Pizza Crust, Moldy Food, Breakfast and Weight Control

Pizza Crust, Moldy Food, Breakfast and Weight Control

Q: Does the type of pizza crust you choose really make that much difference?
Q: Is it true that moldy food can cause cancer?
Q: Does eating breakfast really help weight control?


Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN
American Institute for Cancer Research

Q: Does the type of pizza crust you choose really make that much difference?
A: Each restaurant makes their pizza a little differently, but choosing a thin crust pizza can save from 30 to 120 calories per slice compared to thicker hand-tossed crusts. Deep-dish pizza crust can add up to 50 calories to each slice. If you get a crust that is stuffed with extra cheese, calories go up by another 30 calories per slice. Looking beyond calories, more and more places offer the option of whole-wheat crust. With more fiber and nutrients, that’s an option that definitely boosts the nutritional value of your pizza.

Q: Is it true that moldy food can cause cancer?
A: Moldy food only causes cancer when it’s the type of mold that produces aflatoxins, which are known carcinogens. This contamination occurs mainly when peanuts or grains are improperly stored in warm, damp climates for long periods of time. Levels of aflatoxin contamination are highest in some areas of Africa as well as South-East Asia, where food inspection is less common. In the U.S., crops are monitored to remove any potential problems and screening of imported foods is tightly regulated. Other types of mold don’t cause cancer, but can cause allergic reactions or respiratory problems or produce toxins that make you sick. Not all mold is harmful, however. Some mold, like that present in blue cheese, provides distinct flavor characteristics with no toxic side effects. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has information on their Web site (www.fsis.usda.gov) that can helps you identify when food is unsafe to eat. Food that is porous, like bread, or that has a high moisture content, like yogurt, tomatoes, peaches and meat, allows mold to spread below the surface. Discard these if you see mold. Firm, low-moisture vegetables (such as carrots or bell peppers) and hard cheese (such as cheddar) are considered safe as long as you cut away the entire mold spot with a one-inch margin without letting your knife touch the mold.

Q: Does eating breakfast really help weight control?
A: Research suggests that it usually does. In a new study of more than 6,700 men and women, those who consumed the smallest proportion of their daily calories at breakfast gained 50 percent more weight over the study period than those who got more of their calories earlier in the day. These findings echo the results of a similar study published last year that looked at the eating habits of 20,000 men, middle-aged and older. Breakfast eaters, the study reports, were 25 percent less likely to gain a significant amount of weight (11 pounds or more) over a 10 year follow-up time period. Studies in teenagers also link skipping breakfast with overweight, obesity and weight gain. Researchers note that breakfast may directly affect metabolism or may simply help weight control less directly by decreasing extra calories from morning snacking or larger lunches. Note, however, that what you eat for breakfast is just as important. Choosing high-fat, high-calorie breakfasts items at fast food restaurants or diners (many of which tally up to 800 calories) can quickly negate the weight-controlling benefits of eating breakfast in the first place.

Reprinted with permission from the American Institute for Cancer Research www.aicr.org