Dr. Thomas Dwan - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Thomas Dwan

Is Marco's Pizza Bad For You?



Short answer

Consuming Marco's Pizza can be unhealthy if eaten frequently due to high calories, saturated fats, refined carbs, sodium, and potentially harmful additives. While pizza offers some micronutrients, the amounts are overshadowed by calorie-dense toppings that contribute to heart disease and other health issues. Occasional consumption in moderation, balanced with nutrient-dense food, can be part of a healthy diet.



Long answer

Nutritional Profile of Marco's Pizza

When evaluating the nutritional profile of Marco's Pizza, it's essential to look at several key components that contribute to its overall health impact. These components include calories, macronutrients such as fats, carbohydrates, and proteins, as well as micronutrients like vitamins and minerals. The assessment below provides a closer look at what you can expect nutritionally from a typical slice of Marco's pizza.

Caloric Content: The calorie count of a pizza slice depends largely on the size of the slice and the toppings included. A standard slice of Marco's Cheese Pizza (Classic crust), for instance, has approximately 220-300 calories. Adding meats and extra cheese can significantly increase the calorie content, making it important to consider portion size in the context of daily caloric needs.


  • Fats: Cheese and certain toppings, especially meats, contribute to the total fat content. A slice of Marco's Cheese Pizza contains around 9-11 grams of fat, of which 3-5 grams are saturated. High intake of saturated fats is associated with an increased risk of heart disease.
  • Carbohydrates: The crust is the primary source of carbohydrates in pizza. A slice from Marco’s may range from 20 to 40 grams of carbohydrates depending on the crust and toppings chosen. Dietary fiber is present in small quantities, generally less than 2 grams per slice, affecting blood sugar control and satiety levels.
  • Proteins: Marco's Pizza provides a moderate amount of protein per slice, typically between 10 to 15 grams, which mostly comes from cheese and meat toppings. Protein is a critical macronutrient for muscle repair and growth.

Sodium Content: One of the more considerable concerns in pizza is the sodium level. A standard slice of Marco’s pizza can contain upwards of 500-700 mg of sodium, a sizable portion of the 2300 mg daily maximum recommended by the American Heart Association. High sodium intake is linked to increased blood pressure and risk of heart disease.

Micronutrients: Pizzas can offer a range of micronutrients, including calcium from cheese and various vitamins and minerals from vegetable toppings. However, compared to the overall caloric intake, the micronutrient density may be lower than what is found in more whole, unprocessed foods.

By understanding the nutritional profile of Marco's Pizza, consumers can make informed decisions based on their individual dietary needs and health goals. It's important to balance meals like pizza with nutrient-dense foods throughout the day to ensure a well-rounded diet.

Saturated Fats, Sodium, and Their Health Implications

Before diving into the specifics of Marco's Pizza, it's essential to understand the roles that saturated fats and sodium play in our diet, and how they can impact our health. These two nutritional components are often found in high quantities within many pizza varieties, making this a crucial area to explore for anyone concerned about the health implications of pizza consumption.

Saturated Fats:

The concern with saturated fats arises from their association with increased levels of LDL cholesterol (also known as "bad" cholesterol) in the bloodstream, which is a known risk factor for heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fats to less than 5 to 6 percent of total daily calories for individuals needing to lower their cholesterol.

  • One slice of Marco's Pizza, particularly from their Meats Pizza or Pepperoni Magnifico, may contain between 5-10 grams of saturated fats, depending on the size and specific recipe.
  • Understanding that the average adult should not consume more than 13 grams of saturated fat per day, a couple of pizza slices can potentially bring an individual close to this daily limit.


Sodium is another component that requires attention. While it is a necessary mineral for bodily functions, excessive sodium intake is linked with higher blood pressure, which increases the risk of stroke, heart failure, and kidney disease. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest an upper limit of 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day for adults.

  • Marco's Pizza can be quite high in sodium, with some pizzas containing over 900 milligrams per slice. Overconsumption can be a health risk, particularly for individuals with hypertension.
  • Regular consumption of high-sodium foods like pizza contributes to the average American's excessive daily sodium intake, which is more than 3,400 milligrams—well over the recommended limit.

When considering Marco's Pizza as part of your diet, it's important to factor in the type of pizza and the portion size. Deep-dish styles and those with extra cheese or processed meats will generally have higher amounts of saturated fat and sodium compared to a thin-crust pizza with vegetable toppings. For individuals with specific health concerns, such as high cholesterol or hypertension, it is especially vital to be mindful of these nutritional details.

Health Implications:

Eating foods high in saturated fats and sodium on a regular basis can have long-term health implications. Here are some potential concerns:

  • Increased risk of heart disease due to higher LDL cholesterol levels caused by saturated fats.
  • Potential for developing hypertension as a result of excessive sodium intake.
  • Higher likelihood of weight gain and obesity because pizzas, particularly those rich in saturated fats, are also high in calories.
  • Possible increased risk of chronic conditions such as Type 2 diabetes and some forms of cancer, linked to poor dietary choices high in saturated fats and sodium.

It's important to consider these factors in the context of a balanced diet. Eating pizza occasionally and in moderation, especially when choosing options with lower saturated fat and sodium content, can be a part of a healthy diet. However, reliance on pizza as a frequent meal choice should be carefully reconsidered in light of these health considerations.

Refined Carbs in Pizza Crust and Blood Sugar Levels

When evaluating the nutritional profile of pizza, particularly from places like Marco's Pizza, it's important to consider the type of carbohydrates used in the pizza crust. Typically, the pizza dough is made from refined wheat flour, which lacks the fiber, vitamins, and minerals found in whole grain alternatives. The refining process strips away the bran and germ of the wheat grain, leaving behind the endosperm, which is mostly composed of carbohydrates.

This high concentration of refined carbs can have a direct impact on blood sugar levels. After consuming a meal heavy in refined carbohydrates, the body quickly converts these carbs into glucose, which enters the bloodstream, causing a rapid spike in blood sugar. The body's regulatory system responds by releasing insulin to help cells absorb and use glucose for energy, but over time, frequent blood sugar spikes can lead to insulin resistance – a condition where the body's cells don't respond as effectively to insulin.

Insulin resistance is a primary risk factor for type 2 diabetes and can be exacerbated by the regular consumption of foods high in refined carbohydrates, like many types of pizza.

Furthermore, studies have shown connections between diets high in refined carbs and various health issues:

  • An increased risk of type 2 diabetes: A diet rich in refined carbohydrates can overwork the pancreas, which has to produce more insulin to manage the sugar load, potentially leading to diabetes. (Source: American Diabetes Association)
  • Cardiovascular disease: Frequent spikes in blood sugar and insulin can lead to inflammation, which is a risk factor for heart disease. (Source: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute)
  • Weight gain and obesity: Refined carbs can lead to overeating because they are less satisfying than whole grains and can cause rapid fluctuations in blood sugar levels that may increase hunger. (Source: Harvard School of Public Health)

While Marco's Pizza, like many other pizza chains, offers a quick and convenient meal option, it's important to be mindful of how often such foods are consumed due to their refined carb content. Alternatives to consider might include pizzas made with whole-grain crusts, which have a lower glycemic index and provide more sustained energy, or customizing your pizza with abundant vegetable toppings that can add fiber and nutrients to help mitigate the blood sugar rise.

For those particularly concerned about blood sugar levels or managing conditions such as prediabetes or diabetes, it's advisable to consult with a registered dietitian or healthcare professional on how to enjoy meals like pizza as part of a balanced diet. When consumed in moderation and balanced with other nutritious foods, pizza can be included in a diverse and healthy eating pattern.

Artificial Additives and Preservatives in Fast Food Pizza

Navigating the world of fast food pizza can often be a dietary tightrope walk, especially when it comes to understanding the role and impact of artificial additives and preservatives. These ingredients are frequently used in the industry to enhance flavor, appearance, and shelf-life, yet their inclusion is not without controversy. Let's unravel the significance of these components in your favorite slice of fast food pizza.

