It’s important to understand that nutrients like vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, etc. come in two categories as far as their need by the body: “critically important” and “important.” The difference is, your continued existence depends on getting enough of the critically important nutrients, but if you don’t get enough of the important nutrients, your life won’t be immediately threatened, but your quality of life will be negatively affected over the long term. This is an important distinction and one we all should be aware of, but you’re not going to hear about this from most health educators because they don’t get into the outside-the-box nuances about health.
Sodium, for example, is in the “critically important” category. And this is the reason you have taste buds on your tongue that are coded for salty things. Each cell has a sodium-potassium pump, so you have trillions of these pumps. And since fruit and vegetable growers replenish their soils with potassium (they have no choice, they must), no one who eats a healthy diet is walking around with a potassium deficiency. But growers do not replenish sodium (because they do not need to, so why should they?), and this is why vegans and raw vegans can experience cravings for salty things. If your sodium-potassium balance gets too far out of whack, you die. This is why sodium is in the “critically important” category.
Iodine is another essential nutrient and is needed by all organs of the body for them to function at their best. But if you don’t get enough iodine, unlike sodium, your life won’t be at risk immediately. Over time, however, with the organs of your immune system not working at their best due to an iodine deficiency, you won’t have optimal health, regardless of how good your diet is, or how wonderful your lab work looks. For example, you will (not may) be more prone to developing cancer because iodine plays a key role in enabling your immune system to destroy a tiny group of cancerous cells before they can become “cancer” many decades down the road. Iodine also has antiviral properties — very important these days — so if you have an iodine insufficiency or deficiency, this puts you more at risk of not handling a viral infection as well as you could have if your iodine level was “full.”
So it’s physiologically impossible to have optimal health if you don’t get enough iodine. But since you aren’t acutely at risk of dying from an iodine deficiency, it’s in the “important” category instead of the “critically important” category.
When people tell me “I must be getting enough sodium because I don’t have any cravings for salty things,” I tell them that this assumption is a safe bet. But when they continue to tell me that they must be getting enough iodine because they feel great, this is not a given.
More on the importance of iodine on Health101.org/iodine.
And info about salty food cravings can be found on Health101.org/art_cravings.