Forty-one-year-old Mike Roman recently appeared on the New Theory podcast to discuss his penchant for pizza, which has apparently caused him to eat at least one slice for dinner every single day for the last 37 years (and counting).
On the podcast, Roman explains that his daily pizza consumption began when he was a picky eater as a child, which has obviously stuck with him: Roman still eats some combination of peanut butter and bread (or crackers) for lunch on a daily basis, at least when he’s not doubling down on pizza. His addiction to pizza is so strong, in fact, that Roman even goes on to mention that he had a few slices on his wedding day — and every single day during his honeymoon in Aruba, adding that his wife makes sure to confirm that pizza is readily available whenever (and wherever) they travel.
While Roman says that he gladly consumes any style akin to a basic cheese pizza — margherita, sicilian and anything similar — he also emphasizes that he passionately avoids toppings. When New Theory host Tom La Vecchia asks him whether he would eat a free pepperoni pizza, Roman swiftly (and sternly) replies, “I wouldn’t eat it.”
As for why Roman continues to eat pizza for dinner on the daily, he seems to think nothing of it. “Dinner to me is nothing, you know, really that special,” he admits on the podcast. “You’ve got to eat because you’re hungry.” Roman also claims that he never gets sick of pizza: “Every day I’m just as fascinated as the day before.”
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of Roman’s diet, however, is that he seems to believe it’s totally healthy. “Pizza has got, I think, three of the four basic food groups, and I think peanut butter covers that fourth spot,” he tells La Vecchia. “I’ve always been in shape, more or less. I mean, I think I look good, considering I eat pizza every day and hardly ever went to a gym.”
Of course, this can’t be true… can it?
For answers, we asked nutritionist David Friedman, author of Food Sanity: How to Eat in a World of Fads and Fiction, what eating pizza every day might actually do to your body.
“Refined flour used to make pizza has a high glycemic index due to the absence of fiber — that means it will spike your blood glucose levels,” Friedman says. “It can also increase blood pressure for several hours after eating it. This is why it’s not uncommon to feel lethargic and want to take a nap after eating pizza.”
“Pizza also contains an excessive amount of sodium, which has been linked to causing an increased appetite, making you overeat,” Friedman continues. “This is why you can easily go from ‘I’ll just have one more slice’ to scarfing down the entire pizza. Excessive sodium has also been linked to an increased risk of hypertension.”
Finally, there’s the cheese, which contains casein, an animal protein that may promote the growth of tumors. And while Roman sidesteps toppings, Friedman makes sure to mention that such meaty garnishes are terrible for us. “Pizza toppings, like pepperoni and beef, increase saturated fat and cholesterol intake,” he warns. “Processed meats used on pizza also contain nitrites, which research shows can increase the risk of cancer and heart disease.”
All of which means that Roman may very well die a pizza-induced death if he doesn’t find something else to eat, stat. Or if, at least, he doesn’t change things up a little. Because here’s the thing: Theoretically, Friedman explains, you could eat pizza every single day and maintain good health , but it would take a lot more work than just mainlining plain cheese slices from your local joint.
“The key is getting the right ingredients,” he emphasizes. “Instead of white processed flour, I opt for whole wheat or a cauliflower crust. Rather than using white processed table salt, I add black Hawaiian salt. This type of salt contains over 80 minerals and won’t increase your appetite. It’s also been shown to reduce the risk of hypertension. Rather than using tomato sauce from the store, which often contains chemical preservatives and artificial additives, I make my own sauce using organic tomatoes. Tomatoes contain lycopene, which has heart health benefits and cancer-inhibiting properties.”
Friedman goes on to explain that adding a variety of vegetables to your pizza — and going light on the cheese, or opting for vegan/goat cheese — would also be necessary parts of living well on a pizza-only diet. “Eating these same healthy ingredients on a plate with your fork, or eating them on a pizza, is just two different ways to consume the same healthy ingredients — only it’s a lot more fun to watch TV when you put them all on top of a pizza,” he emphasizes.
Registered dietitian nutritionist Ilana Muhlstein seconds this notion: “A person could certainly make a home version of pizza that would be healthy to eat everyday,” she says, after reiterating that restaurant-style pizza is horrible for all of the above-mentioned reasons. “For instance, you can make my egg-white pizzas and eat that at any meal time: Spray a medium skillet with non-stick spray and pour two-thirds of a cup of liquid egg whites. Set the heat to medium, and wait for the egg whites to firm up and become thick, like a pizza crust. You could then add marinara sauce, cheese and the toppings of your choice to get a high-protein pizza fix any or every day.” But of course, you’d still want to incorporate plenty of veggies elsewhere in your diet.
And if an early death sounds preferable to eating pizza made of egg whites and cauliflower, well, know that you’re definitely not alone.