Quantcast

Not All Salt is Created Equal

Health + Wellness

Salt is arguably the most important ingredient in cooking.

Without it, most meals would taste bland and unexciting.

However… not all salt is created equal and there are many “types” to choose from.

Salt is made of two minerals, sodium and chloride, which are essential for human life.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

We have Himalayan Pink Salt, Kosher Salt, Sea Salt, Celtic Salt (to name a few)… and then we have plain old refined table salt.

Not only do they differ in taste and texture, but there are also some differences in mineral and sodium content.

This article explores the most popular salt types… then at the end, gives you a direct comparison of their nutritional properties to help you make the right choices.

But first, let’s take a look at what salt is and why it’s such a controversial ingredient among health experts.

What is Salt and How Does it Affect Health?

Salt is a crystalline mineral made of two elements, sodium (Na) and chlorine (Cl).

Sodium and chlorine are absolutely essential for life in animals, including humans.

They serve important functions like helping the brain and nerves send electrical impulses.

Most of the world’s salt is harvested from salt mines, or by evaporating sea water or other mineral-rich waters.

Salt is used for various purposes, the most common of which is adding flavor to foods. Salt is also used as a food preservative, because bacteria have trouble growing in a salt-rich environment.

The reason salt is often perceived as unhealthy (in large amounts), is that it can bind water in the bloodstream and raise blood pressure.

But even though studies have suggested that lowering salt intake can reduce blood pressure by 1-5.4 mm/Hg, there is no evidence that lowering salt prevents heart attacks, stroke or death (12).

The great majority of sodium in the Western diet comes from processed foods. If you eat mostly whole, unprocessed foods then you don’t need to worry about adding some salt to your meals.

Bottom Line: Salt is made of two minerals, sodium and chloride, which are essential for human life. Too much salt can raise blood pressure, but there is very little evidence that eating less salt can improve health.

Refined Salt (Regular Table Salt)

The most commonly used salt is plain old table salt.

Food-grade table salt is almost pure sodium chloride.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

This salt is usually highly refined. It is heavily ground and most of the impurities and trace minerals are removed.

The problem with heavily ground salt is that it can clump together. For this reason, various substances called anti-caking agents are added so that it flows freely.

Food-grade table salt is almost pure sodium chloride, or 97 percent or higher.

Read page 1

Here’s an important point… iodine is often added to table salt.

This was a successful public health preventative measure against iodine deficiency, which was (and still is) common in many parts of the world and a leading cause of hypothyroidism, mental retardation and various health problems.

Therefore, if you choose not to eat regular iodine-enriched table salt, then make sure you’re eating some other foods that are high in iodine, like fish, dairy, eggs and seaweed.

I personally take kelp tablets (seaweed) a few times per week because I rarely eat iodized salt. They are very high in iodine.

Bottom Line: Refined table salt is mostly just sodium chloride, with substances called anti-caking agents added in order to prevent clumping. Iodine is often added to table salt.

Sea Salt

Sea salt is made by evaporating seawater.

Like table salt, it is mostly just sodium chloride.

However, depending on where it is harvested and how it was processed, it usually does contain some amount of trace minerals like potassium, iron and zinc.

The darker the sea salt, the higher its concentration of “impurities” and trace nutrients will be. However, keep in mind that due to the pollution of oceans, sea salt can also contain trace amounts of heavy metals like lead.

Sea salt is often less ground than regular refined salt, so if you sprinkle it on top of your food after it has been cooked, it may have a different mouthfeel and cause a more potent “flavor burst” than refined salt.

The trace minerals and impurities found in sea salt can also affect the taste, but this varies greatly between different brands.

Bottom Line: Sea salt is made by evaporating seawater. It is very similar to regular salt, but can contain small amounts of minerals. It can also contain trace amounts of heavy metals if it is harvested from a polluted sea.

Himalayan Pink Salt

Himalayan salt is harvested in Pakistan.

Himalayan salt is harvested from a large salt mine in Pakistan.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

It is mined from the Khewra Salt Mine, the second largest salt mine in the world.

Himalayan salt often contains trace amounts of iron oxide (rust), which gives it a pink color.

It does contain small amounts of calcium, iron, potassium and magnesium. It also contains slightly lower amounts of sodium than regular salt.

A lot of people prefer the flavor of himalayan salt compared to other types of salts, but personally I haven’t been able to notice a difference.

The main difference seems to be the color, which can give a meal a nice look if you sprinkle it on top after it has been cooked.

Bottom Line: Himalayan salt is harvested from a large salt mine in Pakistan. It has a pink color due to the presence of iron oxide. It also contains trace amounts of calcium, potassium and magnesium.

Kosher Salt

Kosher salt was originally used for religious purposes.

Jewish law required blood to be extracted from meat before it was eaten. Kosher salt has a flaky, coarse structure that is particularly efficient at extracting the blood.

Read page 1

The main difference between regular salt and kosher salt is the structure of the flakes. Chefs find that kosher salt, due to its large flake size, is easier to pick up with your fingers and spread over food.

Kosher salt will have a different texture and flavor burst, but if you allow the salt to dissolve in the food, then there really isn’t any difference compared to regular table salt.

However, kosher salt is less likely to contain additives like anti-caking agents and iodine.

Bottom Line: Kosher salt has a flaky structure that makes it easy to spread on top of your food. There is very little difference compared to regular salt, although it is less likely to contain anti-caking agents and added iodine.

