So when referring to salt, we generally mean sodium chloride. Although, Often Used synonymously sodium is not salt as no chloride is attached to the sodium molecule. There are non-chloride versions of sodium, such as sodium bicarbonate, often referred to as baking soda and monosodium glutamate or MSG. Monosodium glutamate is an additive used as a flavor enhancer in processed foods, and its safety remains controversial.
As humans, we do not need much sodium to survive; however, most of us consume a very high sodium diet (3 grams of sodium per day), and the current guidelines recommend restricting sodium to less than 2.3 grams per day. Most of the sodium in our diet comes from processed food and eating out at restaurants.
So let us dive in and discuss different types of salts available in the market.
Table salt is highly refined and processed with anti-caking agents such as calcium silicate (Reduces moisture and clumps and keeps the salt freely flowing) and has other additives such as iodine. Most of the table comes from mining deep underground salt deposits and by evaporating seawater.
Sea Salt is derived after evaporating seawater from salt Lakes or ocean water. Sea salt is being promoted as much healthier than table salt; however, the sodium content in both sea salt and table salt is identical. Sea salt has some trace minerals like zinc, iron, and potassium which are beneficial. The problem is because of rising pollution in the oceans; the sea salts may contain high amounts of lead, arsenic, mercury, and other heavy metals.
Himalayan salt or pink salt is sourced from mines in Pakistan. The distinct pink color of the salt is because of the presence of iron oxide. Himalayan salt has some trace minerals such as iron manganese, zinc, calcium, and potassium, and its overall sodium content is lower when compared to table salt or sea salt. Because of this reduced sodium content and presence of trace minerals, the Himalayan salt gets marketed as a healthy alternative to regular salt. Himalayan salt has no added iodine, which may cause hypoactive thyroid in iodine-deficient individuals. There are no proven health benefits to using Himalayan salt, just like there is no benefit of using Himalayan salt lamps. Himalayan salt is also 20-30 times more expensive than regular salt, and it would be wise to spend that money on another good quality nutritional supplement.
Kosher salt is regular salt without the addition of anti-caking agents such as calcium silicate, so it tends to form clumps.
Celtic salt, sourced initially from the Celtic sea, is also regular sea salt. These days most of the Celtic salt comes not from the french coast but from Guatemala and Hawaii.
Limit salt intake, and although the ideal amount of salt consumption remains controversial, there is no scientific benefit to substituting table salt with pure sea salt, Himalayan salt or Celtic salt. With the consumption of unrefined sea salt, exposure to ocean pollutants such as lead, microplastic, and lack of iodine are real concerns.
Dr. Raj Singh MD, FACP, FASN