On Global Iodine Deficiency Disorders Prevention day, here's a primer on the types of salts and the answer to which one is the healthiest
According to UNICEF, iodine deficiency is one of the most common causes of intellectual disability and brain damage in children.
Though low-sodium salt is widely available, it is hard to take out a large amount of sodium from any type of salt - too much sodium is bad for the heart
Regular table salt is refined and is often fortified with iodine - a mineral that is important for metabolic functions
According to UNICEF, iodine deficiency is one of the most common causes of intellectual disability and brain damage in children
October 21 is the Global Iodine Deficiency Disorders Prevention day. In India, we think about salt at the mere mention of the word iodine. The reason: most of us have grown up eating iodized salt.
Salt is the most important condiment in the kitchen. Not only does it make the food flavourful but it also a source of important minerals. Regular table salt is refined and is often fortified with iodine - a mineral that is important for metabolic functions.
Chemically speaking, salt is primarily sodium chloride. Though low-sodium salt is now widely available in the market, it is hard to take out a large amount of sodium from any type of salt - too much sodium can negatively impact the heart.
However, not all salts are alike. So, then which salt is the best? Let us have a look at the various salt types to get an answer to that.
Table salt/ Iodised salt/ Common salt
Almost every kitchen has table salt. It is made by grinding and refining mined salt - a process that leaches out most of its minerals. However, most table salts are fortified with iodine. Our body needs iodine to make the thyroid hormone. This hormone is responsible for controlling all the metabolic functions in the body. Iodine also plays an important role in the development of the fetal brain and the mental development of young children.
According to UNICEF, iodine deficiency is one of the most common causes of intellectual disability and brain damage in children. It could also lead to stillbirth, miscarriage and increase the risk of infant mortality.
An adult needs around 150 mcg of iodine daily. Seaweed, milk and milk products are a good source of iodine. However, since Indian soil is deficient in iodine, most crops here don’t contain a sufficient amount of this mineral. The livestock and milk products would then not have enough iodine either. Hence, we must take our recommended daily dosage from another source. Enter: Iodised salt. Half a teaspoon of iodised salt can give you about 142 mcg of iodine.
In 1962, the Indian government decided to iodise salt to combat iodine deficiency and goitre in the country. Goitre is a disease marked by a swollen neck due to an enlargement of the thyroid gland. Iodine deficiency is the most common cause of goitre.
However, about 99.9% of table salt is sodium chloride (NaCl). Excess sodium not only raises blood pressure but also predisposes one to stomach ailments and stomach cancer. Estimates suggest that Indians consume around 11g of salt per day. This is much more than the World Health Association’s recommendation of 5g of salt in a day.
Himalayan salt is mined from the rocks of the Himalayan caves. This salt is pink in colour due to the presence of iron oxide and is generally a bit less salty than table salt. Himalayan salt has some amount of iodine but not as much as regular iodised salt. It also contains some amount of calcium, magnesium and potassium. Also, Himalayan salt is said to have almost the same amount of sodium chloride as table salt.
Sea salt, as the name suggests, is obtained from seawater or saltwater lakes. It is slightly low in sodium chloride (85.7%) as compared to table salt (99%) and contains various minerals such as calcium, potassium, magnesium along with trace amounts of zinc, iron and manganese. The mineral content varies depending on the source. Studies indicate that since it is low in sodium, switching to sea salt helps control blood pressure to an extent.
Kosher salt is just regular salt with larger crystals. The name kosher comes from the fact that this salt is used for koshering (or purifying) meats in Jewish tradition - a practice of removing all the blood from the meat before it is consumed. Kosher salt is usually uniodised and unlike table salt, contains no other additives.
Which one to pick
Almost all types of salt contain a high amount of sodium. Though Himalayan and sea salt have some amounts of other minerals, when compared to the total composition, they are almost negligible. On the other hand, iodine is important for health but you can obtain the recommended daily intake with just about half a teaspoon of salt. So, whichever kind of salt you pick, make sure you meet your iodine needs, and use salt in moderation.
Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health. For more information, read our article on Salt Deficiency.
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