Salt, or sodium chloride, is not just a key pantry staple: It’s also one of the most essential minerals to human and animal health (no big deal). Sodium helps control your body’s fluid balance, and is critical for nerve and muscle function.
Still, most Americans eat too much salt, since sodium is hidden in many surprising foods. Even though there are plenty of ways to flavor your food *without* salt, it’s still an important part of many recipes.
So when looking for a salt to add to your spice rack, which salt is best for your health?
The Difference Between Iodized Salt and Non-Iodized Salt
If you look in your kitchen cabinet, you may notice that your salt container says “iodized.” If you have a salt shaker, there’s a good chance that salt is iodized too, since most table salts are iodized. But what does the term “iodized” actually mean?
If your salt is iodized, it means the chemical element iodine has been added to your salt. Your body is unable to make iodine, yet it’s important for a healthy thyroid and other body functions. You get iodine from food sources, such as seafood, seaweed, dairy, fruits, veggies, and of course, iodized salt. The United States began fortifying salt with iodine in the early 1920s when iodine deficiencies and goiter (a condition where the thyroid becomes abnormally large) were prevalent.
Non-iodized salt is often purely sodium chloride (think sea salt). This salt comes straight from the sea or underground salt deposits. Depending on the manufacturer, some non-iodized salts may be processed to create a finer texture, and may be mixed with other ingredients.
So, What’s Healthier: Iodized Salt or Non-Iodized Salt?
Considering that iodized salt has an added nutrient that all humans need, it may be easy to assume that it’s healthier. The kicker, though, is that most people get enough iodine through the foods they eat.
Must adults need about 150 micrograms (mcg) of iodine per day, except for pregnant women, who need about 220 mcg, or people who are iodine deficient. You can get 50 percent of your daily iodine intake from just 1 cup of low-fat yogurt, and nearly 70 percent from just three ounces of cod. Love seaweed? That’s actually the best source of iodine: You may be able to reach your daily intake with just one gram of these sea plants. If you know you rarely eat foods that are natural sources of iodine, or if you have an increased iodine need for health reasons, then it’s wise to stick to only iodized salt.
For the rest of us, the answer is that both salts are a good choice. The most important thing to remember is that you watch how much sodium you’re getting and limit your intake to 2,300 milligrams per day, which is about 1 teaspoon of salt. A high-salt diet may increase your risk of many health problems, including high blood pressure, stroke, and other heart-related issues.
Another possible tie-breaker: shelf life. Non-iodized salt expires, well, never (along with these everlasting pantry staples), but iodized salt only lasts five years.