Several ingredients in pizza, including cheese and meat toppings, may contain cholesterol. However, the exact amount of cholesterol, and whether it is harmful, can vary.

The type of pizza, brand, ingredients, and serving size all affect the amount of cholesterol in pizza. A pizza with no cheese or meat may not have much at all, while a stuffed-crust pizza with pepperoni could be relatively high in cholesterol.

Doctors sometimes advise people with certain health conditions to avoid dietary cholesterol. However, there is some debate about whether dietary cholesterol has an impact on blood cholesterol levels.

Read on to learn more about whether pizza is high in cholesterol, how much cholesterol it contains, and whether people need to avoid it.

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The amount of cholesterol in pizza will vary depending on the pizza brand, ingredients, serving size, and other factors.

Cholesterol is a waxy substance that comes from animal products. This means that some pizza toppings, such as cheese and meat, will contain some dietary cholesterol.

Other sources of dietary cholesterol include:

  • egg yolks
  • shrimp
  • beef
  • pork
  • chicken and turkey
  • dairy products such as butter

The more of these ingredients a pizza contains, the higher in cholesterol it will be.

Up to a point, cholesterol is not harmful. In the body, cholesterol is necessary for making hormones, vitamin D, and the enzymes required for digestion.

However, high levels of cholesterol in the blood can be harmful and can lead to cardiovascular disease (CVD).

Some evidence suggests that consuming high levels of dietary cholesterol raises blood cholesterol levels, which has led many scientists and health organizations to recommend that people limit the amount of cholesterol they eat.

But a 2022 analysis of previous data concluded that there is no correlation between dietary and blood cholesterol. Some scientists have also questioned whether eating cholesterol-containing foods makes a significant difference in CVD risk.

For example, the author of a 2018 review argues that there is not enough evidence to say that dietary cholesterol is responsible for increasing the chances of CVD. Instead, the author suggests that the saturated fat in certain foods has this effect.

Additionally, not all foods that contain cholesterol have the same nutritional profile. For example, eggs and shrimp contain cholesterol, but they also contain protein and other important nutrients and are low in saturated fat.

As research into this topic continues, people may benefit from speaking with a doctor or dietitian about what is right for them.

It is not possible to give exact nutritional information for every pizza, but an older study from the U.S. Department for Agriculture (USDA) found the following amounts of total fat and cholesterol in one specific pizza brand:

Total fat in grams (g) per 100 gCholesterol in milligrams (mg) per 100 g
Cheese pizza, thin crust12.8 g29.7 mg
Cheese pizza, regular crust10.4 g17.7 mg
Cheese pizza, thick crust11.3 g18.6 mg
Pepperoni pizza, regular crust12.6 g25.8 mg
Pepperoni pizza, thick crust13.1 g23.5 mg

Vegan pizzas will not contain any cholesterol since it comes only from animal products. However, store-bought vegan pizzas can still be a source of saturated fat, as some plant-based cheeses contain coconut oil.

The table below outlines the approximate cholesterol, total fat, and saturated fat content for various popular pizza toppings per ounce (28.3 g).

Total fatSaturated fatCholesterol
Mozzarella5.6 g3.2 g18 mg
Pepperoni13 g5 g27 mg
Ham2.5 g0.1 g16 mg
Pork sausage7.5 g2.6 g33 mg
Ground beef4 g1.7 g25 mg

Fruit and vegetable toppings such as peppers, mushrooms, onion, pineapple, and tomato will not contain any cholesterol. The same is true for plant-based meat alternatives.

People with high cholesterol need to limit their intake of foods that raise LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Generally, these are foods that are high in saturated fat, such as cheese and red meat.

As a result, a person with high cholesterol may need to avoid pizzas that contain these ingredients or may need to eat them only occasionally.

There are also ways of adapting pizza so that it contains less cholesterol and saturated fat.

People can include pizza in a balanced diet. If people want to reduce the cholesterol content of pizza, they may be able to do so in several ways:

  • Switching up toppings: Sometimes, a change in toppings can substantially reduce the cholesterol in pizza. For example, ham contains less cholesterol per gram than pepperoni. People could also choose pizzas with less cheese.
  • Switching to plant-based: Since plants do not contain cholesterol, plant-based diets have links to lower levels of cholesterol in the blood. However, plant-based pizzas may still contain sources of saturated fat, such as vegan cheese. It is important to read the nutritional information.
  • Switching the crust: Changing from a stuffed crust to a standard crust can reduce the amount of cheese a person eats and therefore reduce the amount of cholesterol. Opting for a sourdough base may also improve the bioavailability of nutrients in the crust.
  • Switching to homemade: Making pizza at home allows a person to tailor the ingredients to their needs. For those with CVD, this may be especially useful for reducing salt, as many store-bought and restaurant pizzas are high in sodium.

Pizza is not necessarily high in cholesterol. The cholesterol content will depend on the pizza type and brand, the ingredients, and the serving size.

There are plenty of ways to incorporate pizza into a balanced diet. Making a few adjustments to the toppings and crust can lower the cholesterol and saturated fat content.

People with underlying conditions and specific dietary needs should speak with a doctor or dietitian about creating a balanced diet that is appropriate for them.