Everywhere you turn in the media, in published guidelines from professional medical associations, from private health and governmental organizations, from your own physician and from family members, we are told to restrict the use of salt. These public and private warnings are given to mainly avoid elevated blood pressures and the risks of cardiovascular events and cerebrovascular accidents or strokes.
There is also a movement among naturalists to only use sea salt which contains little to no iodine. It comes in a variety of colors: pink, light gray and light blue and even black and is easy to find today in any health store. Kosher salt is also a pure form which also lacks iodine. With the public campaign to decrease animal fats in the diet and thereby reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, people are eating more vegetables which contain less iodine than animal sources. Iodine is also lost in sweat while exercising. 1
Back in 1926 a public health decision was made to include iodine in salt. The reasoning was that everyone loved their salt and used it daily, so they would also get the necessary daily trace amount of iodine. There was an epidemic back then of goiters, a large swelling of the thyroid gland that was not only uncomfortable but unsightly. The addition of iodine to salt resolved this public health problem and people’s thyroid problems were balanced just simply by a shake of salt at the dinner table.
Salt is an excellent preservative and so the inevitable happened. Food manufacturers started incorporating large amounts of sodium into their products, especially the packaged versions. And soon afterwards, blood pressures were on the rise. With all the warnings, one would think salt had become public enemy number one; however, salt is necessary to life and without it, we cannot live. Due to the drastic reductions in salt intake today, iodine deficiency has increased to the point that nearly 74% of healthy adults may not consume enough.1 The US recommended daily allowance is 150 to 290 micrograms with a top limit of 1100 mcg; however, when that is compared to the daily intake of Japanese women which ranges from 5280 to 13,800mcg with no adverse effects, the RDA may be lacking in true efficacy. 1
The important realization here is that we can no longer depend upon salt to provide our source of iodine and as a result, hypothyroidism has reached epidemic proportions in our US population. Do you know someone who takes thyroid replacement? I would bet you do. It’s a rampant health problem that is largely treated with prescription medications today. In addition, iodine deficiency may result in obesity, cognitive and psychiatric disorders, heart disease and forms of cancer, especially breast cancer and fibrocystic breast disease. In developing children, iodine can prevent mental retardation. Research has also shown that iodine can absorb and eliminate radioactive elements from our bodies, inhibit tumor formation and reduce cholesterol. Please get your thyroid levels checked if you haven’t done so.
So what are the alternative sources of iodine, if our salt has largely been denied us? Don’t recoil when I present you with this gift from the sea, but seaweed is a vital source of iodine, especially for vegans who cannot depend on other sources. The sea is the greatest repository of iodine where various seaweeds are able to concentrate it to very high levels. Contrarily, there is very little iodine found in the soil. Seaweed is classified by its color which is either red, brown or green. Once company called Maine Coast Sea Vegetables provides its products in whole leaf, flaked, granulated, powdered and bulk forms. Their website is www.seaveg.com and is a wealth of information. Their products are easy to find in most nutrition centered stores and cooperatives. Seaweed can be used in soups, sandwiches, stirfries and salads. Because it is such highly concentrated food, only small amounts are needed to boost the flavor and nutrition of any dish. At their online store they feature their cookbook, Sea Vegetable Celebration, by owner Shep Erhart and organic chef Leslie Cerier, that contains over 100 vegetarian recipes.
There are many types including the Asian Nori, Hiziki, Arama and Wakame and the US coastal varieties such as dulse, kelp, alaria and laver. Incorporating seaweed into your diet is just a snip away. Simply get out your scissors and cut off tiny pieces to put in whatever dish you are cooking. Half the fun will be the experimenting so try out the dried seaweed which is crispy and salty and then the soaked version which cuts down on the salty taste. On the bag of my dulse seaweed, a one third cup serving based on the 2000 calorie per day intake yields only 18 calories and a whopping 780% daily value of iodine! This form of iodine intake may not be as easy as shaking a salt shaker, but being able to eat seaweed right out of the bag with a few snips is the next best thing. Here is a tasty and beautiful salad to get you started:
Grapefruit/Avocado Salad with Dulce
Spread a generous handful of spring mix on a platter.
Arrange the grapefruit slices and avocado slices in a circle on top of the lettuce.
In the middle place a few slices of cucumber.
Sprinkle walnut pieces on top.
Sprinkle dulce bits on top by snipping off small pieces with scissors.
Pour Citric dressing over salad. Use salt and pepper to taste.
2 tablespoons of fresh squeezed orange or lemon juice
2 tablespoons of cold pressed extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon of lemon or orange zest
½ teaspoon of cumin
2 grated garlic cloves
2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste. (If you like a creamy dressing, you can add ½ cup of tahini.)
Enjoy, your thyroid gland will thank you!