Gourmet salts like pink Himalayan salt and various sea salts have become very popular but they come with a caveat: they are not iodized like regular table salt. Many people unknowingly rely on table salt for their iodine requirements so making the switch from table salt to pink or sea salt can lead to iodine deficiency.
Iodine was first added to common table salt in the 1920’s in the U.S. to prevent goiters which were common due to low iodine levels in the soil of certain regions resulting in lower concentrations of iodine in vegetables. Canada followed suit in 1949 and since then it has been added to salt in other countries as well including China, Brazil, and India. Currently it is not readily available in the UK nor is it used in processed foods in the UK. In Australia bread is required to be made with iodized salt and iodized salt is available for purchase.
Why Should You Be Concerned About Iodine Intake?
Iodine is an essential mineral that is required for proper thyroid function. Your thyroid is responsible for regulating metabolism (energy production) as well as growth and development in babies and kids. Iodine deficiency can cause fatigue, cold hands and feet, dry skin, hair loss, swelling in the neck, difficulty learning and remembering things, and weight gain. Without sufficient iodine, your body cannot make enough of the thyroid hormones T4 and T3 which can have a domino effect with other hormones and lead to a host of problems.
Insufficient iodine during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, mental retardation, and stunted growth. Iodine deficiency in pregnant mothers is the leading preventable cause of mental retardation. Severe iodine deficiency during pregnancy causes cretinism while mild deficiency during pregnancy has been linked to attention deficit and hyperactivity disorders in children. Mild to moderate iodine deficiency was linked to a lower IQ in children under 5 and lower cognitive scores in children aged 10-12.
How Can You And Your Kids Get Enough Iodine?
Iodine is present in soil in varying concentrations and it is also in fish and other seafood, seaweed, and dairy products (iodine-based disinfectants used to disinfect cow’s udders prior to milking end up transferring iodine to the milk). Plants grown in iodine-rich soil will contain iodine but because the levels of this mineral vary greatly in different regions and soil in general is not as rich in minerals as it once was, it is difficult to know how much iodine you are getting from plants. That’s why if you’re plant-based and don’t consume seafood or dairy then it is best to get your iodine from seaweed, iodized salt, or a supplement (most multivitamins for both adults and kids contain iodine).
It is still okay to cook with gourmet salt IF you are mindful of including other sources of iodine. Sprinkle kelp or dulse flakes over your food. If your child is picky and won’t eat any of the iodine sources mentioned, then use iodized salt in their food in place of gourmet salts just to be on the safe side. However, be mindful of how much salt they are getting, especially if they eat a lot of processed foods (processed foods are usually high in sodium). Unfortunately the salt in processed foods is not iodized so if that is the primary source of salt in your or your kiddos diet and you don’t consume seaweed, fish or dairy then you should consider an iodine supplement. If your child is under 1 you should not be adding any salt to their food – their kidneys simply cannot process that much and they should be getting their iodine requirements from either breastmilk or formula anyway.
We actually need very small amounts of iodine and getting too much can be just as detrimental as not getting enough. Excess iodine intake has been linked to autoimmune disorders of the thyroid. So don’t overdo the seaweed or iodized salt, just use the amount you would normally use to season your food. Kelp is very high in iodine compared to other types of seaweed so with younger kids it is best to use other types like dulse and nori. Kids need about 1/2-3/4 of a tsp of dulse or a few sheets of nori per day while adults can have 1 tsp of dulse or several sheets of nori daily to meet iodine requirements.
Below is a table of iodine requirements by age:
|Age||Recommended Dietary Intake||Tolerable Upper Intake|
|Birth to 6 months||110 micrograms (mcg)||Tolerable Upper Intake|
|Infants 7-12 months||130 mcg||N/A|
|Children 1-3 years||90 mcg||200 mcg|
|Children 4-8 years||90 mcg||300 mcg|
|Children 9-13 years||120 mcg||600 mcg|
|Teens 14-18 years||150 mcg||900 mcg|
|Adults||150 mcg||1100 mcg|
|Pregnant women||220 mcg||1100 mcg|
|Breastfeeding women||290 mcg||1100 mcg|
Nutritional nuances like this are exactly why you should see a nutritionist to assess your and your kids’ diet for any possible imbalances that could potentially lead to dire consequences. Google can only take you so far and could very likely lead you astray when it comes to your or your kids health. Follow evidence-backed nutrition advice, not trends.
Recipe by Kiran Sidhu, Holistic Nutritionist. To schedule a free 15 min nutrition consultation with Kiran, click here.