Cut the salt, but not the iodine

Consumer Reports tests salt substitutes

SAN ANTONIO – Reducing table salt can have some health benefits but it could also leave you short on iodine and flavor. Consumer Reports tested salt substitutes to see which comes closest in taste to regular table salt.

“I usually use some lemon juice, vinegar, apple cider vinegar or rice vinegar, depending on what I’m making,” said Marcia Cameron, who’s cutting salt to help manage her high blood pressure.

However, cutting iodized salt can mean shorting yourself on an important mineral that’s key for a healthy thyroid.

Dr. Carlos Navarro, a cardiologist in New York, said table salt may be a good source of iodine, but it makes more sense to get this element through the foods we eat.

“If you can, get your iodine from natural sources, fish, shellfish, things that are from the sea, most of them are rich in iodine,” Navarro said.

Most adults need about 150 micrograms of iodine a day. We can get 158 micrograms from 3-ounces of cod. Dairy is also a good source. Three-quarters of a cup of plain nonfat Greek yogurt has 87 micrograms of iodine. Some seaweed snacks offer 90% of the recommended daily allowance per serving.

But if you’re still craving that flavor boost from the salt shaker, Consumer Reports tested some popular salt alternatives that have less sodium than salt and some even supply iodine.

“We wanted to determine how the products worked as a salt-swap to see if we could tell the difference, and if they were better or worse compared to regular salt,” said Consumer Reports’ Amy Keating.

At the top of their list is a lite salt, which is a blend of iodized salt and potassium chloride. It tasted the closest to table salt, with half the sodium, according to tasters.

MSG came in second, with 60% less sodium than salt. It adds umami, which bumps up the taste of your food.

Nutritional yeast added a good savory flavor. But, potassium chloride salt turned out to be quite bitter.

Seaweed flakes have lots of fishy flavor, but don’t add much saltiness.

Since some of the salt alternatives contain sodium, Marcia says she’ll use them in her cooking, but only a pinch.

Experts say most of the sodium we consume comes from salt in packaged and processed foods, and this is often not iodized. Also, popular salts like sea, Himalayan or kosher salts are not good sources of iodine.

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About the Author:

As a consumer reporter, Marilyn is all about helping people stay safe and save a buck. Since coming to KSAT in 1985, she’s covered everything from crime to politics, winning awards for her coverage of the Mexican Mafia, Oklahoma tornadoes, children’s transplants, an investigation into voting irregularities and even a hit-and-run Santa Claus.