WDAY.com |

North Dakota's #1 news website 10,650,498 page views — March 2014

Published May 07, 2010, 12:00 AM

Don’t give up iodine when cutting back on salt

As I put away some seasonal decorations, I opened a cabinet filled with my collection of salt and pepper shakers. Some of my shakers are antiques, while others are fairly new. Some of my shakers never have contained salt or pepper.

By: Julie Garden-Robinson, INFORUM

As I put away some seasonal decorations, I opened a cabinet filled with my collection of salt and pepper shakers. Some of my shakers are antiques, while others are fairly new. Some of my shakers never have contained salt or pepper.

I thought about the frequent advice to “leave the salt shaker in the cupboard.”

According to an Institute of Medicine (IOM) report released on April 20, Americans consume the equivalent of 1½ teaspoons of salt per day.

High-sodium diets are linked to high blood pressure, which increases the risk for heart disease, stroke and kidney disease. About one of three Americans has high blood pressure and another one-third have pre-hypertension.

The IOM report also urged the Food and Drug Administration to set sodium standards for the food industry. The problem is that Americans have a liking for salty foods, so they reach for the brands that often are higher in salt.

With all the renewed focus on sodium, would my shakers remain empty in a cupboard, not to see the light of day?

Salt shakers are not the culprits in our collective overconsumption of sodium.

According to the American Heart Association, about 75 percent of the sodium in our diet comes from processed convenience foods, such as dinner mixes, snacks, canned soups and condiments.

We add about 10 percent of the sodium we consume at the table, and the rest of the sodium in our diets is found naturally in foods.

Some nutrition experts have expressed concern about a potential nutrient deficiency as people have put away their salt shakers. They worry about people shortchanging themselves on iodine. Iodized table salt is one of the few foods that provide iodine.

Iodine is a trace mineral needed for the normal functioning of the thyroid gland, which helps regulate metabolism, among other roles. Iodine deficiency can show itself as fatigue, weight gain and cold hands and feet. Being iodine deficient during pregnancy may increase the risk for having a child with mental disabilities.

People with an iodine deficiency may have an enlarged thyroid gland or goiter on their neck. Until the widespread addition of iodine to salt, goiters were fairly common in the United States.

According to some studies, some people are more susceptible to iodine deficiency than others. Athletes exercising vigorously may lose the mineral through perspiration. Vegetarians also are more likely to be short of iodine.

What about all the salt in commercially processed foods? The salt in processed convenience foods typically is not iodized. Not all table salt is iodized, either, so look for “iodized salt” when you buy salt. According to some reports, the iodine degrades through time, so refresh your iodized salt supply regularly, too.

Besides iodized salt, consider some other iodine sources. Seafood and fish, such as shrimp and tuna, are natural sources of iodine. Iodine in food varies according to the iodine content of the soil, so potatoes and navy beans can be good sources depending on the soil in which they were grown.

To meet your iodine needs without overdoing your sodium, keep these tips in mind:

- Be sure your salt container says “iodized” on the label.

- If you take a multivitamin/multimineral supplement, check the label. Some contain iodine, and that’s positive.

- Be a label reader at the grocery store. Compare the sodium in your choices and use that information to make healthier choices. Foods that provide 5 percent or less of the daily value are “low sodium.”

- Enjoy more fruits and vegetables, especially ones without added salt. For example, choose frozen vegetables without added sauces.

- Try fresh herbs or lemon juice to add flavor, not sodium.

Here’s a tasty sandwich featuring four food groups: grains, meat, vegetables and fruits:


Apple-Tuna Pita Pockets

1 can (12 ounces) tuna, packed in water

2 tbsp. minced red onion

1 cored and chopped apple

1 cup chopped celery

1 cup raisins (golden or regular)

5 tbsp. light Italian dressing

2 cups salad greens, such as romaine lettuce

2 whole-wheat pita breads, cut in half

In a small bowl, stir together the tuna, onion, apple, celery, raisins and 2 tablespoons of dressing. In another bowl, toss together salad greens with remaining dressing. Carefully open pita breads and fill with equal amounts of greens and tuna salad.

Makes four servings (one-half pita per serving). Each serving has 270 calories, 4 grams (g) of fat, 32 g of carbohydrate and 360 milligrams of sodium (15 percent of the daily value).


Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.

Tags: