Most people add salt to their cooking — and for good reason! Although salt is perhaps most well known as a food preservative, it’s actually an essential nutrient that can add flavor and texture to even the blandest of dishes.
But isn’t salt unhealthy? Well, it can be if you consume too much of it in your daily diet. And what about salt type, does this make a difference? We’ll do our best to answer this below.
What is harmful about salt?
Put simply, a high salt diet can cause you to develop raised blood pressure due to the sodium it contains. High blood pressure increases your risk of heart disease and having a stroke. This is the main reason that salt is regarded as unhealthy.
But this being said, it isn’t all bad. Your body needs salt so that it can balance fluids in the blood and your nerves and muscles can function properly. If you have low blood pressure, it is sometimes even advisable to increase your salt consumption to reduce any problematic symptoms — although it’s best to ask your doctor about this!
How much salt should you eat per day?
The NHS recommends that adults limit their salt consumption to no more than 6g a day (2.4g sodium) which is equivalent to approximately one teaspoon. Children and babies should consume much less than this, so check the recommended amount for your child according to their age.
Stick to this guidance and you probably don’t need to worry about your salt intake, especially if you eat a balanced diet with lots of whole foods. Just don’t confuse salt and sodium on food labels — they aren’t the same! If you're wanting to reduce your salt intake, have a look at our helpful blog on how to add flavor without salt.
Is some salt healthier than others?
If you’re looking to consume salt in the healthiest way possible (other than by limiting your daily amount), then you might be carefully considering your go-to salt type.
There are various different types of salt, and some can provide unique benefits. This being said, the difference between most salts is less considerable than you’d think.
Is Himalayan salt better for you?
If you’ve never heard of Himalayan salt, then you’re missing out. Coming all the way from (you guessed it) the seabeds of the Himalayan mountains, this rose pink salt is as mineral-rich as it is aesthetically pleasing. What makes it so good for you? Himalayan salt boasts all 84 essential trace elements which your body needs to function properly. Not only this, but it is known to promote stable blood sugar levels, reduce muscle cramp, and facilitate an optimal pH in your cells. It’s no wonder it’s so popular!
The good news is that because Himalayan salt has seemingly become the trendy salt of the day, you might find it to be more affordable and readily available than other, more exotic, alternative salts on the market.
Is sea salt better for you than regular salt?
If you’re not acquainted with Himalayan salt, you will have almost certainly used sea salt at some point or another. This ocean-derived salt is way less refined than your standard table salt and contains some natural iodine (although admittedly much less than iodized salt). The way that it is processed means that it usually retains trace amounts of minerals such as magnesium, calcium, and potassium — which heavy processing strips from table salt.
Nevertheless, when it comes to sodium content (the key factor in how healthy a salt is) there is really little difference between table salt and sea salt. This means that if you’re trying to cut down on your sodium consumption, switching from table salt to sea salt won’t help. You’d be better off trying to use less salt altogether and staying away from typically salty foods.
While it’s always handy to have a sea salt grinder next to you as you cook for some spontaneous seasoning or placed on the table for people to cater to their own tastes, it’s important to acknowledge that pollution is increasingly becoming a threat to the ‘healthiness’ of sea salt. Microplastics that enter our oceans are showing up in salt samples, so you might want to keep this in mind when deciding on where to purchase your salt. This issue doesn’t just apply to sea salt, however, as microplastics have also been found in table salt.
Which salt is lowest in sodium?
If you’re just after the lowest sodium salt that you can find, then you’ll either be disappointed or happy to hear that there is no stand out ‘low sodium’ form. Unrefined options such as sea salt, Himalayan, Celtic, and Kosher might contain slightly less sodium and more trace minerals than table salt, but the difference between these unrefined types is so small that there is little reason to choose one over the other from a health perspective.
Which salt is best for high blood pressure?
As it’s the sodium in salt that can contribute towards high blood pressure, the answer to this question is very similar to the above. As most salt types contain similar sodium levels, no salt is ‘best’ for high blood pressure. Although there might be slight differences in sodium content between salts according to origin and what processing method is used, if you have high blood pressure (or want to prevent it) the most effective thing you can do is work on reducing the amount of salt that you consume in your daily diet. This will make a far greater difference to your health than simply switching to a different form of salt, plus it’s the medically advised action to take.
So, there you have it. When you’re choosing a type of salt, don’t fret so much about sodium specifics, but opt for a high quality salt that you like the texture and taste of or that best suits your style of cooking. A well designed classic or state of the art salt mill or shaker will allow you to easily control exactly how much salt you're adding to your cooking, so you can add flavor and keep your sodium levels in check!