I have long been an avoider of salt. My friend Cindy once followed me around the kitchen with the salt, seasoning behind me because I tend to make things a little on the bland side. I’m a bit of a unicorn in terms of my culture, as Filipinos tend to prefer things pretty salty, but I take this as a bit of a blessing – I don’t have high blood pressure, which is said to be exacerbated by high sodium consumption.
But let’s be real – the human body absolutely needs salt to survive. Salt aids in fluid balance and neuromuscular function, and without it, we would literally die. The recommended daily amount of sodium has fluctuated over the years, but we’re advised to keep our intake between 1500 to 2300 milligrams (that is about 1/4 to 1 tsp. of salt per day).
Not All Salt is Created Equal
To make matters a little more complicated, the type of salt you consume matters. Here is a handy guide to the different salts you may come across, to help decide which is right for you!
Let’s get this out of the way – we all grew up eating this salt, the fine grained white stuff that fills the salt shakers at your local diner, but truth be told, it’s not great. Made by superheating natural salt to nearly 650 degrees Celsius, all the benefits are burned right out of it. Additionally, the salt is then bleached, fortified with iodine, so it is quite processed and often includes anti-caking agents. Personally, I avoid this whenever possible, and opt for one of the more natural salts below.
Simply, this is salt that is harvested from sea water via evaporation. It is a lot less refined than table salt, which would typically make it a preferable choice over table salt. I have a large canister of sea salt that I use for general seasoning when I cook, and alternate it with Kosher salt (a textural preference). However, as the oceans get more polluted, it is possible that sea salts are having to undergo more processing in order to remove any debris and other pollutants. In this category of sea salts is Sel gris or Grey Salt (also known as Celtic Sea Salt), Gros Sel (bigger granules), and Fleur de Sel (more delicate in texture, great as a finishing salt), and Maldon Salt (another finishing salt).
Hawaiian Red or Black Salt
This salt comes in either coarse or fine grains, and is technically another sea salt. Harvested using solar evaporation, this salt often appears damp in the package. The color of black salt comes from the addition of activated charcoal, an ingredient that aids in digestion. For red salt (also known as Alaea salt), the color is attributed to the native volcanic clay that lines traditional Hawaiian salt ponds, giving the salt a boost of iron oxide. These minimally processed salts have tons of trace minerals like magnesium and potassium that help regulate blood pressure and bodily function.
Himalayan Pink Salt
I often hear people call this Pink Sea Salt, but this salt isn’t pulled from seawater like the ones I mentioned above. Mined from ancient salt deposits in the Himalayas (the Khewra Salt Mine in Pakistan, to be exact), this pure salt has had virtually zero contact with the pollutants of the outside world. Himalayan pink salt can range in color from nearly white to deep red, and is a staple in my kitchen, but can also be used around the home (we have two Himalayan salt lamps) and in the bath (much like Epsom salts).
The bottom line: there are so many different types of salts on the market that it can be confusing and overwhelming to choose your favorites – just keep in mind that less processed is best! Got a favorite salt? Tell me about it in the comments below!