Choose the Healthiest Salt for Your Kitchen

types of salt

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

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Salt is available in a variety of colors and textures to enhance your cooking experience and make your dishes more savory. Salt is essential for bringing out the natural flavor of foods—one of the main reasons chefs use it. Salt can also be used as a preservative.

Some salts are considered healthier than others, such as pink Himalayan salt and different types of sea salt. These are revered for their taste and texture compared to regular table salt. They are also preferred by some because most (but not all) are less processed and may contain more trace minerals. But all salts are healthy in moderation since they contain sodium, which is a necessary part of a balanced diet. Though essential for the body, sodium is potentially harmful when consumed in excess. And too little or too much salt can affect the flavor and chemistry of food.

While specialty salts do contain more minerals like magnesium and potassium, there is no healthiest or best salt. A 2020 study examined consumer-grade pink Himalayan sea salts available in Australia and determined that in order to receive the additional health benefits of the minerals this type of salt contains, you would have to consume so much that it would elevate the amount of sodium in your body to dangerous levels.

Learn the differences among popular types of salt, how each might affect food preparation and health, and why choosing the "best" salt is really just a matter of personal preference.

What Is Salt?

Salt is a mineral made from the combined elements of sodium (Na) and chlorine (Cl). Together, they form the crystallized substance sodium chloride (NaCl). As an abundant mineral in the ocean, the majority of salt produced comes from evaporated seawater and salt mines.

Many salts used in food preparation are iodized. Iodine is added to many refined salt products to help people meet their nutritional requirements. If a person's iodine intake falls below recommended values and results in a deficiency, then a person may develop goiter. Goiter is associated with hypothyroidism. Lack of iodine can also have adverse effects in children and unborn babies if the pregnant person does not consume enough.

Why Salt Is Essential for Health

Salt sustains human life and optimal bodily function. There is plenty of research on salt and how it affects your health, but rigorous studies comparing different types of salts are still lacking. Without enough evidence, it’s important to take marketing claims about specialty salts with a grain of salt.

According to Rahaf Al Bochi, RDN, LD of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and founder of Olive Tree Nutrition, salt is salt, meaning that by weight, any type of salt contains the same amount of sodium.

Both sodium and chlorine are important elements that maintain cellular balance, circulation, and blood sugar levels. Sodium is both a mineral and an electrolyte. Common electrolytes also include potassium, calcium, and bicarbonate. Without adequate sodium, your brain would not be able to send necessary electrical impulses to the rest of your body to function properly.

Just as the body requires the right amount of sodium, consuming too much salt can be unhealthy. Higher salt intake in people who are salt-sensitive can increase blood pressure, so doctors usually recommend that people with hypertension reduce their sodium intake or follow a low-sodium diet.

Elevated sodium levels can also cause water retention. This is considered a protective response as the body works to regulate levels of serum sodium concentration in the blood and maintain balance.

When these levels are too high, a condition known as hypernatremia can develop, which may cause excessive thirst, vomiting, infrequent urination, and diarrhea. By contrast, when sodium levels are too low, it can lead to hyponatremia, which can cause fatigue, weakness, and confusion. A blood test will determine whether your serum sodium concentration is high, low, or normal.

One teaspoon of salt contains around 2,360mg of sodium. Though there are many different types of salt, they all contain roughly the same amount of sodium. This means that no salt is actually healthier than another.

Types of Salt

The 2020–2025 U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend a maximum intake of 2,300mg of sodium per day. But according to federal guidelines, the average intake by adults is closer to 3,393mg of sodium per day, ranging anywhere between 2,000–5,000mg.

Whether it's healthy dietary choices like processed foods or incorrect assumptions about the sodium content of salts used for cooking, the average American consumes too much salt. A recent survey conducted by the American Heart Association (AHA), showed that 61% of respondents inaccurately stated that sea salt had a lower sodium content than table salt.

Rachel Johnson, PhD, RD, former chair of the American Heart Association's nutrition committee and retired professor emeritus of Nutrition and Food Sciences at the University of Vermont, agrees that sea salt often has as much sodium as table salt—about 40% sodium by weight according to the AHA.

All salt has the same amount of sodium by weight, but that amount can differ by volume depending on the size of the crystal. Smaller crystals will have more sodium per teaspoon than larger crystals but will have the same sodium when measuring in grams.

Like other health experts, Johnson recommends monitoring your salt intake to maintain heart health. She says if you’re consuming more sea salt because you believe it has less sodium, you may be placing yourself at a higher risk of developing high blood pressure, which raises your risk of heart disease.

While all salts contain the same amount of sodium, they still differ in taste, texture, and presence of other minerals. The following comparisons of different types of salt will help you decide if specialty salts are really worth the investment.

Table Salt (Refined Salt)

Refined table salt, also known as iodized salt, is a fine, granulated salt commonly used in cooking. This type of salt is highly refined to remove any impurities and eliminate any trace minerals often found in specialty salts. Because table salt is finely ground, anti-caking agents are added to ensure the salt doesn't clump together. Some table salts also have added sugar and other additives.

Refined table salt is about 97–99% sodium chloride (NaCl). In many countries including the U.S., iodine is added to prevent iodine deficiency. If you're trying to reduce your sodium intake, it's important to meet your iodine intake with food sources like eggs, dairy products, fish, and seaweed.

