Know Your Salts: Different Types of Salt and Their Benefits

Salt is the basic ingredient we add to our dishes, otherwise our meals would taste bland. But, not all types of salt are created equal, so it is up to you to choose the best. Market offers Himalayan pink salt, Kosher salt, Sea salt, Celtic salt… and the old and refined table salt.

They all differ in taste an texture, and there are also many differences in their mineral and sodium content. In this article we have included the most popular salt types and a thorough comparison of their nutritional content to make it easier for you to choose wisely.

First, lets explain what salt actually is and why health experts consider it as a controversial ingredient.

What is salt and how does it affect our health?

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

These elements are essential for all the living beings on the planet. They are important for many vital functions in the body, for instance, they help the brain and nerves to send electrical impulses. Salt is often harvested from salt mines, or through evaporating processes of sea water and other waters rich in minerals.

It can be used for many purposes, and most often it is used to add flavor to dishes. Salt is also used as a food preservative, because bacteria cannot grow in salty environment. Salt has bad reputation because it can bind in water in the bloodstream, and thus increase the blood pressure.

Even though most studies suggest that by reducing the salt intake you can reduce the blood pressure by 1-5.4 mm/Hg, but there is still no evidence that cutting off salt can prevent heart attack, stroke, or death.

In Western diet the greatest part of salt comes from the processed foods. By eating whole, unprocessed foods you do not need to worry about the amount of salt you add to your meals.

Bottom line: Salt is made of sodium and chloride, essential minerals for our health. Excessive consumption of salt increases blood pressure, but there is no evidence that cutting off salt can improve health.

Refined (table) Salt

Regular table salt is the most commonly used salt. It is highly refined and heavily ground. Most of its impurities and trace minerals are removed. Heavily ground salt can clump together. For that reason, producers add anti-caking agents so it can flow freely. Food-grade table salt is pure sodium chloride (97% or higher).

Iodine is also added to this type of salt. Table salt was great health preventive measure against iodine deficiency common in many parts of the world (still present in some areas), and a leading root-cause of hypothyroidism, mental retardation and other health problems.

If you choose to avoid regular iodine-loaded table salt, eat other foods rich in iodine, like fish, dairy products, eggs and seaweed. You can take kelp tablets (seaweed) several times a week if you do not prefer consuming iodized salt. These are quite high iodine.

Bottom line: Refined salt is sodium chloride, and contains anti-caking agents, that are added to prevent clumping. Iodine is also added to table salt.

Sea salt

Same as table salt, sea salt is also just sodium chloride. Depending on the area it was harvested from and the processing it went through, sea salt often does not contain some amounts of trace minerals, including potassium, iron and zinc.

Darker sea salt has higher concentration of “impurities” and trace nutrients. But, keep in mind that oceans are getting more polluted, so sea salt often contains trace minerals of heavy metals, like lead.

Sea salt is less ground than table salt, so when you sprinkle it over your cooked meals, it may give you a different taste and cause potent “flavor burst” than regular salt. Trace minerals and impurities also give different taste, but this varies between different brands.

Bottom line: Sea salt is obtained by evaporating seawater. It is similar to table salt, but contains small amount of minerals. It also contains trace amounts of heavy minerals due to the polluted areas (sea).

Himalayan Pink Salt

It is harvested in Pakistan, and mined from Khewra salt mine, which is the second largest salt mine in the whole world. Himalayan salt contains trace amounts of iron oxide (rust). This gives its pink color. This type contains small amounts of calcium, iron, potassium, and magnesium. It contains lower amounts of sodium when compared to regular salt.

Many prefer its flavor, but some say that they have not noticed any difference. Its pink color is the main difference, so sprinkle some Himalayan salt over your meal after it is cooked for a better look.

Bottom line: Himalayan salt is harvested from a large mine in Pakistan. It has a distinctive pink color provided by the presence of iron oxide. It contains trace amounts of calcium, potassium and magnesium.

Kosher Salt

Kosher salt was first used for religious purposes. Jews were supposed to extract the blood from the meat before they eat it. Kosher salt is flaky coarse, and it is efficient in extracting blood. The structure of the flakes is the main difference between table and kosher salt. Chefs throughout the world say that due to its flake size, you can easily pick up kosher salt with your fingers and spread it over your food.

Kosher salt gives different flavor burst, but if it dissolves in the food, you will not notice any difference, comparing it to table salt. Kosher salt is less likely to contain iodine and anti-caking agents.

Bottom line: Kosher salt is flaky, and it is easier to spread it on your food. It does not differe from regular salt, but it is less likely to contain iodine and anti-caking agents.

Celtic Salt

It is the salt that first become popular in France. It is grayish and contains water, and looks quite moist. Celtic salt contains trace minerals and is lower in sodium when compared to regular salt.

Bottom line: Celtic salt is grayish and moist. It is obtained from sea water and contains trace amounts of minerals.

Difference in Taste

People often choose their salt based on its taste, texture, color, and convenience. Impurities, including trace minerals, affect the color and taste of salt. The size of the flakes also affects the salty flavor that hits our tongue. Larger grain size gives stronger flavor and lasts longer on the tongue.

But, it salt dissolves in the food, there is not any major difference in the taste of table salt and “gourmet” types of salt. Dry salt with larger flakes are easier to handle if you use your fingers to sprinkle salt on your food.

Bottom line: The main difference between salt types is their taste, flavor, color, texture, and convenience.

Minerals in Different Types of Salt

A study compared the mineral content of different salt types. Check the table below and note the differences in the mineral content of table, Maldon (typical sea salt), Himalayan and Celtic salt. Celtic salt has the lowest amount of sodium and it is highest in calcium and magnesium. Himalayan pink salt contains a bit of potassium.

Keep in mind that these are tiny amounts. For instance, 0.3% of magnesium in celtic salt means that you need to consume 100 grams of salt to get to the recommended daily intake.

Because of this, the mineral content of salts is not a compelling reason when you need to choose the best salt for you. These amounts are negligible if compared to the amount you get from your food.

Which is The Healthiest Type?

There is still no study that compares the health effects of salt types. Even if scientists do a study, there will be no major difference. Salt types are similar, and each of them consists of sodium chloride and trace amounts of minerals.

When choosing the most “natural” type, always avoid additives and anti-caking agents, often contained in table salt. At the end, salt is salt, and its main purpose is to flavor our meals, not to increase their nutritional value.