Whether you’ve noticed an increase in salt varieties at your local grocery store or you’ve been a long-time believer in the health benefits of Himalayan pink salt as opposed to generic table salt, you may be wondering what the differences between varieties of salt are. After all, while each type of salt — such as sea salt, Himalayan pink salt, and Namak salt — looks different, it is still salt, right?
The simple answer is yes. In the end, salt is salt, and it contains sodium (except for salt-free substitutes, such as potassium salt, which we will discuss later). However, each type of salt contains different levels of sodium and other minerals. So, how can you know which type of salt is best for your diet?
Here, we’ll dive into the nutritional differences between salts and help you understand which variety may be the best option for you.
Is Himalayan Pink Salt even a type of salt?
When you think of “salt,” you are likely thinking of the tiny granules of salt that you can buy in bulk at the grocery store and use in cooking, baking, and anything else you may need. Maybe you also think of the larger flakier sea salt that goes on top of pretzels or salted caramel. The truth is that there are many different types of salt — ranging in size, color, and flavor. Some examples of types of salt are table (refined) salt, sea salt, Himalayan pink salt, Namak salt, seasoned or smoked salt, and salt substitutes or salt-free seasoning options.
Now for the question we are all wondering, are all these types of salt the same?
Many would assume that all salts are the same (or at least very close to the same). In reality, though, salts can differ quite dramatically from each other. Yes, all salts are made of primarily sodium and should be consumed in moderation, but there are some important differences between each type of salt in terms of nutritional value. So, without further ado, let’s dive into those differences.
Salt vs. Salt: the Nutritional Differences
There are more types of salt than we have listed here, but we are simply going to highlight some of the most common salts and discuss the nutritional differences between these types of salt.
When most people think of salt, they think of table salt. This is the most processed type of salt. It is generally mined from salt deposits, processed to remove trace minerals, and then fortified with iodine. Iodine is a nutrient that is crucial to thyroid health. However, in the United States, many people can get enough iodine in their diets with dairy products, seafood, and bread.
Keep in mind that there are also table salt options that are iodine-free — these options are still processed to remove all other trace minerals from the salt.
Sea salt is a more naturally occurring salt that is made from — you guessed it — evaporating seawater. This process leaves behind the natural salt usually dissolved in the sea and is a much less processed option when it comes to salt. Because of this, sea salt contains many more trace minerals than table salt, which can affect its taste.
You may find that you prefer the taste of sea salt to table salt, or you may not. Both varieties contain around the same amount of sodium; sea salt simply contains additional naturally occurring minerals.
Himalayan Pink Salt
Himalayan pink salt is a naturally pink variety of salt from ancient seabeds in the Himalayan Mountains. It contains slightly less sodium than sea or table salt, and like sea salt, it has more trace minerals than processed table salt. In fact, the pink color comes from the higher iron content of the salt.
Namak salt, also known as Indian black salt or Kala Namak salt, has higher trace amounts of sulfur and iron — resulting in the egg-like flavor and aroma of the salt. It is also higher in potassium and calcium than table salt and can be used in vegan or vegetarian dishes to create an egg-like taste.
Seasoned or Smoked Salt
Seasoned salts can be a great way to create easy and tasty dishes, but it is important to recognize that these mixes can have way more salt than you need. When opting for seasoned salts, you should pay attention to which salt is used. Typically these mixes will use sea salt, but they can also be made with other types of salt, which can affect the nutritional properties of the mix. Sometimes it can be better to opt for a salt-free seasoning mix if you are trying to decrease your salt consumption.
Smoked salts are also another way to bring a different flavor to your dishes. Typically smoked salt will use sea salt as a base, but you can also get smoked salts that are more processed, so keep an eye out for what ingredients are included in your smoked salt.
If you are a fan of the flavor of salt but are following a low-sodium diet, salt substitutes are probably the best choice for you. There are several different salt substitutes, and their nutritional details will depend on what they are made of. One common salt substitute is potassium salt, which can contain no sodium or be a mix of half sodium chloride and half potassium chloride.
Remember that some amount of sodium is extremely important for your health, and you should consult a physician before dramatically decreasing your salt levels.
How to Choose the Best Salt for You
Did you know that our bodies actually need a small amount of sodium to function properly? For example, without an estimated 500 mg of sodium a day, our bodies would be unable to balance vitamins and minerals, relax and contract muscles, or conduct nerve impulses — all of which are essential for daily function.
However, while we need some sodium in our diet to maintain a healthy and functioning body, many Americans consume 3400 mg of sodium daily. This is almost seven times the required amount of sodium and can lead to health problems such as high blood pressure, stroke, or heart disease. So, how can you balance having enough but not too much salt in your diet?
Unfortunately, we can't tell you which type of salt is best for you. In reality, the choice of which type of salt to use depends on your taste preferences and dietary needs.
For example, if you have high blood pressure, you may want to decrease your salt intake and opt for a salt substitute rather than an option like table salt. If you are looking to use a less processed salt that naturally contains small amounts of other minerals that your body uses, Himalayan pink salt or sea salt would be good options for you. Table salt is the most processed and is typically iodized, which can be essential for individuals who do not get a lot of dairy or fish in their diet — iodine is an essential nutrient that plays a key role in thyroid function. However, iodized salts are also the most heavily processed salts and typically contain chemical additives.
Maybe you are looking to spice up your cooking with smoked salt or a sprinkling of flaked sea salt. Perhaps you’re looking to manage your blood pressure by opting for a salt substitute or salt-free seasoning mix. Or maybe you’re simply curious about which type of salt fits best into your daily lifestyle. No matter why you are here if you are looking to try out a new salt or seasoning blend, check out our options at FreshJax!
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