Feature Articles: Food, Fitness and Eating Well
Is there a salt that is healthy?
Tammy Roberts, MS, RD, LD, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, Barton County, University of Missouri Extension
There are many different kinds of salt, including sea, kosher, gray and iodized. Most culinary experts have their favorite type of salt, but many consumers are confused about the different kinds of salt. There are only small differences among them.
Iodized or table salt is probably the most common salt used in households. Table salt is fine textured, has an anti-caking additive and has iodine added to it. Iodine is needed in small amounts by the body. It is added to salt to prevent goiter.
Kosher salt has a coarse texture. It is not necessarily a kosher product, but can be certified as kosher for Passover use. Kosher salt has been used in the process in which foods are made kosher.
Sea salt is another coarse salt, but it can also be fine textured. It is made from evaporated seawater. There are trace amounts of minerals left in it after the evaporation process, which adds just a bit of a different flavor, making it the salt of choice for some.
Gray salt has become a very popular choice by many chefs who consider it the best quality of salt available. Gray salt is actually a type of sea salt. It is gray or even purplish in color because of the clay from the salt flats where it is collected. Like sea salt it can be coarse or fine grain and the trace minerals add a subtle flavor.
From a chemical perspective, all these salts are the same. They all have sodium and chloride. A teaspoon of table salt may have more sodium than a teaspoon of the coarsely ground salt because of the amount that fits in the spoon. By weight, they all have the same amount of sodium. The trace minerals in the different salts add a subtle flavor change but don’t change the nutritional value. Sea and kosher salts don’t have added iodine.
Salt plays an important role in body functions. If your sodium gets depleted in the body, all contraction of muscles, including the heart, would stop. Salt helps maintain electrolyte and fluid balances in the body, and helps the brain and nerves communicate and function properly. It only takes a small amount of salt to do these functions, so sodium should be limited to no more than 1,500 to 2,300 milligrams per day.
Last update: Monday, May 16, 2011