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The salty truth

(article, Kim Carlson)

We look to the Enviromental Working Group for advice about food, cosmetics, and much more; their Dirty Dozen list, about which produce is best to buy organic, is indispensable, and their farm-subsidy database makes for fascinating reading.

So when they address a question like the one they address today, about whether we should eat iodized salt, we pay attention. After all, we use kosher salt when we cook and catch ourselves buying gourmet salt on occasion. 

But are we missing out on iodine when we do? And what does iodine do for us, anyway?

The EWG's Enviroblog advocates for consuming iodized salt, since iodine helps the thyroid function properly, especially when other persistent environmental chemicals (such as perchlorate) interfere with thyroid function. 

Unfortunately, though, after reading the comments, we're more confused than ever. Many commenters suggest that recommending iodized salt is a bad idea; one is especially wry, stating, "You can obtain high levels of iodine from a nuclear explosion as well, but it's radioactive." Some suggest eating seaweed, which is naturally high in iodine, as is most seafood; others say unrefined sea salt has enough iodine to be helpful. 

For more on the subject, we consulted Nina Planck's book Real Food. She favors using unrefined sea salt instead of commercially processed and iodized salt; as she writes, conventional salt is basically a chemical cocktail, while unrefined sea salt has plenty of vital trace elements, including iodine. "The body," she asserts, "absorbs natural iodine in unrefined sea salt more easily \[than from commercial salt\]."

In a nutshell? Iodine deficiency is problematic, but fortunately you need very little to be healthy: a lifetime supply for one person is a mere teaspoon — but not all at once; that's one teaspoon ingested over, well, a lifetime. 

Meanwhile we're glad that the talk of salt isn't all serious.