Kosher Salt

Kosher salt is a coarse, flakey salt. When used in cooking, it can add a crunchy texture to dishes and drinks. Compared to refined table salt, pure kosher salt does not typically contain additives like anti-caking agents and iodine. The size of kosher salt crystals is ideal for drawing out moisture, including blood, from meat, which is the koshering process in traditional Jewish law.

Per teaspoon, kosher salt generally has less sodium than 1 teaspoon of table salt. But that's because kosher salt has a coarser grain, so less salt fits in the spoon.

Sea Salt

Sea salt is produced by evaporating seawater and can be purchased either as fine grains or large crystals. Examples include Black Sea, Celtic, French (fleur de sel), and Hawaiian sea salt.

Sea salt can have trace amounts of minerals like iron, potassium, and zinc, which may offer a different flavor in cooking but no additional health benefits when a normal amount is consumed. Some sea salts may also contain trace amounts of microplastics, but research indicates these amounts are too low to warrant any public health concerns.

Himalayan Salt (Pink Salt)

Himalayan pink salt is mined in the red rolling hills of the salt range in Khewra, Pakistan at the second largest salt mine in the world. It's known as a finishing salt because it is generally used at the end of cooking to add flavor and a crunchy texture to a meal. Trace amounts of rust (iron oxide) give this salt its pink color.

Pink salt is also mined in Maras, Peru in the Andes mountains. Andean pink salt is a paler pink than Himalayan salt and has a similar mineral flavor.

Himalayan salt is widely touted for its health benefits due to its mineral properties, but there are no known health advantages to using Himalayan salt over other types of salt, as noted by the 2020 study conducted in Australia. The researchers concluded that "any potential health benefits provided by the higher nutrient content in pink salt would be counteracted by the large amount of sodium that would also be consumed." Additionally, this same team of researchers also tested a sample of pink salt imported from Peru and found trace amounts of lead that exceeded levels considered to be safe.

Despite their differences, specialty salts still contain the same amount of sodium by weight as regular table salt and do not have any additional health benefits.

Seasoned and Smoked Salt

Seasoned salt—such as celery salt, garlic salt, or onion salt—is salt mixed with herbs and flavorings. To reduce the amount of sodium in your diet, it is best to use the herbs on their own instead of the seasoned salt, as they don’t contain any sodium. Some brands of seasoned salt sell reduced-sodium options, however.

Smoked salt is smoked with wood for up to two weeks, which infuses the salt with a smoky flavor that varies depending on the type of wood used. Typical choices include hickory, mesquite, applewood, and oak. Like specialty salts, smoked salts likely contain the same amount of sodium as table salt.

Salt Substitutes

Salt substitutes are salts that substitute some or all of the sodium with potassium, magnesium, or another mineral. Salt substitutes can be half sodium chloride and half potassium chloride. Monosodium glutamate (MSG) can also be used as an alternative to salt. A 2020 study found that swapping salt with MSG is not only safe but was comparable to the flavor of salt.

Salt substitutes are often used by people on a sodium-restricted diet, but you should check with your doctor before using these products, especially if you have kidney problems.

Choosing the Best Salt

Salt remains essential for health, wellness, and cooking—and while not all salts are created equal in terms of taste and texture, all salts are equally healthy when consumed in normal amounts. The sodium content of different salts is roughly the same, with only minimal differences in trace amounts of minerals as shown in this table.

Trace Minerals in Salt
  Sodium Potassium Magnesium Iron
Table Salt

39.1% 

0.09% 

<0.01%   

<0.01%

Sea Salt

38.3% 

0.08%  

0.05%

<0.01%

Himalayan Salt

36.8%

0.28% 

0.1%  

0.0004%

Celtic Sea Salt

33.8%

0.16%  

0.3% 

0.014%

The mineral content comparison for different types of salt is considered insignificant, and shouldn’t be taken into consideration when choosing a salt. You can often get enough essential minerals in your diet simply by choosing healthy, whole foods.

Choosing the best salt comes down to taste, preference, and cooking style. If you’re looking for a crunchy texture with some color to add a finishing touch to your meals, pink Himalayan salt is a great choice. If you're cooking with salt, you can always use sea salt, kosher salt, and regular table salt depending on the flavor you're hoping to achieve. Keep in mind that specialty salts are often more expensive per ounce than table salt and kosher salt. Here's how they compare on average:

  • Table salt: $0.06 cents per ounce or less
  • Kosher salt: $0.05 cents per ounce
  • Sea salt: $0.10 cents per ounce or slightly less
  • Pink Himalayan salt: $.0.35 to $1.00 per ounce

A Word From Verywell

Salt is used for flavor—not to add nutritional value (with the exception of iodine). Still, getting the right amount of salt in your diet plays an essential role in maintaining optimal health. You can try different types of specialty salt to make your meals more versatile and savory, but be sure to keep an eye on your sodium intake. If you have high blood pressure, ask your doctor about salt substitutes that are safe for you to try.

Remember, research about different salt types is still lacking, but the consensus among health experts is that there is no one best or healthiest salt. Trace minerals found in differing salts do not provide additional health benefits, and trace mineral differences among salts shouldn't be a selling point.

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9 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  8. Karami A, Golieskardi A, Keong Choo C, Larat V, Galloway TS, Salamatinia B. The presence of microplastics in commercial salts from different countriesSci Rep. 2017;7:46173. doi:10.1038/srep46173

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