What Is The Healthiest Salt You Can Buy? 8 Types Of Salts Compared

You might want to re-think your expensive salt purchases after reading this

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Any type of salt can be healthy in moderation. And although sea salt contains slightly higher mineral content than table salt, experts suggest that salt is just salt.

However, there are certainly certain types of salt that are touted among the nutrition and health industry to be not just not unhealthy but actually beneficial for your health.

Let’s unravel it all!

We will cover: 

Let’s get started!

A variety of different salts spread on a table.

What Is the Healthiest Salt?

Many people are only familiar with regular white table salt, chemically known as sodium chloride or NaCl, and often found in a salt shaker.

However, there are actually quite plenty of different types of salt, ranging in color, texture, and even taste.

Any type of salt can be healthy in moderation. There is no ‘best salt’. Although sodium is often demonized, and diets high in salt can increase the risk of hypertension, sodium is an essential nutrient that is required for many key functions of the body, including nerve conduction, muscle contraction, and maintaining fluid balance.

According to the 2020–2025 U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Dietary Guidelines for Americans1 United States Department of Agriculture. (2020). Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020 -2025 . https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/sites/default/files/2020-12/Dietary_Guidelines_for_Americans_2020-2025.pdf, daily sodium intake should be no more than 2,300mg per day, but federal data reveals that the average sodium intake is closer to 3,393mg of sodium per day, ranging between 2,000–5,000mg.

A bowl of table salt.

The healthiest salts are thought to be those that are more natural (less processed), so they contain trace minerals that can be essential for optimal health.

Studies suggest2 Fayet-Moore, F., Wibisono, C., Carr, P., Duve, E., Petocz, P., Lancaster, G., McMillan, J., Marshall, S., & Blumfield, M. (2020). An Analysis of the Mineral Composition of Pink Salt Available in Australia. Foods9(10), 1490. https://doi.org/10.3390/foods9101490 that all types of salt have the same amount of sodium by weight, but the amount of sodium in various types of salt can differ by volume depending on the size of the crystal. 

Salts with smaller crystals contain more sodium per teaspoon than salts with larger crystals because the salt crystals can pack closer together into a denser teaspoon of salt, but the sodium content will be identical when measured in grams.

This is because you’ll need more than just one teaspoon of big-crystal salt to equal the weight of small-crystal salt since the crystals aren’t so tightly packed.

Additionally, if you choose to eat a “healthy salt” that is natural and unprocessed, you will not be getting the iodine that is added to most conventional table salt.

Because it is vital to have iodine in your diet, if you do choose to eat an alternative salt, make sure you are getting iodine from elsewhere.

Examples of foods that contain iodine include seaweed, yogurt, cod, oysters, enriched bread, and eggs.

What Is Salt?

All types of salt are minerals made from the crystallized bonding of sodium and chlorine, which are two elements.

Therefore, the chemical composition of salt is NaCl. 

Most of the types of salt that you can purchase for consumption are produced by evaporating seawater to extract the salt or from salt mines.

In the early 1920s3 Leung, A., Braverman, L., & Pearce, E. (2012). History of U.S. Iodine Fortification and Supplementation. Nutrients4(11), 1740–1746. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu4111740, manufacturers of table salt started enriching salt with added iodine to reduce the prevalence of iodine deficiencies.

Iodine is a mineral that is essential for human health but not readily found in most food sources. Therefore, iodized salt is a way to ensure that daily iodine needs are met.

Currently, you can purchase either iodized or uniodized salt in the United States. Iodized salt has about 71 mcg of iodine in a 1/4 teaspoon of salt, which is nearly 50% of your daily minimum.

Per the Harvard University School of Public Health4 Harvard T.H. Chan. (2021, October 19). Iodine. The Nutrition Source. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/iodine/, the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for iodine is 150 micrograms (mcg) daily for adult men and women 19 years and older and 220 and 290 mcg daily for pregnant and lactating women, respectively. The maximum daily dose should not exceed 1,100 mcg.

An iodine deficiency5 National Institutes of Health. (2022, April 28). Office of Dietary Supplements – Iodine. Nih.gov. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iodine-HealthProfessional/ can cause thyroid dysfunction and can lead to conditions such as hypothyroidism in the development of goiters.

Let’s check out the different types of healthy salts:

Common Types Of Salt: 8 Varieties Of Salt

A bowl and scoop of table salt.

#1: Table Salt

Regular refined table salt is a fine, granulated salt used frequently in cooking and seasoning food. 

It is highly refined to remove any impurities, which eliminates any trace minerals. Iodine and anti-caking agents are usually added.

#2: Kosher Salt

Kosher salt is a flakey salt with a much coarser texture than regular table salt, so it imparts a crunchier texture.

Because the size of the crystals is larger, there are lower sodium levels per teaspoon than refined table salt, but the same by weight.

It is used in cooking and to season foods and drinks. 

#3: Sea Salt

There are quite a number of different sea salts you can purchase, ranging in color and texture from dark black and gray to white and fine grains to large crystals.

Examples of sea salt include Celtic sea salt, Black Sea sea salt, French (fleur de sel), and Hawaiian sea salt.

Sea salt is less refined than conventional table salt, so it often contains some trace minerals and electrolytes such as iron, zinc, magnesium, and potassium, which may impart different nuances in the flavor, but will not change the nutritional profile in any significant way or provide any health benefits because the levels are just too low to have any impact on your body.

