Salt used to be salt. It was iodized, it sat on the table in a shaker, and it was used during cooking and after. While basic table salt is still a staple of many households, other salts have come on the market and offered quite a bit of competition. This week we ask, “What’s the difference?”
Kerri-Ann Jennings joins us on “Take Care” to talk about salt and why it’s still best to take it easy with the salt shaker. Jennings is a registered dietitian and freelance nutrition writer who contributes to WebMD, FoodNetwork.com and other publications.
Table salt is the most processed of salts. It has the smallest granules of all of the salts and includes anti-caking agents. These agents are chemicals, but are considered safe to consume in this case, according to Jennings.
Sea salt is one of the least processed of the salts. It’s from evaporated sea water.
“Sea salt is usually a little bit different depending on where it’s from,” says Jennings. “And they have different colors. Those different colors mean they have different minerals in them and they can have a variety of minerals.”
Gourmet salts, like Himalayan, pink salt from Peru, red and black salt from Hawaii and even fleur de sel, each have a special flavor. But Jennings says you should try to use them at the opportune time.
“I usually use them more as a finishing salt. All salt gets dissolved when it’s exposed to heat and liquid,” Jennings says. “So if you’re just throwing them in and using them in cooking, you really will lose any of that special flavor and texture.’
If you need iodine, think table
The largest differentiating factor between table salt and some of the less-processed varieties is that iodine is added. This practice has been carried on from earlier times.
“Way back when, people weren’t getting enough iodine in their diets and everyone uses salt and it was an easy way to get it in,” Jennings says.
Salt and meat
Kosher salt, another popular larger-grained salt, was invented to process kosher meat.
“The kosher salt, because it’s a larger flake, was better at drawing the blood out of the meat,” Jennings says.
When you cook with kosher salt, it will do something similar and keep the meat more moist.
Don’t forget about the sodium
“They all have the same amount of sodium in them by weight, but because there’s a difference in the size of the grains, the larger grain salt will have less sodium in it by volume,” says Jennings.
This can pose a problem when baking, so make sure that you pay attention to the type of salt called for in recipes that need to be closely followed (or follow recipes that measure ingredients by weight). Otherwise, Jennings says you can adjust the salt level to whatever suits your tastes.
“Any kind of salt is going to be equal in terms of nutrition but the thing to watch out for is the amount that you’re having,” says Jennings.
Because all of these salts contain sodium, they shouldn’t be used in excess. Only one teaspoon of table salt is recommended throughout the day. That’s a limit a lot of us can hit pretty quickly.