Not All Salts Are Created Equal
March 10, 2021 | View PDF
Salt is one of our most important cooking ingredients, and plays an important role in the human body. We can’t live without it. There are many varieties of salt on today’s market, each with its own niche and purported health benefits. But which is which, and is one really better than the others?
Generally, salt is a crystal mineral made of molecules of sodium and chlorine, both of which are essential for the human body, aiding your brain and nerves in sending electrical impulses throughout the body. Salt is most commonly used to flavor and preserve foods. In large amounts, salt can raise blood pressure. Lowering salt intake can reduce blood pressure in small increments.
The salts you’ve most likely heard of include regular table salt, sea salt, Himalayan pink salt, and kosher salt. These each differ in taste, texture, and mineral and sodium content, and of course, nutritional properties.
Regular table salt is highly refined, having most of the natural impurities and trace minerals removed. Table salt is taken from naturally occurring salt mines. You can often find two types of table salt-iodized and non-iodized. The addition of iodine in table salt is a preventative measure to reduce iodine deficiency, a leading cause of many health issues including hypothyroidism.
Sea salt, as its name predicts, is made by evaporating seawater, and as such, it contains trace minerals like potassium, iron and zinc. It is often course and less ground, and is typically used on food after cooking, rather than as an ingredient, because it causes a more potent flavor than table salt.
Himalayan pink salt is mined in Pakistan, from the second largest salt mine in the world. It gets its pink color from trace amounts of iron oxide, and also contains small amounts of calcium, iron, potassium and magnesium. It is just slightly lower in sodium than regular table salt.
Kosher salt was traditionally used in the koshering process required by Jewish law. Kosher salt is course and flaky, and is easy to pick up and spread over food. It provides a burst of flavor when add on top of food, but isn’t easily distinguishable from regular table salt when allowed to dissolve in food. Kosher salt shouldn’t be used as a 1:1 substitute for table salt as it is much flakier, and it generally doesn’t contain iodine.
As far as the differences in taste, the main difference between the salts is due to the grain size-the larger the grain, the stronger the flavor on your tongue when added on top of food. When added as an ingredient to food in preparation, there isn’t necessarily a distinguishable difference between these salts.
As far as nutritional differences, these are negligible as well. At the end of the day, each different type of salt is just that-salt. Each may contain trace amounts of other minerals, but these are generally negligible in the long run as well. If you are looking to reduce salt intake, try a larger grain salt added on top of food for a more intense flavor with less added salt, or simply omit the salt as an added ingredient altogether. Instead, flavor with pepper, garlic and other herbs.