Celtic Salt

Celtic salt is a type of salt that originally became popular in France.

It has a greyish color and also contains a bit of water, which makes it quite moist.

Celtic salt contains trace amounts of minerals and is a bit lower in sodium than plain table salt.

Bottom Line: Celtic salt has a light greyish color and is quite moist. It is made from seawater and contains trace amounts of minerals.

Differences In Taste

Foodies and chefs primarily choose their salt based on taste, texture, color and convenience.

The impurities, including the trace minerals, can affect both the color and taste of the salt.

The size of the salt can also affect how the salty flavor hits the tongue. Salt with a larger grain size can have a stronger flavor and last longer on your tongue.

However, if you allow the salt to dissolve in the food, then there shouldn’t be any major taste difference between plain refined salt and the other “gourmet” types of salt.

If you like to use your fingers to sprinkle salt on food, then dry salts with a larger grain size are much easier to handle.

Bottom Line: The main difference between the salts is the taste, flavor, color, texture and convenience.

Minerals in Different Types of Salt

There is one study that compared the mineral content of different types of salt.

The table below shows the comparison between Table Salt, Maldon Salt (a typical sea salt), Himalayan Salt and Celtic Salt:

As you can see, celtic salt has the least amount of sodium and the highest amount of calcium and magnesium. Himalayan salt contains a bit of potassium.

However… keep in mind that these really are tiny amounts. For example, the 0.3 percent content of Magnesium for celtic salt implies that you would need to eat 100 grams of salt to reach the recommended daily amount.

For this reason, the mineral content of the various salts is actually not a compelling reason to choose one salt over the other. These amounts really are negligible compared to what you get from food.

Which Salt is the Healthiest?

I looked long and hard and couldn’t find a single study actually comparing the health effects of different types of salt.

However… if such a study were done, I highly doubt they would find a major difference. Most of the salts are similar, consisting of sodium chloride and tiny amounts of minerals.

The main benefit of choosing more “natural” types of salt is that you avoid additives and anti-caking agents that are often added to regular table salt.

At the end of the day, salt is salt… its main purpose is to add flavor, not nutrition.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Tim P. Whitby / 21st Century Fox / Getty Images

The beauty products we put on our skin can have important consequences for our health. Just this March, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that some Claire's cosmetics had tested positive for asbestos. But the FDA could only issue a warning, not a recall, because current law does not empower the agency to do so.

Michelle Pfeiffer wants to change that.

The actress and Environmental Working Group (EWG) board member was spotted on Capitol Hill Thursday lobbying lawmakers on behalf of a bill that would increase oversight of the cosmetics industry, The Washington Post reported.

Read More Show Less
A protest march against the Line 3 pipeline in St. Paul, Minnesota on May 18, 2018. Fibonacci Blue / CC BY 2.0

By Collin Rees

We know that people power can stop dangerous fossil fuel projects like the proposed Line 3 tar sands oil pipeline in Minnesota, because we've proved it over and over again — and recently we've had two more big wins.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Scientists released a study showing that a million species are at risk for extinction, but it was largely ignored by the corporate news media. Danny Perez Photography / Flickr / CC

By Julia Conley

Scientists at the United Nations' intergovernmental body focusing on biodiversity sounded alarms earlier this month with its report on the looming potential extinction of one million species — but few heard their calls, according to a German newspaper report.

Read More Show Less
DoneGood

By Cullen Schwarz

Ethical shopping is a somewhat new phenomenon. We're far more familiar with the "tried and tested" methods of doing good, like donating our money or time.

Read More Show Less
Pixabay

Summer is fast approaching, which means it's time to stock up on sunscreen to ward off the harmful effects of sun exposure. Not all sunscreens are created equally, however.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Mark Wallheiser / Getty Images

The climate crisis is a major concern for American voters with nearly 40 percent reporting the issue will help determine how they cast their ballots in the upcoming 2020 presidential election, according to a report compiled by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.

Of more than 1,000 registered voters surveyed on global warming, climate and energy policies, as well as personal and collective action, 38 percent said that a candidate's position on climate change is "very important" when it comes to determining who will win their vote. Overall, democratic candidates are under more pressure to provide green solutions as part of their campaign promises with 64 percent of Democrat voters saying they prioritize the issue compared with just 34 percent of Independents and 12 percent of Republicans.

Read More Show Less
Flooding in Winfield, Missouri this month. Jonathan Rehg / Getty Images

President Donald Trump has agreed to sign a $19.1 billion disaster relief bill that will help Americans still recovering from the flooding, hurricanes and wildfires that have devastated parts of the country in the past two years. Senate Republicans said they struck a deal with the president to approve the measure, despite the fact that it did not include the funding he wanted for the U.S.-Mexican border, CNN reported.

"The U.S. Senate has just approved a 19 Billion Dollar Disaster Relief Bill, with my total approval. Great!" the president tweeted Thursday.

Read More Show Less
Reed Hoffmann / Getty Images

Violent tornadoes tore through Missouri Wednesday night, killing three and causing "extensive damage" to the state's capital of Jefferson City, The New York Times reported.

"There was a lot of devastation throughout the state," Governor Mike Parson said at a Thursday morning press conference, as NPR reported. "We were very fortunate last night that we didn't have more injuries than what we had, and we didn't have more fatalities across the state. But three is too many."

Read More Show Less