Is Iodized Salt Good for You

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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Iodized salt is regular table salt that is infused with trace amounts of the element iodine, an essential micronutrient that affects a number of key processes in the body.

What Is Iodized Salt?

Iodized salt is a form of normal table salt (sodium chloride) that includes an extremely small quantity of iodine salts. This is usually done by spraying regular salt with potassium iodate, a practice that has been in place since the 1920s, following reports like this one. While salt has become a much broader term in modern years, with options like Pink Himalayan salt, rock salt, and sea salt, most people still have iodized salt in their home. The majority of table salt that you come across in domestic and commercial settings will be iodized.

A sack of sea salt spilled on the table, a wooden scoop, and a plate of sea salt on a wooden table

Iodized salt Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Iodized Salt vs. Non-Iodized Salt

The only difference between iodized salt and non-iodized salt is the content of iodine included in the former. Non-iodized salt still provides the body with sodium, which is essential for fluid balance in the body and various other processes. Furthermore, iodine can have a visual effect on food when it is oxidized; it will cause darkening in food, so for people who enjoy pickling foods or making a brine, non-iodized salt is often preferred since it will not change the color or appearance of the food.

Why Is Iodised Salt Used?

The primary reason that iodized salt has become so ubiquitous in kitchens and restaurants around the world is that it can prevent a number of health conditions, including iodine deficiency. Since salt is a universal ingredient in many cuisines and recipes, adding an essential nutrient in minute quantities to it can be an effective public health measure to prevent the many effects of iodine deficiency.

Iodine Deficiency

Iodine deficiency is often characterized by goiter, an enlargement of the thyroid gland on the neck that occurs when the body is trying to get more iodine. The symptoms of this deficiency are quite serious, as thyroxin is necessary for proper neurodevelopment both in the womb and as an infant. It can also lead to cretinism and endemic goiter if left untreated, as explained in a report by the Bulletin of the World Health Organization. The widespread lack of iodine in the human diet was recognized as a global health issue in the early 20th century. A broad effort to iodize the majority of salt was the potential solution.

Iodine cannot be produced by the body, but it is a key component of thyroid hormone (thyroxin), which in turn plays a key role in many of our metabolic processes. Therefore, we must get the necessary amounts of iodine from the food we eat; some of the common sources of iodine include seafood and other food sources cultivated on land that was once underwater. If we fail to bring enough iodine into our diet, then iodine deficiency will arise.

Safety Precautions

While preventing iodine deficiency is certainly important for your overall health, you don’t want to overdo it with the salt intake. The daily recommended amount of iodine in our diet is roughly 150 micrograms, which can be acquired through as little as half a teaspoon of iodized table salt. The majority of diets include much more than half a teaspoon of salt every day. This is true whether people are cooking for themselves or buying prepared meals. An excess of salt in the diet, however, may lead to high blood pressure. This can, in turn, can cause a number of other health concerns affecting the heart, kidneys, and brain, as explained in an article in the Hypertension journal.

Getting your iodine intake is important, but moderating your overall salt intake is also critical to your health.

Kosher Salt vs Iodized Salt

Kosher salt is a form of rock salt that has larger and coarser granules than regular table salt. It is still primarily sodium chloride but does not have iodine additives. In addition, it has certain anti-clumping agents added to it. The reason kosher salt is called “kosher” is because of its use to draw the blood out of foods in the drying process. The large coarse grains are better able to adhere to the skin of meat for this purpose. Some chefs also consider the taste of kosher salt to be milder and therefore prefer it in their cooking.

Finally, when baking, if the salt ingredient needs to be dissolved in a small amount of liquid, kosher salt may be too large to fully dissolve, so bakers often prefer normal iodized salt. Kosher salt’s consistency and size also make it popular for other purposes, such as lining margarita glasses and creating salt crusts on seafood.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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