How do normal and iodized salt differ?
Salt in the household
The vast majority (around 70 percent) of global salt production is made up of rock salts, the remainder being sea salt. There is no guideline for salt in the German Food Book, the Codex Alimentarius standard from 2012 applies. It describes table salt as a crystalline product that essentially consists of sodium chloride (NaCl). It is extracted from the sea, from underground salt deposits or natural brine deposits.
The NaCl content should not be less than 97 percent. There are maximum quantities for harmful substances such as arsenic, copper, lead, cadmium, mercury and tin.
Salt is naturally mixed with small amounts of other salts, including salts of calcium, potassium, magnesium and manganese. Magnesium chloride attracts water and causes the table salt to clump together. For this reason, water-binding substances (e.g. colloidal silica, calcium carbonate (E 170) or magnesium carbonate (E 504) are added to the table salt so that it remains free-flowing.
The permitted maximum quantities of the respective additives are stipulated by law. They must be marked on the packaging as flow aids or release agents. Flow aids permitted in the EU are calcium carbonate (E 170), magnesium carbonate (E504) - both also in organic products -, sodium ferrocyanide (E 535), potassium ferrocyanide (E 536) and calcium ferrocyanide (E 538), silicon dioxide / silica (E 551) and since September 2015 iron tartrate (E 534). There are certain concerns about silicon dioxide when the particles are nano-sized. However, there are also products on the market without any flow aids.
Enrichments of table salt
In Germany, table salts are offered with various fortifications: with iodine, with iodine and fluorine, as well as with iodine, fluorine and folic acid.
- Iodine in salt: In the Codex alimentarius standard, in paragraph 3.4, there is an agreement that in iodine deficiency areas, for reasons of public health care, table salt should be fortified with iodine. In Germany this has been practiced in general foods since 1989. The iodine content in German table salt is currently 15-25 micrograms of iodine per gram of salt, which is the lower range of the 20-40 micrograms of iodine per gram of salt recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).
As a result, the iodine supply here had improved since the 1990s.
According to current studies, this trend has not continued over the past ten years, and is now even declining again. About 30 percent of adults and about 44% of children have an iodine intake below the estimated requirement. The reason for this may be that more and more food manufacturers are not using iodized salt. The use of iodized salt must be stated in the list of ingredients for packaged foods; for loose bread and sausage products, only asking the sales staff will help.
The (economical) use of iodized table salt is generally recommended in private households.
- Enrichment with fluorine: Fluorine is primarily important for the bones and the mineralization of the teeth. It has been shown to have a caries preventive effect (source: reference values DGE). Fluorine salt has been around in Germany since 1992. It contains 250 milligrams of fluoride per kilogram.
The use of fluoridated table salt is recommended by the DGE for caries prophylaxis in areas with a low natural fluoride content in drinking water, since in Germany, unlike in other countries, there is no general drinking water fluoridation. Further fluoride supplements (food supplements or drugs) should then not be used in parallel.
- Fortification with folic acid: Folic acid is an essential B vitamin that is involved in many growth and development processes in the organism. It is one of the few nutrients that is insufficiently supplied in Germany; up to three quarters of the people in Germany are probably not optimally supplied with it.
That is why salt enriched with folic acid, iodine and fluorine has also been offered since 2003. It contains 10 milligrams of folic acid per 100 grams of salt, so that with a daily amount of two grams, 200 micrograms of folic acid (= 133 percent of the recommended amount) would be ingested. In contrast to naturally occurring folate, the (synthetic) folic acid used is stable to light and heat, but is still water-soluble. The folic acid gives the salt a yellowish color.
There is a large number of special salts in a wide variety of grain sizes. By the way, we know from various studies that dishes taste salty if the salt is not so well distributed and the grain size is a little coarser. This speaks in favor of using less salt when cooking and adding more salt if necessary. Disadvantage of almost all special salts: They do not contain iodine.
Gourmet salts are advertised with their special origins or extraction and manufacturing processes, with their sometimes unusual color or the actually different taste. Statements (not permitted) on health effects are also not uncommon.
A particular common feature of the gourmet salts is the usually quite high price. In online retail, for example, between around 4 and over 10 euros per 100 g are required. A wide consumption is therefore excluded by itself, especially since excessive salt consumption can contribute to the development of high blood pressure.
- Australia Murray River Salt is pink to peach-colored and is extracted from the salty water of the Murray River in Australia.
- Bamboo salt is sea salt, which in Korea is burned one to nine times in bamboo tubes.
- Danish smoked salt: In Denmark, salt from the Dead Sea is smoked cold over beech wood. It absorbs the smoke aroma.
