Eating pizza can be a pleasurable experience. But if you are diabetic, the question of whether or not you can eat pizza is one that deserves some consideration. I have to admit that even for me it's always a battle. For this reason, I’ve put together this article about eating pizza as a diabetic to answer your questions and clear up any confusion on the matter.

In this Diabetic Me article, you will learn more about:

  • Can diabetics eat pizza?
  • Can pizza raise your blood sugar?
  • What is the best pizza for diabetics?

Diabetes is a condition in which the body’s ability to produce or respond to insulin – and ultimately regulate blood glucose levels – becomes impaired. There are different types of diabetes, but all can lead to high blood sugar levels if left untreated. While there isn’t one specific cause for this disease, many researchers believe that poor diet and lack of exercise play major roles in its development.

So what does this have to do with eating pizza? Well, as it turns out, there are many different things that can affect a person’s blood sugar and limit their ability to control glucose levels. And one of those factors is the food we eat – especially for diabetics or people who suffer from prediabetes or insulin resistance. When you combine certain foods into your diet on a regular basis (yes – even pizza!), they can lead to more serious health problems such as obesity and diabetes if eaten too often. But no worries! Not all pizzas were created equally; in fact, some varieties might actually help be a better option compared to regular pizza.

Can Pizza Raise Your Blood Sugar Levels?

Pizza is mainly categorized under fast food items. A typical slice of regular crust pizza with pepperoni contains around 33 grams of carbs, 12 grams of protein, and 10 grams of fat. Pizza is considered a high glycemic index food, meaning it can spike blood sugar levels quickly due to its high carb content and lack of fiber to slow digestion. The glycemic load of pizza is estimated to be around 25, which is quite high. As a result, eating pizza can significantly raise your blood sugar levels if you have diabetes.

Pizza is mainly categorized under fast food items. A typical slice of regular crust pizza with pepperoni contains around 33 grams of carbs, 12 grams of protein, and 10 grams of fat. Pizza is considered a high glycemic index food, meaning it can spike blood sugar levels quickly due to its high carb content and lack of fiber to slow digestion. The glycemic load of pizza is estimated to be around 25, which is quite high. As a result, eating pizza can significantly raise your blood sugar levels if you have diabetes.

What Is The Best Pizza for Diabetics?

So what makes certain varieties of pizza better than others when it comes to blood glucose levels? The main factors are the crust type, toppings, and portion size. Pizzas made with a refined white flour crust and topped with processed, high-fat meats tend to have a higher glycemic index and load, leading to greater spikes in blood sugar after eating. On the other hand, pizzas made with a whole grain or lower-carb crust like cauliflower, topped with veggies and lean proteins are lower on the glycemic index and less likely to cause major blood sugar spikes.

According to a 2010 study by researchers at the University of Sydney, eating less carbohydrate and following a lower glycemic index diet can help improve glucose control and prevent blood sugar spikes after meals. This is why many health experts recommend a low-carb, low glycemic eating pattern for managing diabetes and insulin resistance.

And this is precisely why many health experts recommend following a low-carb diet if you want to lower your risk for diabetes and insulin resistance.

Choose Different Crusts

For instance, choosing a whole wheat or cauliflower crust over a regular white flour crust can significantly reduce the carb and calorie content of your pizza. A cauliflower crust pizza may contain as little as 16 grams of carbs per serving, compared to over 60 grams for a standard crust. This lower carb load results in a smaller spike in blood sugar after eating. Other crust alternatives like chickpea or almond flour-based crusts are also good options.

Choose Healthier Toppings

The type of toppings you choose can significantly impact the nutritional value of pizza. High-fat meats like pepperoni and sausage, as well as extra cheese, can increase the calorie and saturated fat content. These toppings may also cause a more rapid spike in blood sugar levels. Instead, opt for leaner protein sources like grilled chicken or vegetables. Adding veggie toppings like spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms, peppers, and onions add fiber, nutrients and flavor while being low in carbs.

