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Choosing the Right Salt

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Choosing the Right Salt

Salt has always been an important part of our diets. Though doctors now warn us against eating too much salt, we do need some salt in order to survive. Salt contains electrolytes that allow our cells to generate energy, strengthen their cell walls, and contribute to numerous other functions that keep our bodies healthy.

Salt is one of the original four basic flavors recognized by our sense of taste. In addition to its flavor, it also played an important role in food preservation throughout much of human history. It was so important, it even found its way into folk stories and religious rituals.

Today, we bake with it, sprinkle it on our food, add it to sports drinks, use it to make ice cream, and more. But should you choose table salt, sea salt, kosher salt, or some other kind of salt? Here’s a look at some of the most widely used kinds of salt, how they’re made, and what they’re good for:

Table Salt: This fine, white, powdery salt is the most widely used kind. You’ll find it in shakers in most restaurants and homes. Table salt is usually made from rock salt mined from the earth. The salt is then refined to remove traces of other naturally occurring minerals. Chemical additives may then be added to prevent clumping. Since the 1920s, iodine has been added back into most table salt, after it was found that it could easily cure iodine deficiency, which can lead to birth defects and hyperthyroidism. Table salt is generally the best choice for baking, because its fine texture allows it to dissolve easily and be measured accurately.

Kosher Salt: This large, coarse, flaky salt is made from evaporated brine (salt water). While the word “kosher” generally refers to foods that are made in accordance with the dietary laws of the Orthodox Jewish faith, the word is actually misleading in this case, because almost all salt is technically kosher. Kosher salt is more accurately known as “koshering salt,” because it is rubbed on meat to remove surface blood, as required by kosher laws. Kosher salt is popular with chefs, especially for meat recipes, because it is easy to sprinkle onto foods using just your fingers. Because its large grains do not dissolve as easily as table salt, and make it difficult to measure accurately, it is not often used for baking. Kosher salt does not contain additives or iodine.

Sea Salt: As the name suggests, sea salt comes from the ocean. It is collected when seawater evaporates and leaves behind a salty residue. Sea salt comes in a variety of textures, from fine and powdery like table salt to coarse and flaky like kosher salt. Regardless of the texture, however, sea salt is not highly processed like standard table salt, and contains many naturally occurring trace minerals, such as iodine, magnesium, and potassium. Many sea salt proponents say these minerals make it more flavorful than table salt. Others simply prefer to eat foods that are less processed, without chemical additives. Because it can be bought in a choice of textures, it can be used for a variety of purposes. It is generally more expensive than either table salt or kosher salt.

Himalayan Salt: This coarse pinkish salt comes from rock salt mines in Asia. Like table salt, it comes from the earth (though all salt mines originated from ocean salt at one time), but like sea salt, it is unrefined, leaving its natural mineral components in place. The rich pink color is a result of such trace elements, including iron. While it, too, can be purchased in a choice of textures, it is often sold in relatively large, coarse rocks, to be used in salt grinders.

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21 comments

1 Inna { 03.01.15 at 10:06 am }

Having hypothyroidism for near 20 years I have done much reading and read that Kale is a good source for iodine.

2 Jann L M Bailey { 12.18.14 at 12:07 am }

There are so many kinds of speciality salts these days, it would have been nice to mention a few of them. They are made of course from one of the salts mentioned but have such distinct characteristics and make such a statement when used.

3 bonnie { 12.16.14 at 9:29 am }

Please do more research … our bodies are toxic deficient and dehydrated …. leave our cells too busy surviving that to fight germs and toxic chemicals we ingest daily … we need to detox …. becareful with out diets .. no processed foods … drink Water not sip . … and natural salt to our diets … I was in liver failure … I started drinking half my body weight a day in water ,, added 2 tsp and day in natural salt and detoxed … no processed foods healthier than I have been in 30 yrs … I give my body what it needs to function … processed salt is why they limit it … reseach what they do to it and take out of it … all that our bodies need … let your body function like it was designed too and your body will take care of itself … and btw … switch to coconut oil …. your brain needs it … all the health benefits from it are amazing … support local non gmo … pesticide free farmers ,,, we need them desperately .. good luck Merry Christmas God bless

4 Leo in NJ { 08.31.11 at 10:34 am }

You forgot pickling salt! Basically table salt (rock salt, more or less pure sodium chloride), but without any additives, No iodine, and especially no anti-caking agents, which can cloud the brine in pickles.

5 Jaime McLeod { 05.04.11 at 8:31 am }

“People with shellfish allergy are sometimes warned against iodine, an element present in a wide range of items including shellfish, seaweed, cleaning products, and X-ray dyes. However, iodine allergy is unrelated to shellfish allergy. The allergen present in shellfish is not iodine but muscle protein in the flesh.”

