The Truth About Salt
Good ole sodium chloride! It has been flavoring my food from before I even knew Mr. and Mrs. Snowman on the table were for more than just cute decoration. I was raised with iodized table salt. It came and still comes in a large cylinder and you use it to fill up your little salt shakers whenever you need to. To keep moisture and packing to a minimum, I also toss in a few pieces of rice when I refill. I get into cooking and realize everyone and their mama wants to use Sea Salt. And the commercial industry hears their combined call and provides! Now we have all kinds of food made with sea salt, and the manufacturers want you to know it, too!
So what makes one salt different from another? Basically, it’s all about the mining/collecting of the salt and then what might be added to it during processing. If you don’t like a lot of processing in your food, you might just try and claim that sea salt is the way to go. Oh, but hold the phone! Let’s take a closer look.
Sea salt, as you might’ve guessed, comes from the sea. Yep. To make sea salt, manufacturers simply evaporate sea water. And because it’s not processed a lot, it still has a lot of mineral nutrients in it – like potassium, iron, zinc, magnesium, and more. It’s not a heaping load of the stuff, but it makes a difference. What does it also have? Microplastic from all of that horrible pollution in the ocean. So, keep in mind it’s in there, and we have no idea what harm it might cause in the future. This kind of salt tends to have a coarser feel to it and a varied flavor, so cooks tend to use it more often.
Regular Table Salt
Regular table salt is 97% just sodium-chloride and has very little of anything else because the processing has stripped the minerals out of it. It is usually mined and then refined into that silk fine ground you’re accustomed to. It has usually been processed to deter clumping and sometimes has added iodine. Now, the addition of iodine is actually a good thing. Iodine is something the body needs, particularly the thyroid. Iodine deficiency in the body is not unusual, and it’s preventable with this or by adding other foods with iodine to your diet. However, issues with the thyroid became relevant back in the early 20th century. Most people these days get enough iodine in their diets.
Himalayan salt is mined from the second largest salt mine in the world – in Pakistan. The reason it has the distinctive color it does? Iron-oxide. Yes, rust is on your salt. It also has a bit of calcium, copper, and magnesium to go with that iron to root out some of the sodium compared to other types of salt. To be honest, though – other than the price tag, there isn’t really much difference in this and sea salt other than the color. If your dish is all about visual appeal, this might be your go-to.
Celtic Salt is a salt made popular in France. It has more moisture and is as dense as sea salt. It also has a lot of the same minerals still intact and a lower sodium than normal table salt.
Kosher salt is really just a kind of in-between version. It’s history and why it’s called “kosher” is from the Jewish tradition of always making sure to remove all blood from meat before it is eaten. Because of its flaky nature, kosher salt is great for extraction of blood and preserving meat. It’s coarser than regular table salt, which makes it easier to sprinkle for the cooks in the house. But it has been stripped of a lot of minerals during its manufacturing. It’s so flaky that you wouldn’t want to substitute this for regular salt at a 1:1 ratio. Granules of salt can be packed more densely in a spoon than flakes.
Just to make things a little more confusing, there are three kinds of black salt. One I’m going to mention for safety’s sake – it is actually not a salt at all, it’s the terminology for a mixture of scrapings from the bottom of a cauldron used for ritual herb burning by witches and pagans. So let’s never consider this anything optional for eating, shall we? Okay, moving on. The second is often called Hawaiian Black Salt and is sometimes used for cooking.It’s salt infused with activated charcoal that lends it an earthy flavor and thus it’s used quite often as a finishing seasoning on dishes. The last is Indian Black Salt or Kala Namak and it is made from volcanic rock salt, or Himalayan salt that has gone through a specific heating process and mixed with seeds and herbs to help give it a special flavor and smell. It contains sulfate and sulfide and iron and has a particular boiled egg smell.
So the big question – which is healthier?
None of them are any more healthy than the other. The amount of minerals found in unprocessed salts (anything listed above except table salt) are in trace amounts and don’t come close to even 1% of your recommended daily intake of these things. So that shouldn’t be a factor. You may like the texture of one type of salt to the others and so use it. What feels good between your fingers, right? Or maybe you need the Black Salt because of a specific recipe that needs that flavor – it is, after all the only salt that differs in flavor more than texture.
The most important thing to remember about salt, no matter the brand or type, is that the high sodium content could wreak havoc on blood pressure and heart health. You should try to keep that content within proper levels per day.
If you maintain a diet of mostly healthy whole foods, foods that are cooked by you and not processed, a bit of salt to a dish shouldn’t be an issue. Unfortunately, most people love processed foods. And that includes vegan processed food. All processed foods have a large amount of sodium in it. So adding salt on top of that can be problematic.
So the main thing to take away from this, no matter your preference – fine or course, colored or not, please use this stuff sparingly. Try new combinations of other spices in your cooking instead of just salt to help you lower the salt necessary for a meal. That’s what’s really important.
Oh, and never eat a Witch’s Black Salt…
When in doubt be sure to check out my Recipe Rules to Live By post.