Are Salts Really That Different?

Salt is a very important cooking ingredient around the world – essential for flavoring dishes and bringing up the flavors of other ingredients..  This is made up of elements sodium and chlorine – essential for human life.  Including helping your brain and nerves send electrical impulses.1

Salt is either produced from salt mines or by evaporating ocean water and made from sodium chloride.  Less processed salts have small amounts of minerals but not substantial enough to offer nutritional benefits.  A variety of salts are usually chosen for their flavor.  For more coarse salts, the process leaves behind trace minerals and elements, which the minerals add flavor and a variety of coarseness. Larger, more coarse salts don’t dissolve as easily in foods, but best when sprinkled or finishing dishes.  Examples of when to use coarse salts are on meat or vegetables right before or after cooking.  Typically not best to use in baking recipes.  But it’s up to each person’s preference.2-3 

Differences between Sea Salt and Table Salt:

Taste

Texture

Processing

Similarities:

All salts have the same basic nutritional value3

Table salt: heavily processed which removes impurities, being trace minerals and is finely ground.  The only trace mineral sometimes added is Iodine to prevent goiters and low thyroid levels (hypothyroidism).  Additionally contains an anticaking agent to prevent clumps.  Iodine is great and necessary for a healthy thyroid.2-3

Kosher salt: coarse textured and larger salt that doesn’t contain Iodine.  The main difference is the structure of the flakes and different texture and flavor burst.  This is less likely to contain additives like anti-caking agents and iodine.  This salt gets its name from being used in traditional Kosher foods.1-2 

Sea salt: may contain small amounts of potassium, zinc, iron, and calcium.  This salt is not highly processed and ground like table salt.  It looks coarser and darker due to impurities (minerals).  Something to consider due to ocean pollution, this salt can also have trace amounts of heavy metals like lead.1-2 

Himalayan pink salt: harvested from mines in Pakistan and the pink color comes from iron oxide (rust), this is also not highly processed and ground like table salt.  This salt may contain small amounts of iron, calcium, potassium, and magnesium.  The main difference is the pink color.1-2

Celtic salt: has a grayish color and contains a bit of water so may be quite moist.  This also has trace amounts of minerals and is a bit lower in sodium.1

The more coarse and larger salts such as sea salt and kosher salt both have fewer salt granules in a teaspoon because the granules are physically bigger than table salt.  In a way, there is less salt in a teaspoon vs table salt.  Don’t substitute these salts at 1:1 ratio compared with fine table salt.1-2   

Benefits of salt:

Helps maintain adequate hydration and blood pressure levels

Important role in fluid balance thus maintains healthy blood pressure4

Amount estimated of table salt 2,300mg per teaspoon

Amount estimated of sea salt 2,000mg per teaspoon

Excessive sodium content leads to high blood pressure (hypertension) and higher risk of heart disease.4  

In my opinion, the different salts do not matter on a nutritional level.  If you’re trying to take that next step/go above and beyond, then choose a sea salt that has some minerals and is less processed.  I do like that there are different types of salts, especially to use when sprinkling on a dish.  This can taste and look great!  I would just use this sparingly because salt gets expensive, especially when finding the fancy (small production) sea or himalayan salts.    

From all the articles I read, the minerals are in such small amounts it’s not going to help much nutritionally.  Now this is my own opinion and each person has their own – this is just what I’ve concluded for myself.

References:

  1. Gunnars, K. (2018, October 19). Types of Salt: Himalayan vs Kosher vs Regular vs Sea Salt. Retrieved January 18, 2021, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/different-types-of-salt
  2. Salt and Sodium. (2020, October 19). Retrieved January 18, 2021, from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/salt-and-sodium/
  3. Katherine Zeratsky, R. (2019, September 24). Sea salt vs. table salt: What’s the difference? Retrieved January 18, 2021, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/sea-salt/faq-20058512
  4. Streit, L. (2019, November 12). Sea Salt: Uses, Benefits, and Downsides. Retrieved January 18, 2021, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/sea-salt-benefits

Photo Credit:

Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash

Photo by Andrijana Bozic on Unsplash

Photo by Dewang Gupta on Unsplash

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