Fun fact: The American Heart Association (AHA) recently conducted a survey in which 61% of respondents incorrectly stated that sea salt had less sodium than table salt. For the record: any salt is not a low-sodium option!

A bowl of Himalayan Pink Salt, though to be the healthiest salt.

#4: Himalayan Pink Salt

Many people believe that the healthiest salt is Himalayan salt or pink Himalayan salt.

Pink Himalayan salt does not come from the sea; rather, it is mined at the second largest salt mine in the world, located in the red rolling hills of the salt range in Khewra, Pakistan. 

Himalayan pink salt is typically used as a finishing salt because it has a beautiful color and large crunchy texture that imparts exquisite detail and unique appearance, flavor, and texture to dishes.

The pink color of Himalayan salt is due to trace amounts of rust, which is iron oxide.

Despite the fact that pink Himalayan salt is touted as the healthiest salt with many special health benefits, studies have not found any unique health benefits of this salt.

That’s not to say that Himalayan pink salt is unhealthy, but believing that you are eating a healthier salt is also probably a stretch.

Note that there is also a pink salt that hails from salt mines in the Andes mountains. However, ambient pink salt is paler in color than Himalayan pink salt. There is also some concern that this particular type of salt may contain lead.

A bowl of seasoned salt.

#5: Seasoned Salt

There are also commercially available salts that are pre-seasoned.

Seasoned salts—such as garlic salt, onion salt, and celery salt— are salt products that contain salt mixed with herbs and flavorings. 

Seasoned salts are used to flavor dishes, but be mindful that these are nearly as high in sodium as regular salt by volume, so if you’re trying to reduce your sodium intake, use plain herbs, not salted seasonings.

#6: Smoked Salt

Smoked salt is salt that has been infused with a smoky flavor by smoking it on different types of wood (hickory, mesquite, oak, and applewood) for a couple of weeks.

The sodium content is identical to regular table salt, but the flavor is smokier.

#7: Himalayan Black Salt

You might not find this one on the shelves of your grocery store. Himalayan black salt, known in Nepalese as “kala namak”, is made by cooking Himalayan salt in a furnace for 24 hours along with charcoal, bark, herbs, and seeds.

This preparation method gives Himalayan black salt its distinctive reddish-black color and its sulfurous (eggy!) smell. 

In fact, because of the boiled-egg odor and flavor, black Himalayan salt is often added to vegan dishes to amplify the believability of any vegan egg substitutes used in the dish.

This type of salt contains trace amounts of potassium and calcium.

A scoop of black salt.

#8: Black Hawaiian Salt

Black Hawaiian salt, sometimes called black lava salt, is made by evaporating seawater in pools formed on hardened Hawaiian lava flows. 

It has a strong earthy flavor, black color, and mild sulfurous smell due to the addition of activated coconut charcoal.

It contains trace minerals like potassium and calcium and is usually used as a finishing salt.

So what is a healthy salt?

Although many people seek the healthiest type of salt, most nutrition experts and evidence suggest that salt is salt6 Fayet-Moore, F., Wibisono, C., Carr, P., Duve, E., Petocz, P., Lancaster, G., McMillan, J., Marshall, S., & Blumfield, M. (2020). An Analysis of the Mineral Composition of Pink Salt Available in Australia. Foods9(10), 1490. https://doi.org/10.3390/foods9101490. Pretty much any type of salt will provide the same amount of sodium and chloride.

Although less processed salt may contain other trace minerals, the concentration of these minerals is usually so small that it makes very little difference. You would have to consume a lot of salt to really increase your levels of these micronutrients.

Are you looking to improve your nutrition in general? If so, take a look at our long list of nutritional information and diet guides here.

A bowl and scoop of sea salt.

If you have any health conditions or concerns about your sodium intake, please speak to your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian.

References

  • 1
    United States Department of Agriculture. (2020). Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020 -2025 . https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/sites/default/files/2020-12/Dietary_Guidelines_for_Americans_2020-2025.pdf
  • 2
    Fayet-Moore, F., Wibisono, C., Carr, P., Duve, E., Petocz, P., Lancaster, G., McMillan, J., Marshall, S., & Blumfield, M. (2020). An Analysis of the Mineral Composition of Pink Salt Available in Australia. Foods9(10), 1490. https://doi.org/10.3390/foods9101490
  • 3
    Leung, A., Braverman, L., & Pearce, E. (2012). History of U.S. Iodine Fortification and Supplementation. Nutrients4(11), 1740–1746. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu4111740
  • 4
    Harvard T.H. Chan. (2021, October 19). Iodine. The Nutrition Source. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/iodine/
  • 5
    National Institutes of Health. (2022, April 28). Office of Dietary Supplements – Iodine. Nih.gov. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iodine-HealthProfessional/
  • 6
    Fayet-Moore, F., Wibisono, C., Carr, P., Duve, E., Petocz, P., Lancaster, G., McMillan, J., Marshall, S., & Blumfield, M. (2020). An Analysis of the Mineral Composition of Pink Salt Available in Australia. Foods9(10), 1490. https://doi.org/10.3390/foods9101490
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Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

3 thoughts on “What Is The Healthiest Salt You Can Buy? 8 Types Of Salts Compared”

  1. What concerns me about salt, especially sea salt is the impurities. I’m not talking about other minerals but pollutants. Sea water is full of pollutants, the main one being micro plastics. Do sea salt manufacturers have any processes that reduce or remove these pollutants?

    Reply

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