Salt / Sodium

Posted by Eleanor Marshall on 10 February 2016

Salt / Sodium

Do you ever go to buy salt and think, should I buy iodized or just plain salt?
Or should I completely omit it?

 As stated in the New Zealand Eating Guidelines:

Choose and/or prepare foods and drinks:

  • with unsaturated fats instead of saturated fats
  • that are low in salt (sodium); if using salt, choose iodised salt
  • with little or no added sugar

Salt is a crystalline mineral made of two elements, sodium (Na) and chlorine (Cl).
Sodium and chlorine are absolutely essential for life in animals, including humans. They serve important functions like helping the brain and nerves send electrical impulses.

Most of the world’s salt is harvested from salt mines, or by evaporating sea water or other mineral-rich waters. Salt is used for various purposes, the most common of which is adding flavor to foods. Salt is also used as a food preservative, because bacteria have trouble growing in a salt-rich environment.

The reason salt is often perceived as unhealthy (in large amounts), is that it can bind water in the bloodstream and raise blood pressure. But even though studies have suggested that lowering salt intake can reduce blood pressure there is no evidence that lowering salt definitely prevents heart attacks, stroke or death.

Iodine is an essential nutrient for humans. Although only required in very small amounts, it is an important constituent of thyroid hormones. These hormones maintain the body’s metabolic state and support normal growth and development in children. As iodine is essential for normal brain development, it is particularly important that the unborn baby (fetus) and young children have adequate intakes.

The great majority of sodium in the Western diet comes from processed foods. In 1924 Iodine was added to table salt as people were becoming deficient. However due to the rise in processed food consumption containing a huge amount of salt (not typically iodized) and therefore less iodized salt used in the home there is once again a need to consider the amount of iodine we consume. 

To overcome this, aim to eat mostly whole and unprocessed foods. You can then control how much iodized salt you use. Or even better, use a small amount of pink Himalayan Salt which contains iodine, magnesium, zinc, iron and calcium. This is particularly beneficial for those who sweat profusely. If flavor is an issue, try flavoring your meals with extra herbs and spices.

Please note: Dietary sources of iodine include seafood (fish, shellfish and seaweed), commercially prepared bread, iodised salt, seameal custard, milk and eggs. The Ministry of Health’s Food and Nutrition Guidelines for Healthy Adults: recommend choosing iodised salt when using salt, but do not recommend increasing overall salt intake.

For more individualized advice please see Nutritionist, Eleanor Marshall or your Doctor.

Source: Ministry of Health

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