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Is One Type of Salt Healthier than Another?

There are many types of salt available on the market, today, ranging in size, color, and even vary in terms of taste.

There are many types of salt available on the market, today. Salt granules can range in size, color, and even vary in terms of taste. More popular varieties claim to be healthier compared to traditional forms, and they attribute this to the salt's purity or its natural mineral content. When it comes down to it, though, salt is salt. The salt that we use to season our food with is primarily sodium chloride, regardless of what word comes before it, and many Americans are still consuming too much of it.

Historically, table salt has been the salt of choice in American's diets – also acting as a source of iodine since the early 1920s when fortification began to help supply this essential nutrient to a wider audience. In the United States, iodine fortification is voluntary and not required to be listed as a nutrient on Nutrition Fact Labels. When salt is combined with dried herbs or other flavorings, such as onion, garlic, celery, etc., it's referred to as seasoned salt and contains less sodium than regular table salt.

Commercially, kosher salt and sea salt have become more popular over the years. However, they may or may not be iodized. Kosher salt particles are larger in size, so there is a possibility that people will use less per volume (but not by weight). It is also used for the preparation, or koshering, of meat in the Jewish faith. Sea salt can either be fine or coarse in size and is the result of evaporated sea water, which often influences its name (i.e., Black Sea, Celtic Sea, Dead Sea, France (fleur de sel), Hawaiian, etc.).

Rock salt, named according to how it looks, is also called pink salt or Himalayan salt. It has been used to serve cooked oysters and clams and inside crank-style ice cream makers. Not all rock salt is intended for eating, and some ice cream salts may come with a warning that they should not be consumed. Pickling salt is used for making pickles and fermented foods, like sauerkraut. Unlike other types of salt, additives are not desired in pickling salt as they may make the brine cloudy.

Lite salt is made up of equal amounts of sodium chloride and potassium chloride. Salt substitutes (while chemically still a salt) may or may not contain sodium, since potassium, magnesium, or some other mineral may be used in place of some or all the sodium.

While different types of salt have different roles in the kitchen, relatively few studies exist comparing their mineral content. In 2018, researchers compared 31 samples of pink salt commercially available in Australia against a control of plain table salt. Large variations were found in the amounts of calcium, magnesium, potassium and iron, as well as aluminum, lead, silicon and sulfur. However, one teaspoon (5 grams) of pink salt did not contain enough minerals to make a clinically significant contribution to nutrient intake for any mineral except for sodium, and researchers found that greater than 30 grams of salt per day would be needed to provide a significant intake of any additional nutrients. Additionally, the study pointed out an area of concern regarding the risk of contaminants such as lead and other elements, including mercury, barium and nickel.

Finding ways to lower sodium in the diet, regardless of the source, is an important consideration for many people today. Reading food labels is a great place to start and discovering ways to flavor foods by using less salt can help.


  • Leung AM, Braverman LE, Pearce EN. History of U.S. Iodine Fortification and Supplementation. Nutrients. Nov 2012;4(11):1740-1746.
  • Duyff RL. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Complete Food & Nutrition Guide, 5th ed. New York, NY:Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company; 2017:186.
  • Herbst ST, Herbst R. The Deluxe Food Lover's Companion, 2nd ed. Hauppauge, NY: Barron's Educational Series, Inc.; 2015:416-417.
  • Fayet-Moore F, Wibisono C, Carr P, Duve E, Petocz P, Lancaster G, McMillan J, Marshall S, Blumfield M. An Analysis of the Mineral Composition of Pink Salt Available in Australia. Foods. 2020 Oct 19;9(10):1490.

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