I’m minding my own business creating a cool Food 411 graphic on making Seasoned Salt when it hits me. I try to anticipate the questions I get asked such as, “can I use my dead sea salt with this recipe?”. And the answer is yes if you’re using the culinary version, but I prefer to bath in it. Anyway, it occurred to me that there are too many salts to mention, so how do you choose which one to use? Let’s take a look and you decide.
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Salt is an important compound. Our bodies need it….desperately. Just to give you an idea, it helps to; regulate electrolyte balances, preserve blood cells, keeps minerals soluble in our blood. It also helps to regulate muscle contractions, produces hydrochloric acid for digestion and on and on.
Hey, Free Lecture!
We have abused salt by adding it to our food as a preservative, then we stopped cooking from scratch at home. We had to blame something for our bad health and salt became one of the villains. I’m the last person to lecture about health issues, but I’m gonna anyway, just cause. For Americans in particular, our lifestyle of, “hurry up I’ve been waiting for 2 minutes here”, is going to kill us.
Of course too much salt is bad, that’s a given. But our excessive abuse of our bodies because we are impatient or under time constraints is equally as bad. When you eat nothing but processed or prepared foods, what did you expect to happen? Driving up to the window 5 times a week, or opening a frozen entree with some canned veggies for dinner every night….well you’ve overtaken your recommended daily sodium amount by about 1000. Not to mention the other stuff, like carbs, fat….. Not good if you’re wanting to avoid high blood pressure or poor health. While that might be a slight exaggeration, it’s not that far off. And if you really want to know what I think about cooking, read The Real Joy Of Cooking and Food For Thought.
But let’s fast forward and pretend that you’ve denounced processed and fast foods and want to know which salt is the best choice for you and your family.
Salt cures meat, and preserves and flavors our favorite meals, but which one is healthier? Well, it’s up to you really. Each of the salts I have highlighted has close to the same sodium content, regular refined table salt being the highest. And some sea salts such as Celtic have the lowest sodium amounts, while others are higher than the Himalayan. As to taste, some people say there is a definite difference, I can’t really tell other than I think that some choices taste, “lighter”. They all taste like……well, salt. As to the other differences, it depends on what freaks you out more.
Regular Table Salt – For these purposes, let’s call it RTS for short. RTS usually includes iodine and anti-caking agents, and the process of refining it removes any good trace minerals. Iodine is usually added because most people aren’t getting enough in their diets, (again I say REAL FOOD!) which can lead to some pretty big health issues with your thyroid.
For people who take issue with RTS, it’s the iodine and the anti-caking agents which can include heavy metals that they object to. You can get iodine naturally by eating seafood, cranberries, yogurt, most dry beans, cheese, strawberries and the skin on potatoes. You can also get huge boosts of iodine from kelp. But, I’ll stick with a baked sweet potato thanks!
Kosher Salt – Kosher salt got its name not because it’s processed by religious standards, but because it’s used to cure meats so that the meat becomes Kosher. And now I have fulfilled my trivia sharing needs! It has no additives and is usually iodine free unless otherwise stated on the container. Kosher salt usually comes coarser, so it’s easier to grab a pinch when cooking.
Sea Salt – Here’s where it gets funky. Sea salt is produced by a process of evaporating sea water. Depending on what you use and where it’s from, it will contain numerous natural minerals which could include; potassium, iron, and zinc. But due to the continuation of ocean pollution, it could also contain trace elements of heavy metals like lead.
Pink Himalayan Salt – Pink Himalayan is a type of rock salt that gets its color from iron oxide (rust). It also contains numerous trace elements which include; calcium, potassium, and magnesium.
Navigating Salty Waters
Conclusion – Well, salt is not where you need to put your mineral dreams. Hopefully, you get that from a healthy balanced diet of real food. Raw fruits and veggies, meat, dairy, and fish. You can also get a bigger boost of minerals from a daily vitamin or from other supplements, but don’t look to salt.
Each of these choices contains the sodium you need, but my preferences due to my lifestyle and beliefs are Kosher and Pink Himalayan Salt. Whichever salt you choose, remember that thing about moderation. It really never bodes well to live your life using the “if a little is good, more must be better” philosophy. In this instance, good needs to be good enough!