these values are for the entire pizza, not just one serving! Still, assuming that you eat perhaps one third of my pizza, you've had around 1150 mg of sodium, or about half of what the American Heart Association suggests an average adult should consume per day (2400 mg). I don't think that's all that bad, personally, assuming that you're a healthy adult who eats maybe a bowl of cereal for breakfast (mine is less than 300 mg with milk) and a sandwich for lunch (somewhere less than 950 mg, hopefully!)

The Expert argues that Domino's didn't actually change their recipe when their customers started complaining that their pizza tasted like cardboard, they just added more salt. I don't have the nutritional information for Domino's previous recipe so there's no way to tell, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was at least partially true that the new recipe includes more salt - it's a darn easy way to enhance a product's flavor on the cheap. It's also worthy to note that Domino's wasn't one of the 16 companies that has pledged to reduce sodium in their products...

But to be honest, while Domino's sausage and onion pizza does technically have more sodium than my version, it doesn't have THAT much more, especially if you're a person watching his/her sodium intake. But that's the great thing about cooking at home - you can control exactly how much salt goes into your food. A clove or two of fresh minced garlic would be a great replacement for the two teaspoons of salt in my pizza crust recipe. I also just discovered Trader Joe's Organic No Salt Added Low Fat Marinara Sauce, which has only about 33 mg of sodium in 2/3 cup, compared to the 498 mg in the tomato basil version that I used. Of course, the low sodium version has about three times more sugar, but that's a problem you're bound to run into when using pre-made low sodium (and low fat) products.

When tomatoes are in season later this summer, I'm looking forward to making organic tomato sauce from scratch, which will be a great opportunity to control the amount of salt AND sugar in the recipe. Any suggestions for what meal I should use it in? Olive Garden, perhaps?

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