- Fleur de sel: "Blossoms of the salt" form on hot and windless days as a wafer-thin layer on the surface of the sea in seawater basins and are skimmed off by hand with a wooden shovel. It is offered from many different regions, mostly from countries bordering the Mediterranean. These crystals should have a particularly intense taste and a very delicate consistency. The salt is correspondingly expensive at up to 25 euros per kilo.
- Seasoning salts: Spice salts are mixtures of 40 to 85 percent table salt and one or more spices or herbs with a proportion of at least 15 percent. Depending on the type, they have different names such as garlic salt, tomato seasoning salt or herbal salt. Some of them are also iodized.
- Hawaiian salt is a sea salt. It is available in different colors that can be achieved by adding coloring additives, such as activated carbon (black), volcanic clay (red) or bamboo leaf extract (green).
- Himalayan saltcomes from the salt deposits of a "primordial sea" at the foot of the Himalayas. Most of the salt offered, however, is mined in central Pakistan.
- Inca sun salt is extracted from salty springs in the Peruvian plateau and dried in the sun.
- Ocean salt comes from a bay in southwest India and is dried in the sun.
- Primal salt: This is ground rock salt. It often comes from the same Central European mines where normal table salt is mined. However, it is not cleaned (refined), but remains untreated and therefore contains about two percent more mineral substances in addition to sodium chloride.
In Germany, the use of salt substitute products (diet salt) has not really caught on. In the joint guidelines of the German High Pressure League e. V., the German Society for Hypertension and Prevention and the German Society for Cardiology from 2013, a change in the entire lifestyle is recommended for high blood pressure.
Salt substitutes are used in a low-sodium diet. The sodium is replaced to a greater or lesser extent by potassium, magnesium or calcium. Most substitute salts are based on potassium chloride. These are also available in iodized form. Potassium chloride has a bitter-metallic taste that takes getting used to. Warning: All of these products may not be suitable for people with kidney disease and potassium disorders, so consult your doctor before use.
This is a special salt substitute Pan salt: This salt was developed by Finnish scientists almost 40 years ago and has been used in Finland on a larger scale (including in the food industry and gastronomy) since then. Pan salt is made up of sodium chloride (56 percent), potassium chloride (28 percent), magnesium sulfate (twelve percent) and lysine hydrochloride (two percent) and one percent flow aid. The protein building block lysine hydrochloride is used to mask the aftertaste of the potassium chloride. It is available here in pharmacies and on the Internet.
- sea-salt: For this purpose, sea water - which contains 3.5 percent salt - is dried up in large artificially created basins, so-called salt gardens, using the sun, wind and heat. In addition to sodium chloride, sea salt contains other minerals from sea water that change its taste and make it popular with chefs. The exact composition depends on the respective sea water. Marine pollution and birds flying over the salt marshes also affect the quality of the salt. There are always traces of microplastics in sea salts.
- Rock salt: This salt is extracted, crushed, sieved and processed in underground tunnels in salt mines. Rock salt deposits have formed through the evaporation of earlier seas - primeval seas such as the "Niederrheinische Salzpfanne".
- Vacuum salt: For this purpose, salt-rich mineral water, called brine, is boiled, the water evaporates, and what remains is the salt. The brine comes from natural underground salt water or is created artificially by bringing fresh water into salt domes. The salty water that forms is then pumped up and evaporated.
- Salt production and trade in NRW: In earlier times, salt production and trade took place mainly between the Ruhr area, the Sauerland and the Teutoburg Forest. The regional project "Westphalian Salt Worlds" offers more information. For example, there is a large salt mine in Rheinberg-Borth on the border with Wesel. The "Westphalian Salt Route" is a 77 km long bicycle route along graduation towers, brine springs and salt pans.
STANDARD FOR FOOD GRADE SALT. CODEX STAN 150-1985 (2012)
Iodine supply in Germany is on the decline again - tips for a good iodine supply. Updated questions and answers on iodine supply and iodine deficiency prevention by the BfR from February 20, 2020
Bissinger K. et al. (2019): Representative market survey on the use of iodized salt in artisanal and industrially manufactured foods. Final report on the research project to provide scientific decision support for the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL)
12th Nutrition Report 2012, Chapter 1: Nutrition Situation in Germany
Lowering blood pressure through less salt in food Opinion No. 007/2012 of the BfR, MRI and RKI dated October 19, 2011
Dietz A / Competence Center for Nutrition (KErn) (2018): Pansalz - the healthier alternative to table salt?
Changes to the regulations on iodized table salt from 19.06.1989
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