Without question, salt is one of the most important ingredients in cooking. But did you know that there are several different kinds of salt to choose from? Take a look in the condiment section of your grocery store and chances are you will see varieties such as Himalayan Pink, Kosher, and Celtic in addition to Sea Salt and table salt. Not only do each of these different kinds of salt have varying tastes but they also have different textures and varying degrees of minerals and sodium.
Salt is generally used as a way to add flavor to foods and the primary reason it is often viewed as unhealthy, is that consuming it in high quantities can result in elevated blood pressure. In the typical Western diet, salt is found in high quantities in most processed and fast foods and as a result, people who eat that way regularly are often encouraged to eliminate salt or follow a low sodium diet. However, for those people who consume mostly unprocessed, whole foods with a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and grains, experimenting with different kinds of salt may be something you’d like to try.
Here is a quick overview of the different kinds of salts and how you can use them:
Regular Table Salt or Refined Salt
This variety of salt is the one we most commonly find on our tables and is used for everything from snacks to main meals. It is usually highly refined so most of the trace minerals and impurities are eliminated. This kind of salt can “clump” in wet or humid conditions, therefore, anti-caking agents are often added so that the salt can flow freely from the shaker. In addition, iodine is typically added to table salt. If you choose to use salt that is not enriched with iodine, be sure you’re getting this important mineral from other sources such as eggs, fish, dairy, or seaweed.
Sea salt is exactly what its name says: salt made from seawater. Ocean water is harvested and evaporated leaving the salt behind. Sea Salt does contains some traces of minerals such as zinc, iron and potassium and can have a richer flavor and texture. However, remember, that due to pollution, sea salt can contain heavy metals such as mercury or lead in trace amounts. Look for brands that use clean seawater free of pollutants. This is the kind of sea salt we at Tommy’s Superfoods use in all of our flash-frozen vegetable medleys – it’s the perfect choice to complement our veggies and herbal seasonings!
Himalayan Pink Salt
Himalayan salt is very popular right now in part for its’ beautiful, light pink color as well as its unique, earthy flavor. Harvested from the Khewra Salt Mine in Pakistan, Himalayan salt contains small amounts of iron oxide, which gives it its distinct color. This salt also has lower amounts of sodium than regular table salt in addition to small amounts of iron, calcium, magnesium and potassium.
Kosher salt is the preferred salt by many professional chefs and cookbook authors. It is refereed to as Kosher because it meets the standards for those people following kosher dietary practices. The primary difference between regular table salt and kosher salt is the size of the flakes. Kosher salt typically has a larger flake size, making it easier to sprinkle over food with your fingers (instead of a salt shaker). Because of that, kosher salt is less likely to contain anti-caking additives and iodine.
Celtic salt frequently has a greyish color and because it is dried naturally via wind and sun, still contains a bit of water, making it moister than other salts. Celtic salt has less sodium than table salt and higher amounts of calcium and magnesium. The light grey color of Celtic salt comes from the clay in the salt beds where it is harvested. As with Sea Salt, look for brands that use seawater free of pollutants.
Choosing Different Kinds of Salt
When it comes to making a decision about which of the many different kinds of salt to use, there really is no right or wrong answer. Choose the salt that best fits your taste, flavor preference, color, flake size, and convenience. You may discover that some salts – such as a chunky sea salt – go great on sweets (think salted chocolate covered caramels!) while an afternoon snack of air-popped popcorn is just fine with a shake of plain old table salt. Experiment, and find which one you like best!