Information courtesy of http://www.allergicchild.com.

6 Irene { 05.02.11 at 7:22 pm }

Will salt with iodine be bad for people who are allergic to seafood (crustacians), since they contain iodine?

7 Jaime McLeod { 03.08.11 at 3:29 pm }

Hi Jackie,
You may find natural potassium in trace amounts in sea salt, and potassium iodide is added to iodized salt. Some salt substitutes are made primarily of potassium chloride. But the potassium content in any salt is negligible. If you’re looking to up your potassium intake, you’re better off eating plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, beans and nuts. You can see some of the best sources here.

8 Jackie Young { 03.08.11 at 1:23 pm }

So which salt has lower potassium?

9 Sol { 03.03.11 at 12:55 pm }

Don’t be fooled. All salt is sea salt. Mined salt comes from old seabeds that have evaporated and left behind the salt residue that is extracted. It is a naturally occuring substance found in nature. The “Sea Salt” you pay a premium for in the grocery store is man-made salt, although they try to convince you it’s all natural and better for you. The fact is, salt is salt, although some varieties may have different additional mineral compounds that either occur naturally or are added in processing, like iodine. Salt is a necessity of life, so use what you like and enjoy it.

10 Jaime McLeod { 02.22.11 at 10:42 am }

Debbie, The concentration of iodine in sea salt varies. There’s no way to accurately predict how much will be in any one container of sea salt you buy. If you have thyroid disease, then iodized table salt may make more sense for you. However, if you already have a deficiency, I suspect salt alone won’t take care of it. I hope you’re discussing your deficiency with a doctor. There may be more effective ways to up your iodine intake.

11 Debbie { 02.18.11 at 4:52 pm }

Is there more iodine in table salt or sea salt? Researchers have found that people with thyroid disease have an iodine deficiency and I’m trying to find the best way to replace that deficiency.

12 Earl Barkand { 01.30.11 at 10:45 pm }

I would never touch sea salt! First, you use the word “process” as a bad thing,when in fact all it means is it requires more grinding up. Sea salt is top scum water traped at high tide, scooped up by machine, heated to 1200 to 1600
degrees, then chemicals added. Not for me!

13 looking for logic { 01.26.11 at 7:59 pm }

I’ve done salt tasting tests with peop[le that think they detect differences and they couldn’t. It is very entertaining to hear people make definitive statements. The article was factual many comments are not. I purchase sea salt for trace minerals and less processing and I can quantify that statement.

14 dlmaddox1 { 01.26.11 at 3:27 pm }

I always buy sea salt. I don’t use much so the extra price is OK. It has better flavor. Very good article, keep up the good work.

15 hastymitzy { 01.26.11 at 3:18 pm }

For those of you who are unfortunate enough to be on a low sodium diet due to a medical condition, your best choice of salt would be the Sea Salt. I had a massive heart attack a few months ago and the number one thing I was told is “quit smoking” (dahhha!) and dramatically cut down on my salt intake, well it was harder for me than to quit smoking (after 35 years). Good news… I’ve been told by two heart specialists, that Sea Salt is 10 x’s better than any other salt, your second choice is the “Himalayan pink”. Number one? they haven’t been stripped of all the good stuff that our bodies requires like Iodine, there’s no extra additives?or junk in it, plus it has additional minerals that we need. Hope this helps.

16 Joanne Goodman { 01.26.11 at 11:33 am }

Interesting information. I prefer sea salt. Regular table salt is ok. I do not like salt with iodine in it. I cannot only smell it in the food, but taste it as well. I especially notice it when I add it to boiling water for pasta.

17 Rosalind B. Jones { 01.26.11 at 10:23 am }

Salt with iodine to me is better than all the salts .All salts have good taste ,just use in moderation , some foods need salt ,do not over indulge.

18 Jaime McLeod { 01.26.11 at 10:16 am }

Hi Kathy,
There is no one answer to that question. It depends on what you want to use it for, and how you, personally, feel about processed foods versus all natural foods. It’s all a matter of what your personal preferences are, and what your needs are. I certainly wouldn’t bake with kosher salt, for instance, but this guide is to help you decide what works for you.

19 Kathy { 01.26.11 at 10:04 am }

So, good info on the salt; which is smarter to use for everyday use. Which is better for us to use.

20 Peg { 01.26.11 at 9:34 am }

I have used and prefer sea salt. Have always wondered Why since it is less processed does it cost so much more?

21 Anna West { 01.25.11 at 8:39 am }

Don’t forget canning salt. Many people ask me if they have to use canning salt when canning. Yes you must because all impurities are removed which can discolor the food.

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