Like Squeezing Salt from a Table

Sea salt.  So many recipes call for it, especially in higher end cooking or health-conscious recipes.  With the holidays upon us, all of the white powders are going to be increasing significantly in consumption through January 1st: flour, sugar, and salt.  

Why? BECAUSE THEY'RE SO DELICIOUS.

And integral to traditional recipes passed down through the generations. They are essential building blocks of MANY recipes. So before I get into the rest of this post, let's make one thing clear: I'm not demonizing any of these white powders.

Food is food is food. Approaching food with awareness is key. Mindfully enjoying your meal is where it's AT.

So—back into it.

Why do so many health-conscious recipes and higher-end chefs use salt from the sea rather from the table (which, to be clear, I understand that table salt doesn't COME from tables, but it does crack me up Dad-joke/punny style)?

You may have heard that sea salt is more nutritious than table salt, which in certain ways bears some truth.  We'll get into that in a moment, but the most important thing to keep in mind is that in our over sodium packed Standard American Diet, salt is salt is salt, and we're getting quite a lot of it, whether it's from the table or the sea.  

Me? I prefer to choose sea salt, and the why is rooted in not only flavor but also quality.

One major difference between sea salt and table salt is in the way your taste buds respond.  I cook with sea salt because I find it to be more flavorful, and therefore a little bit goes a long way.  In this way, I can reduce the sodium content of my meals as the recipe requires less salt. (By weight, sea salt and table salt contain the same amount of sodium.)

Why is sea salt more flavorful?  It may be due to the technique or method employed to bring the salt to your shaker.

Table salt is typically mined from underground sources, while sea salt is the product of evaporating water from oceans or saltwater lakes. The resulting salt particles' flavor profile and color are then affected by the minerals and elements that were present in the water.  As far as table salt goes, it undergoes a more vigorous refinement process to remove the minerals, an additive is used to reduce and prevent clumping, and often, the table salt is fortified with iodine.

Iodine is a trace mineral that is present in the upper crust of the earth, and because of years of geographical changes (glaciers, flooding, leaching into the soil during the Ice Age), iodine distribution throughout the world varies. A fair amount of the iodine in the world is found in coastal areas, and that means seaweed + seafood. 

Iodine deficiencies can be a concern, and it's good to be aware of our personal levels (check with your doctor) and our iodine consumption.  

Do I think adding lots of fortified salt to our diets is the best route to ensure we’re getting adequate iodine?  Not so much.

Widespread fortification of salt with iodine began in the United States in 1924 after a history stemming from the 1800s linking iodine deficiency with thyroid goiter.

Dairy and bread are also sometimes fortified with iodine, and the reasoning behind fortification makes sense: Iodine, which contributes to thyroid health and overall normal mental and physical maintenance, is one of the trace elements that is essential for us to get through our diet.

Many Americans are likely getting plenty of sodium, often without trying, as it is an additive in most processed foods.  On average (not including those with extenuating circumstances for those who may need even less) we should limit our sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams a day.

As for iodine, it is similar to protein in that, when we make a shift from eating animals to not eating animals, we may hear a lot of people asking where we get our iodine from if we aren't eating fish or any other animals.

To which I usually answer (with complete and total genuineness):  “I am SO glad you asked!”

I've got good news for you:  Iodine is present in most every living plant (as well as animals), and further, in our lifetime we will require less than a teaspoon of iodine.  The problem is, our bodies can't store iodine, so heading to the iodine store and buying a shot of iodine isn't going to do the trick.  

We need a little dose of iodine every single day. (Does a 20,000th of a teaspoon, or 150 micrograms, sound doable to you?)

Here are some great sources of iodine for you to consider (and while a supplement is always an option, that's something to discuss with your doctor if you have your levels checked):  

Seaweed (like kelp, dulse, or arame) is probably the largest and most popular source of iodine for non-meat eaters, but eggs and dairy also provide a fair amount of easily accessible (and more familiar) iodine.

Dried Seaweed | ¼ cup serving:  3000% DV
Iodized Salt | 1 gram (.18 tsp):  51% DV
Baked Potato (with peel) | 1 medium:  40% DV
Navy Beans (cooked) | ½ cup:  21% DV
Boiled Egg | 1 large:  8% DV

Brittany KrigerComment