Yup, it’s true: your table salt has sugar added to it. Say WHAT?!
A while back, I was perusing the middle aisles of the grocery store, looking for table salt (not for my own use, but for a homemade cat food recipe). My eyes nearly bulged out of my head when I saw the “ingredient list” on the side of the box. Shouldn’t salt just contain salt?
Turns out it’s not that simple.
The box of salt jogged my memory of learning about this topic in school. Having refreshed my memory now, I’m here to share today. Let’s delve a little into the processing of table salt, look at alternatives, and address the iodine/thyroid question.
What exactly is table salt? How is it made?
Food grade table salt is 97.5% NaCl (sodium chloride). The remaining 2.5% is composed of various additives:
- KI (synthetic potassium iodide) – added to prevent iodine deficiency
- Dextrose or glucose (usually derived from corn) – added to stabilize the KI and to prevent oxidation
- Baking soda – added to maintain a white colour (the addition of KI and glucose turns the salt purple!)
- Sodium aluminosilicate – an anticaking agent, added to prevent clumping which can be caused by the baking soda (various other anticaking agents may be used instead)
That’s an awful lot of extra stuff added. Some of you may be saying, “but it’s only 2.5%!” If that small percentage doesn’t bother you, great. You can stop reading right now and I won’t be offended. My purpose here is simply to expose the fact that table salt is a processed food. The more knowledge we have, the more empowered we are to make informed decisions for ourselves. I think it’s always worth knowing what’s added to our food.
What alternatives are there for table salt?
Lots! There are lots of great ways to add a salty sprinkle to your recipes, while at the same time getting a valuable mineral boost. Here are my top 3 suggestions:
- Unrefined sea salt – Mineral-rich goodness from the sea. It should be grey-ish in colour, chunky, and moist. If the product is labelled “Sea Salt” but is dry, white, and generally resembles regular table salt, it’s probably safe to assume it’s gone through similar processing.
- Himalayan pink salt – Another nutrient-rich choice, containing many trace minerals that are simply not found in regular table salt. This is what I like to use.
- Seaweed flakes – This is a great choice, especially if you’re concerned about iodine deficiency. Sprinkle kelp, dulse, or nori flakes over your food, just as you would table salt. These can be bought in convenient tabletop shakers.
What about thyroid health? Don’t we need the Iodine in table salt?
Iodide is added to table salt to prevent iodine deficiency, thyroid dysfunction, and ugly goiters. However, if you’re concerned about your thyroid, there’s a few things you should know:
- Table salt is not the only possible source of iodine in the diet. Iodine can be found in sea vegetables (kelp, dulse, nori, etc), as well as eggs, yogurt, and even strawberries.
- Iodine is not the only mineral needed for thyroid health. The thyroid requires many other nutrients including selenium, zinc, magnesium, and vitamin D, to name a few.
- Certain foods can inhibit your absorption of these important minerals – in particular, grains. Reducing grain consumption makes it much easier for your thyroid to absorb iodine and other minerals. (What good is it to eat them if you’re not utilizing them, am I right?)
- Finally, iodine deficiency may not even be the issue behind your thyroid condition in the first place. It’s important to find out what type of thyroid dysfunction you’re dealing with. Too much iodine intake can potentially worsen your condition.
Thyroid health is one piece of a much bigger puzzle, and we don’t need to cling to table salt as part of the solution. Eating a nutrient-dense, real food diet goes a long way when it comes to healing and reversing health conditions – and in some cases, a real food diet simply is the solution on its own.
Table salt is certainly not the most evil of processed foods. I don’t think we need to avoid it like the plague; and no, a little isn’t going to kill you. It would be unrealistic to try and avoid table salt anyway – you’d never be able to enjoy a meal at a restaurant, for example. Also, note that most of the table salt we consume comes from packaged/processed foods and junk foods anyway; eliminating those from our diet will significantly reduce our overall salt intake. Bottom line? Don’t fear the salt shaker when you’re out and about, just know there are other choices for everyday home cooking. I encourage the use of alternatives like sea salt, pink salt, or perhaps seaweed flakes, in conjunction with an unprocessed, nutrient-dense, real food diet.
What are your thoughts about table salt? What kind of salt do you use at home? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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