First, it is essential to identify common artificial additives and preservatives you may find in fast food pizza:

  • Monosodium Glutamate (MSG): This flavor enhancer is used to enrich the taste of foods. Although the FDA classifies MSG as safe for consumption, some individuals may experience symptoms like headaches or flushing when consuming high amounts.
  • Sodium Nitrate: Often used in meats such as pepperoni and sausage toppings, sodium nitrate serves as a preservative but can form nitrosamines, substances that have been linked to an increased risk of certain types of cancer when consumed in large quantities over time.
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS): This sweetener is found in many pizza sauces and can contribute to increased sugar intake, potentially leading to weight gain, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease with excessive consumption.
  • Artificial Colors: Synthetic dyes may be used in ingredients like toppings to maintain vibrant color. Some artificial colors have been associated with hyperactivity in children and other adverse effects, although more research is needed.
  • Trans Fats: Partially hydrogenated oils, a source of trans fats, have been used in the past to improve the texture of dough and increase shelf-life. However, trans fats have been largely phased out due to their well-documented negative impact on heart health.

It is worth noting that the use of these additives and preservatives is regulated by food safety authorities such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which sets acceptable daily intakes for these substances. Despite such regulations, health-conscious consumers often opt to limit or avoid these ingredients due to potential long-term health effects.

Scientific studies have raised concerns regarding the cumulative effects of artificial additives and preservatives on health. For example, research published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) suggests a possible connection between consumption of highly processed foods and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Additionally, a study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has highlighted the potential for some preservatives to disrupt gut microbiota, influencing overall gut health.

For individuals with specific sensitivities or dietary restrictions, the presence of these substances in fast food pizza can result in adverse reactions. For example, those with a sensitivity to MSG may experience the so-called 'Chinese restaurant syndrome,' characterized by symptoms such as headache, sweating, and facial pressure or tightness.

Health experts often recommend opting for pizzas with fewer processed ingredients or homemade options to reduce exposure to these artificial additions. When choosing a fast food pizza, it can be beneficial to review nutritional information and ingredient lists provided by the pizza chains, which can often be found online.

In conclusion, while the occasional indulgence in a fast food pizza slice is unlikely to cause immediate harm, awareness of the potential impact of artificial additives and preservatives is crucial for making informed dietary choices. By opting for pizzas with natural ingredients and minimal processing, consumers can enjoy this popular dish while maintaining a health-conscious diet.

Calorie Density and Weight Management Considerations

When assessing whether consuming Marco's Pizza aligns with weight management goals, it's crucial to understand the concept of calorie density. This refers to the number of calories in a given weight of food, usually expressed as calories per gram. Foods with high-calorie density provide a large number of calories in a small volume, which can lead to unintentional overeating if one isn't careful. Let's dive into how this applies to pizza from a nutritional perspective.

Pizza, by its very nature, is a calorie-dense food due to its combination of cheese, meats, and processed dough. These ingredients typically pack a high caloric content within a small serving. To give you a clearer picture, here's a breakdown of the average calorie content in Marco's Pizza offerings:

  • A standard slice of a large Classic Cheese Pizza from Marco's contains approximately 210 calories.
  • An equivalent slice of Marco's All Meat Pizza boasts up to 300 calories or more, depending on the ingredients.

Considering that a typical meal should range between 500 to 700 calories for the average adult, consuming multiple slices of pizza can quickly surpass this range, throwing off an individual's daily caloric intake. This is particularly important for individuals monitoring their weight or trying to lose weight, as caloric control is a fundamental aspect of weight management.

To navigate this high-calorie density effectively, one might consider the following strategies:

  • Portion Control: Limiting yourself to one or two slices and complementing them with a side salad could help balance out the meal.
  • Ingredient Selection: Opting for pizzas with vegetable toppings, lean proteins, and thin crusts can reduce the calorie content per slice.
  • Frequency: Treating pizza as an occasional indulgence rather than a staple can help maintain a balanced dietary intake.

It's also pertinent to mention that weight management is not solely about calorie counting but also about nutritional quality. A diet rich in whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, provides essential nutrients and should form the majority of one's dietary intake for optimal health.

In conclusion, while enjoying a slice of Marco's Pizza now and then can be part of a balanced diet, regular consumption, especially of pies with high-calorie toppings, could become an obstacle to weight management due to its calorie density. As always, moderation is key, and complementing indulgent meals with physically active lifestyle offers a practical approach to weight management.

Balancing Pizza in a Healthy Diet: Tips and Tricks

While pizza is often categorized as a comfort food with a reputation for being less than nutritious, it's possible to enjoy it within the context of a healthy diet. The key is balance and smart choices. Here are some practical tips and tricks for incorporating pizza into your diet without compromising your wellness goals.

