The Question: Are all types of salt equal? Is one healthier than the other? I use sea salt, table salt and Himalayan salt.
The Answer: The main differences between the various forms of salt – table salt, sea salt and kosher salt – are processing, texture, flavour and iodine content. Unless your diet lacks iodine, one type of salt is no more nutritious than another.
Table salt is the most common type of salt found in saltshakers and used in cooking. It’s mined from salt deposits on land and then refined to remove naturally occurring minerals. It also contains anti-caking additives to maintain its fine, free-flowing texture.
Most table salt is fortified with iodine (called iodized salt), a mineral that’s used by your thyroid gland to produce thyroid hormones. A diet that’s lacking iodine – also found in seafood and dairy products – can lead to goiter, a condition in which the thyroid gland enlarges as it tries to maintain its optimal function. (Iodine deficiency can eventually lead to hypothyroidism, or low thyroid.) In North America, salt has been fortified with iodine since the 1920s to prevent goiter.
Salt can be refined to create different versions such as pickling salt, rock salt, iodized salt and seasoned salt. Himalayan salt is a type of rock salt from Pakistan. It may have a reddish or pink colour due to iron in the crystals.
Sea salt, available in fine or coarse crystals, is distilled from ocean water. It undergoes minimal processing and, as a result, retains natural minerals including calcium, magnesium and potassium. The minute amounts of trace minerals in sea salt might be enough to affect its flavour or colour, but won’t have any meaningful impact on your nutrient intake.
Sea salt can be fine or coarse grained. Most brands are not iodized, but check labels to be sure. Celtic salt, fleur de sel and Hawaiian salt are popular varieties of sea salt.
Kosher salt comes from land salt mines but, unlike table salt, it is less processed and contains fewer additives. Kosher salt has a coarse and flat grain size, which makes it easy to crumble over vegetables or pinch into pasta water. Its crystal size also makes it ideal for curing meat, a step in the koshering process. Kosher salt does not contain iodine.
By weight, all types of salt are 40 per cent sodium. For example, one gram of table salt, sea salt and kosher salt each has 0.4 grams of sodium. Per teaspoon, though, coarse-grained salts contain slightly less sodium. That’s because a teaspoon of coarse salt weighs less than a teaspoon of finely grained salt.
For example, one teaspoon of table salt contains 2,325 milligrams of sodium whereas a teaspoon of kosher salt has roughly 1,800 milligrams. Healthy adults require 1,200 to 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day, depending on age. The recommended upper daily limit for sodium consumption is 2,300 milligrams.
Most of us can let our taste preference determine which type of salt to use. However, people who have pre-hypertension or high blood pressure should minimize the use of added salt, regardless of type. While it’s true most of the sodium we consume comes from processed foods and restaurant meals, the salt shaker still contributes. So sprinkle lightly.