Mother Earth Living Blogs > Food Matters

Food Matters

All about fresh, flavorful food

Mineral Matters: The Various Types of Salt

What’s the first thing you put on your burgers, eggs, or popcorn? Salt, of course. But did you know that there’s more to it than your standard grocery store salt? Here’s what you need to know before your next meal rolls around.

spoonfuls of salt varieties
Photo by Fotolia.

Iodized Table Salt

Everyone is familiar with this. It’s standard salt that’s found at almost every dinner table. The salt is fortified with iodine, which is an essential mineral for fighting off diseases like hypothyroidism and it prevents cretinism in developing fetuses/babies.

Since most people don’t eat kelp and other forms of seaweed on a daily basis, you need a source for iodine, so this tends to be the most common. If you need to limit your salt intake, however, seaweed is the way to go.

Sea Salt

Sea salt is salt that’s made using evaporated seawater. As you might expect, it’s got a very fresh, ocean-y feel and taste to it.

It’s harvested from a number of places in the world, with the Celtic Sea in Brittany France being one of the more popular places. Another type of sea salt is fleur de sel, which is harvested near the same region as Celtic sea salt.

Sea salt is harvested by scraping the top layer off the salt before it sinks to the bottom of a large salt pan. This is considered to be premium salt, and is one of the most expensive varieties you can buy.

Sea salt may also have more minerals than traditional table salt because there is less processing and refinement of the salt, and may be used anywhere that traditional salt is called for, including cooking applications.

According to a survey by the American Heart Association, 61 percent of respondents guessed that sea salt is lower in sodium than table salt. However, table salt and sea salt both contain about 40 percent sodium by weight. So, if you’re looking for a way to reduce sodium in your diet, sea salt is not an acceptable solution.

Pickling Salt

Pickling salt is salt with no additives and it’s used in brines to pickle foods. The salt itself is pure granulated sodium chloride. Because there aren’t any additives, it doesn’t have any anti-caking agents added to it. Use this salt when you want to make pickles, sauerkraut or anything that requires pickling or brining.

Chefs use pickling salt because it’s ground very fine (finer than table salt). It needs to be stored in an airtight container to avoid moisture accumulation that will lead to clumping.

Pink Salt

Good Himalayan salt is harvested in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains and is fossilized sea salt. The red color comes from the high concentration of iron, which has oxidized. It’s more expensive than regular salt, but it’s also considered healthier and more pure than most other types of salt.

If you want to add a mineral-rich flavor to foods, add this salt to your dishes.

Some of the purported health benefits include:

• Improved water retention and balance within the body.
• Improved pH balance in cells.
• Improved blood-sugar levels.
• Support for a healthy respiratory system.
• Promoting natural and healthy sleeping patterns.

Kosher Salt

Kosher salt got its name because it’s used when preparing kosher meat. This is especially important in Jewish traditional preparations.

It has larger, more irregular-shaped crystals. It’s also considered a coarse salt, which helps draw blood out of meat. This is required of kosher meat before it is cooked. Most cooks prefer this to other types of salt because of its mild flavor and lack of additives.

Many home chefs prefer it because of its clean taste and the ability to season food easily. It’s considered a finishing salt, not something you would cook with. Even when it’s used to draw blood out of meat, the salt is discarded afterwards.

Black Salt

Black salt is sometimes referred to as Kala Namak. This salt is pinkish-grey in color, and is mined in India. It has a strong sulphuric scent, and is used to spice foods in Southeast Asia. It’s becoming more popular in the United States with vegan chefs who want to add an “eggy” flavor to dishes without adding prohibited additives which contain egg.

Smoked Salt

There are a variety of smoked salts on the market, most of which are made using traditional smoking methods. Phenols from cold-smoked salt add antioxidant power to traditional salts. As long as the salt has been traditionally smoked, it can become a powerful source of antioxidants and an enhanced food preservative, helping delay the growth of pathogenic bacteria.

Learn more about the health benefits of salt in All About Salt.

Mandy Norris works as a nutritionist and enjoys sharing her insights with an online audience. Her articles and posts mainly appear on nutrition and health blogs.