Choose Whole Grain Crusts

Opt for whole grain or whole wheat crusts when available. These options have higher fiber content, which can help with digestion and give a sense of fullness, potentially reducing overall calorie intake. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that whole grains are associated with various health benefits, including a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

Load Up on Veggies

Toppings can make or break the nutritional quality of your pizza. Pile on the vegetables for added nutrients without too many extra calories. Vegetables not only increase the vitamin and mineral content but also elevate the flavor profile. Common nutrient-dense options include bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, spinach, and mushrooms.

Be Mindful of Cheese and Meat

Cheese is a good source of calcium and protein but is also high in saturated fats, which should be consumed in moderation. Choosing a pizza with less cheese or lower-fat cheese can help reduce calorie and fat intake. Similarly, processed meats like pepperoni and sausage are high in sodium and saturated fats. Opt for leaner protein choices such as grilled chicken or include plant-based proteins like chickpeas for a heart-healthier pizza.

Practice Portion Control

Modifying your portions is an effective way to enjoy pizza. Aim to start with a salad to ease hunger, and limit the number of slices to what’s satisfying without overindulging. According to Dietary Guidelines, keeping track of portions is an essential part of maintaining a balanced diet.

Opt for Better Side Dishes

The classic pizza accompaniments like garlic knots or wings aren't typically the healthiest side options. Instead, choose a side salad dressed with a vinaigrette or steamed veggies. This can round out your meal with more fiber and fewer calories, leading to a more nutritionally balanced plate.

Choose Healthier Pizza Styles

  • Thin crust instead of thick or stuffed crusts, reducing the total calorie and carb content.
  • Smaller pies or personal pizzas to keep portion sizes automatically in check.
  • Pizzas with a focus on Mediterranean ingredients, like tomatoes, olives, and feta, which are generally part of a diet associated with positive health outcomes.

Consider the Meal as a Whole

When eating pizza, it is important to consider how it fits into your entire day’s meal plan. Balance pizza with other meals that are rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains to ensure a varied and nutrient-rich diet. Pizza doesn't have to be a standalone indulgence; it can coexist with an array of healthful foods in your dietary pattern.

Remember, moderation and the quality of ingredients are critical when it comes to integrating pizza into a healthy diet. A balanced approach will allow you to enjoy pizza without compromising your health objectives.

Frequently asked questions

Yes, pizza can fit into a low-sodium diet, but it requires careful choices. Opt for a pizza with a thin crust, select vegetable toppings instead of high-sodium processed meats, and ask for light cheese. Some pizzerias may offer low-sodium sauce options or you can make your own pizza at home with no-added-salt ingredients to better control sodium content.

To make a pizza meal more balanced, start with a side salad to add fiber and nutrients. Choose a pizza with whole-grain crust, plenty of vegetable toppings, and lean protein sources, such as grilled chicken. Consider sharing your pizza to naturally control portion sizes, and complete your meal with a piece of fruit for dessert.

Frequent consumption of pizza, particularly those with refined carbohydrate crusts and high in sugar and saturated fat, can contribute to increased blood sugar levels and insulin resistance, increasing the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. It's recommended to enjoy pizza in moderation and to opt for versions with whole-grain crusts and nutritious toppings.

For a healthier pizza, choose part-skim mozzarella, which has less saturated fat and fewer calories than full-fat cheese. Some other options include ricotta, fresh mozzarella, or a sprinkling of stronger cheeses like Parmesan or feta for flavor without needing a large quantity. Additionally, consider asking for reduced cheese to further lower fat and calories.

Ask a question about Marco's Pizza and our team will publish the answer as soon as possible.

Possible short-term side effects

  • headaches
  • flushing
  • increased blood pressure
  • spike in blood sugar
  • potential overeating

Possible long-term side effects

  • increased ldl cholesterol
  • hypertension
  • weight gain
  • obesity
  • type 2 diabetes
  • heart disease
  • certain cancers
  • insulin resistance

Ingredients to be aware of


  • provides protein
  • contains calcium and other micronutrients from vegetables

Healthier alternatives

  • whole grain or whole wheat crusts
  • vegetables as toppings
  • lean proteins
  • homemade pizzas
  • pizzas with less processed ingredients

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 02-28-2024

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 02-28-2024

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