Isn't salt iodized to prevent goiter?

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Peggy Woodward, RD

You answered a question in a previous "Ask Peggy" about the use of sea salt. Isn't salt iodized to prevent goiter? — C.G., Kansas City, Kansas

You're right; salt has been iodized since the 1920s in an effort to prevent goiter, an enlargement of the thyroid gland, in the neck. However, iodine deficiency is just one of the many possible causes of goiter. Some other causes include Graves' disease, pregnancy, inflammation and hereditary factors.

The thyroid gland needs iodine in order to produce the hormones that influence metabolism, body temperature, mood and digestion. Without enough iodine, it can become enlarged. It was more common many years ago for goiter to be caused by iodine deficiency in central regions of the United States, where the soil is deficient in iodine. However, goiter has been rare since iodized salt was introduced and our grocery stores began selling produce from other regions of the country.

Adults need 150 mcg (micrograms) of iodine per day. If you're concerned that switching to sea salt may mean you won't be getting enough iodine, don't worry. There are iodized sea salts available. Keep in mind that we also get iodine from seafood, dairy products and some drinking water. See the chart above for the iodine content of some everyday foods.

Iodine content in food

1 teaspoon iodized salt 400 mcg

1 slice most packaged bread 35 mcg

1/2 cup 2% cottage cheese 26-71 mcg

3 ounces shrimp 21-27 mcg

1 egg 18-26 mcg