Sea salt and other specialty salts like Himalayan salt are touted as healthier than good old iodized table salt.
Many food manufacturers have started adding sea salt instead of iodized salt, and many folks have switched over to using sea salt for everyday use.
However, the switch from table salt does come with consequences – namely, iodine deficiency, which has started to reemerge in the United States.
Here’s a look at the differences between the salts and how you can make the best decision for yourself.
Iodized table salt
Iodine is an essential mineral that must be obtained through food, but not a lot of foods outside of sea vegetables like nori, wakame and kombu kelp and saltwater fish contain it.
Dairy products also contain iodine, partly because of the iodine feed supplements fed to cows but the amounts can vary. You also can find the mineral in produce, though the amounts vary depending on the iodine content of the soil, fertilizer use and irrigation practices.
When the body lacks iodine, the thyroid does not produce enough hormones to help it grow and develop.
Iodine deficiency can result in goiter, or enlarged thyroid gland.
During pregnancy and early infancy, iodine deficiency can cause irreversible effects. So in the 1920s, when iodine deficiencies were rampant in the U.S., many food manufacturers in the U.S. began iodized table salt. As a result, about 90 percent of homes in this country use iodized salt.
Here is how much iodine you should get each day:
•Children ages 1-8: 90 micrograms.
•Children ages 9-13: 120 micrograms.
•Children ages 14 and older: 140 micrograms.
•Pregnant and lactating women: 220 micrograms and 290 micrograms, respectively.
Consuming a half-teaspoon of iodized salt provides 150 milligrams and can meet the needs of the general population.
As such, iodized salt should be the primary salt used in your kitchen in moderation.
This option includes any salt that has been harvested from the sea, as opposed to the Earth. Various regions have different harvesting methods, but making sea salt generally involves the evaporation of seawater. The different methods result in variations in mineral content, color, flavor and texture.
Most sea salts have large irregular shaped crystals, tend to be more expensive and are used as finishing salts.
Sea salt is commonly thought of as a healthier alternative to common iodized table salt; however, the sodium content is comparable. Typically it is not iodized.
One advantage of sea salt is that you can use less because it takes up more volume teaspoon for teaspoon.
This type of salt has also gained popularity because of its coarse flake-like crystals that have a subtle flavor, are easy to pinch and quickly dissolve.
Kosher salt is derived from either the sea or the Earth. Similar to iodized table salt, it is made of sodium chloride, but usually without additives.
It is versatile in the kitchen and perfect for cooking, brining, topping popcorn and rimming margarita glasses. Kosher salt is not iodized.
Himalayan pink salt
This pretty option is a coarse sea salt mined in the foothills of the Himalayas.
It is found in various shades of pink because of its iron, calcium, potassium and magnesium content. Typically it is not iodized.
According to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, almost all Americans consume too much salt. So why is there an increase in iodine deficiency in the U.S.?
There are several reasons. First, the fortification of iodine in salt is voluntary. As such, manufacturers of most sea salt, kosher salt and other types of salt do not iodize their products.
Additionally, salt consumption from the shaker has declined and much of the salt consumed is from commercially processed foods that almost always contain non-iodized salt.