Make Your Own Diabetes-Friendly Pizza

Making pizza at home gives you full control over the ingredients, allowing you to create a more diabetes-friendly version. Using a whole wheat or cauliflower crust for a lower-carb base is great low-carb option. Top it with plenty of veggies, lean proteins like chicken or turkey pepperoni, and go light on the cheese.

You can also experiment with alternative crusts made from ingredients like chickpeas or almond flour. Homemade pizza is a great way to enjoy the flavors you love while better managing your carb intake and blood sugar levels.

How Can You Have Pizza And Still Follow Your Diet?

The trick here is to make sure you select the right pizza, take your insulin at the right time so it makes managing diabetes a bit easier while you enjoy pizza.

A pizza often contains more than 100 carbohydrates. If you inject or bolus this beforehand, there is a chance that you will first get a hypo. The insulin starts working while the carbohydrates are still waiting in the stomach.

Make sure to contact your healthcare team or registered dietitian to understand how to consume carbohydrates and to regulate your personal diet.

Illustration Of What Is The Best Pizza For Diabetics

Adjust Your Insulin Dosage

For those taking insulin, it's important to properly dose for the carbs in pizza, says Amy Hess, RD, LDN, CDE. "You'll want to take enough insulin to cover the carbs from the pizza, but you may need to split the dose or extend it over a few hours since pizza is a food that's digested more slowly." A common strategy is to take part of your insulin dose 15-20 minutes before eating, then the remaining portion 1-2 hours later.

Your insulin pump has settings that you can use to divide your insulin over the right time frame. Be sure to work closely with your healthcare team to determine the proper insulin dosing strategy for pizza or other high-carb meals.

Limit Your Portion Sizes

You can still enjoy a pizza when you limit your portion sizes. Eat only 4 instead of 6. Add a side salad with some olive oil instead of eating that extra slice of pizza.

Pepperoni Pizza Sliced Into Six Slices

How Bad Is Pizza for Diabetics?

In general, pizza can be divided into two major categories: thin crust and deep dish (or pan pizza). The main difference between these types is the amount of dough involved. A deep dish pizza crust contains significantly more carbs and calories than a thin crust - around 60-100 grams of carbs versus 20-35 grams for a thin crust slice. This results in a higher glycemic load and greater impact on blood sugar levels. For people with diabetes, thin crust pizza is usually the better option to help manage carb intake and prevent blood sugar spikes.

Thin crust pizza varieties usually have less dough than those made with a thicker dough or ‘deep-dish’ style crust, for example. In addition to this basic distinction between different pizza styles, there are also other factors that might lead to changes in blood sugar levels after eating pizza such as

  • whether it was cooked at home or from takeout/delivery
  • how many slices do you eat during one meal
  • what toppings were added (extra cheese has been found to raise glucose more quickly)
  • if it's a fresh or frozen pizza
  • and whether or not you add sugar to your pizza (a no-no for diabetics).

Conclusion

Pizza may be a favorite food for many, but it can pose some risks to people with diabetes. The key is knowing how your body reacts to certain types of pizza and what you should avoid if you have the condition. If you're looking for healthy alternatives that are still delicious, try different crusts or covering up the fat in order to keep your blood sugar levels steady.

Sources

At Diabetic Me, we are committed to delivering information that is precise, accurate, and pertinent. Our articles are supported by verified data from research papers, prestigious organizations, academic institutions, and medical associations to guarantee the integrity and relevance of the information we provide. You can learn more about our process and team on the about us page.

  1. National Library of Medicine A low-fat vegan diet and a conventional diabetes diet in the treatment of type 2 diabetes: a randomized, controlled, 74-wk clinical trial1,2,3,4
  2. Milk & Honey Nutrition Pizza and Diabetes: Dietitian-approved tips for eating pizza with diabetes

About the Author

Ely Fornoville

Hi, I'm Ely Fornoville, and I am the founder of Diabetic Me. Being a type 1 diabetic since 1996, I developed a passion to help people learn more about diabetes. I write about diabetes and share stories from other diabetics around the world. I currently use a Medtronic Guardian 4 CGM and a MiniMed 780G insulin pump with Humalog insulin.

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