You want to know: Kosher, sea, Himalayan, table—there are so many types of salt. What are their differences, and are any of them healthy? Is one better for cooking?
The dietitian says: Sodium is an electrolyte that, coupled with potassium, helps our kidneys maintain the body’s fluid status and blood volume. “Sodium is important to consume,” explains Roper St. Francis registered dietitian Jillian Morgan, “but an imbalance—specifically, too much sodium and not enough potassium—can lead to high blood pressure.” Much of our sodium intake isn’t (solely) from the salt we add to our foods. We consume about 70 percent of our sodium from processed foods and dining out (think canned, boxed and packaged foods; fast foods and restaurant meals). In fact, adding salt to flavor fresh foods when
making a recipe from scratch usually contributes to an appropriate amount of sodium intake.
A closer look: The salt we cook and season with combines sodium and chlorine, NaCl. As the salt market has grown, we’ve moved from having one option at the store to having access to table salt, sea salt, Himalayan salt, Kosher salt and more.
- Table salt: Though primarily just NaCl, this salt, also known as refined salt, may also have added iodine and anticaking agents, as its refined aspect can lead to clumping.
- Sea salt: The product of evaporating seawater, this coarser salt is similar in content to table salt but may contain traces of potassium, iron and zinc, as well. Due to ocean pollution, some worry that sea salt could have trace amounts of microplastics.
- Himalayan salt: From the Khewra Salt Mine in Pakistan, this salt’s pink hue comes from its trace amounts of calcium, magnesium, copper, potassium and iron.
- Kosher salt: Named for its adherence to strict Kosher guidelines, this salt’s coarse texture makes it easy to pick up when cooking, making it a favorite among chefs.
The takeaway: Most salts don’t vary much in their mineral content. Though flavors may differ slightly, texture marks the biggest contrast. No matter the salt, however, the Center for Disease Control advises consuming no more than 2,300 milligrams per day. That’s equivalent to about one teaspoon. The American Heart Association agrees but goes one step further, recommending 1,500 milligrams as the ideal limit for heart health, though Morgan finds that to be an unrealistic goal for most. To meet either challenge, you’ll need to keep processed foods to a minimum.
Did you know? Iodine, found in dairy, shrimp, limas and more, is also added to table salt. A component of thyroid hormones, it’s essential to metabolism.
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