Your guide to 5 common types of salt
You probably know it’s important to watch your salt intake – but if you’re going to use it, is any type better than the others?
Salt is one of the most basic and widely used ingredients in the kitchen, but it gets a bad rap for its links to high blood pressure and other health issues.
But are all salts created equal, and is any type better for you?
The lowdown on salt
Salt is made up of sodium chloride and often added to food to enhance flavour.
But it is also essential in small doses, playing a key role in how our bodies regulate fluid and muscle function.
But Heart Foundation food nutrition adviser Sian Armstrong most people eat too much.
“Australians are consuming nearly double the recommended maximum daily salt intake – about 9g per day,” she says.
“This is because about 75 per cent of the salt we consume is hidden in processed and packaged foods.”
But some studies suggest that not everyone needs to cut back on salt.
Nutritionist and author Steph Lowe says for some people, consuming too little salt may lead to low blood pressure resulting in dizziness, muscle twitches and seizures.
“In terms of how much you need, it is a very individual thing,” she says.
“People and athletes who eat a low-to-moderate carbohydrate diet tend to need to add more salt or they experience things like muscle cramps, especially when they are taking out refined carbohydrates.”
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Unpacking the different types of salt
Produced from sea water with minimal processing, sea salt is considered the most natural product on the market.
But this does not necessarily make it healthier.
“It does contain trace minerals like potassium, iron and zinc,” Steph says.
“But the amount is small, so it’s not going to give you your necessary dietary intake, but it is in a more natural state.”
This is the most commonly used salt – especially in processed foods.
Typically, it is highly refined with all the impurities and minerals stripped out.
Because it is heavily processed manufacturers often add anticaking agents (additives that absorb water) so it pours freely, which Steph says is not the best for your body.
On the plus side, iodine is often also added, which can help production of the thyroid hormones that influence metabolism.
Known for its pink hue, Himalayan salt is mined from the ground and contains trace amounts of iron oxide giving it that distinctive colour.
It also contains potassium, but Sian says “it doesn’t matter what colour your salt is”, as it contains the same amount of sodium as other varieties.
Usually called grey salt because of its appearance, this unrefined salt has a subtle flavour and is considered the best option for people trying to lower their sodium intake.
“This is because it has a lower sodium concentration and the highest traces of calcium and magnesium,” says Steph.
Black in colour, this is simply sea or Himalayan salt blended with charcoal or heated in a kiln.
It’s popular in Ayurvedic medicine because it looks good, but Steph says the jury is out on whether there are any additional medical benefits.
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