Know the salt to fill your shaker

Published 8:52pm Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Sea salt, kosher salt, table salt — many of you may be asking what the difference is and is one better than another. Salt has been in the news a lot lately and just last week my sister was told to rinse her nose (for sinus congestion) with a pickling salt and baking soda solution; not being able to find pickling salt she called me wanting to know what type of salt she could substitute.

So, let’s take a look at the different types of salt that is on the market.

  • Table salt is mined from underground salt deposits, and includes a small portion of calcium silicate, an anti-caking agent added to prevent clumping. It possesses very fine crystals and a sharp taste. Because of its fine grain a single teaspoon of table salt contains more sodium than a tablespoon of kosher or sea salt.
  • Iodized salt (also spelled iodised salt) is table salt mixed with a minute about of various iodine-containing salts. The ingestion of iodide prevents iodine deficiency. Worldwide, iodine deficiency affects about 2 billion people and is the leading preventable cause of mental retardation. It also causes thyroid gland problems, including endemic goiter. In many countries, iodine deficiency is a major public health problem that can be cheaply addressed by iodisation of salt. Iodine is a micronutrient that is naturally present in the food supply in many regions. However, where natural levels of iodine in the soil are low and the iodine is not taken up by vegetables, iodine added to salt provides the small but essential amount needed by humans.
  • Kosher salt takes its name from its use in the koshering process. It contains no preservatives and can be derived from either seawater or underground sources. Aside from being a great salt to keep within arm’s reach when you are cooking, it is particularly useful in preserving, because its large crystals draw moisture out of meats and other foods more effectively than other salts
  • Pickling salt is a salt that is used mainly for canning and manufacturing pickles. It is made without iodine or any anti-caking products added. If pickles are made with table salt, they will have dark and cloudy juice, due to the iodide in the salt, although the flavor should be about the same. Pickling salt is very fine grained, to speed up dissolving in water to create a brine, so it is useful for any solution which needs salt.
  • Sea salt is harvested from evaporated seawater and receives little or no processing; leaving intact the minerals from the water it came from. However, because these salts often come at a dear price, it is worth keeping in mind that they lose their unique flavor when cooked or dissolved.

From a cooking perspective the main difference is texture. Table salt is very fine which makes it easy to dissolve. Sea salt and kosher salt are coarser and add a bit of crunch when seasoning at the last minute.

Both sea salt and table salt have the same basic nutritional value. Both mostly consist of two minerals, sodium and chloride. However, sea salt is often marketed as a more natural and healthy alternative.

By weight, sea salt and table salt contain about the same amount of sodium chloride. Your body needs only a couple hundred milligrams a day to stay healthy, but most people get far too much, mostly from sodium in processed foods. So regardless of which type of salt you prefer, keep sodium consumption between 1,500 and 2,300 mg of sodium a day if you’re a healthy adult (one teaspoon of salt has 2,300 mg of sodium).

People with high blood pressure, African-Americans and anyone middle-aged or older should aim for the low end of that range.

For more information on the role sodium plays in the diet and how to reduce your sodium intake, visit our website at, and search for publication HE-0426 or call 334-875-3200 for us to mail you a copy.

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