The Salt Comparison
In my kitchen, salt is such a critical part of cooking and flavor enhancing. I thought I was pretty well-rounded in the salt department -- I had iodized salt, sea salt, and even some of the Pink Himalayan "fancy" salt stocked in my pantry. I knew there were even more types of salt out there, but I had no idea just HOW many more!!
I feel like we've all probably heard about Pink Himalayan salt since it has been all the rage lately, but did you know there are other colors too? Black, red, grey - it sounds like a Dr. Seuss book in the making! Naturally, I became curious as to what made each salt unique (besides the color!), and how it compared to other types nutritionally. I decided to test out all the "fancy" salts I could find locally. Yes, this adventure took me to the fanciest part of the fanciest grocery store in town and I felt wildly out of place! All for science.
I ended up with 9 different types of salt and started the investigation. Below I highlight each of them, including details that I felt were important to help you compare.
Iodized Table Salt
- SODIUM in ¼ tsp : 590 mg
- SOURCE : mined as rock salt from underground salt deposits
- TEXTURE : fine
- WHAT MAKES IT UNIQUE? Just like Vitamin D is added to milk, Iodine has been added to table salt to prevent goiter since the 1920’s -- hence it being called "Iodized" Table Salt.
Natural Sea Salt
- SODIUM in ¼ tsp : ~575 mg
- SOURCE : made from evaporated seawater
- TEXTURE : fine to coarse
- WHAT MAKES IT UNIQUE? Less processed than table salt -- which, for the record, doesn’t make it healthier, but it does mean more trace minerals are present. The minerals can give a slightly different flavor, but it is difficult to perceive.
- SODIUM in ¼ tsp : 480 mg
- SOURCE : either seawater or salt mines, but processed into coarse granules
- TEXTURE : coarse and flaky
- WHAT MAKES IT UNIQUE? The original use of kosher salt was to draw the blood from meat (aka to make it kosher). Often times it is simply used to season food with pinches of salt.
Himalayan Pink Salt
- SODIUM in ¼ tsp : 383 mg
- SOURCE : primarily from the Khewra Salt Mine in Punjab, Pakistan
- TEXTURE : coarse -- typically ground into flakes
- WHAT MAKES IT UNIQUE? In ancient times, a volcanic eruption evaporated the seawater and left salt under the lava rock. This is what is mined today to get pink salt!
Light Grey Celtic Sea Salt
- SODIUM in ¼ tsp : 480 mg
- SOURCE : the coast of Brittany, France
- TEXTURE : coarse and moist
- WHAT MAKES IT UNIQUE? It is grey in color from the trace elements and minerals in the salt. Celtic sea salt is processed in order to provide a higher amount of minerals and elements and a lower amount of sodium chloride (though if you notice, it has the same as traditional sea salt).
- SODIUM in ¼ tsp : 580 mg
- SOURCE : family-owned salt operation on southeast coast of England
- TEXTURE : coarse and ultra flaky
- WHAT MAKES IT UNIQUE? Maldon salt is a brand name salt that is beloved by chefs as a salt that isn’t as bitter or “salty.”
Smoked Sea Salt
- SODIUM in ¼ tsp : 514 mg
- SOURCE : sea salt that is wood-smoked for up to two weeks
- TEXTURE : coarse to fine
- WHAT MAKES IT UNIQUE? This salt is very aromatic. The barbeque-y, smoky smell of the salt hits you in the face when you open the container. It is often used to add flavor to meats.
Hawaiian Alaea Sea Salt
- SODIUM in ¼ tsp : 535 mg
- SOURCE : originally Hawaii, now mostly produced in California
- TEXTURE : coarse
- WHAT MAKES IT UNIQUE? This is an unrefined sea salt that is mixed with volcanic red clay. In Hawaii, it is mostly used to season native Hawaiian pork dishes.
Black Lava Sea Salt
- SODIUM in ¼ tsp : 505 mg
- SOURCE : sea salt sourced from Hawaii or Cyprus mixed with activated charcoal
- TEXTURE : coarse
- WHAT MAKES IT UNIQUE? The addition of charcoal tastes earthy and gives the salt a rich, black color. This salt is typically used as a finishing salt. Although activated charcoal has anecdotal claims to detoxify the body, the research is lacking to substantiate the health claims.
Although there is a lot of information out there about the “healthiest” salt, all salts are sodium chloride when you break it down. It can be fun to season with colorful salts or sprinkle with flaky salt, but you shouldn’t rely on salt to provide you with trace elements and minerals that you can get elsewhere. After all, you don’t (or at least shouldn’t!) consume salt in amounts great enough to provide you with adequate amounts of the trace minerals and elements that they contain.