A little trivia about salt... The word salary comes from the Latin word for salt. During Roman times, legions were paid in salt. It was literally worth its weight in gold! This valuable commodity has been traded since the advent of human civilization. Furthermore, salt forms one of the core human tastes and is fundamental to our survival. That's right, your body needs salt!
Salt Is Important!
Salt isn't just a requirement to enhance the flavor of a dish. It contains up to 60 essential minerals -- like sodium, chloride, magnesium, calcium, and potassium -- that are crucial for human health. Research
has shown that salt...
- May promote healthy muscle and nerve function
- May regulate blood pressure
- Might lower the body's stress response
- Can regulate acid levels in the body
- May improve insulin sensitivity
- Can support thyroid function
- May increase your metabolism
And it all comes down to minerals... Yet not all salt is created equally. Mineral concentrations depend on the quality and source of the salt. While many fads encourage a reduced-salt diet, they are ignoring one important truth -- there is a difference between iodized table salt and natural, mineral-rich salts.
Discerning between the different types of salt is critical.
The Problems With Table Salt
It's true... not all salts are created equally. There is a BIG difference in the dark blue box of iodized table salt from the grocery story and the many naturally colorful, mineral-rich sea salts and rock salts. (Check out several different types of salts here.) Modern diets of processed food are laden with excess sodium -- and sodium is addictive. In fact, table salt has over 90% more sodium chloride than other natural salts. While sodium plays a vital role as an electrolyte in maintaining healthy nerve and muscle function, too much can lead to cardiovascular issues and raise blood pressure (source
). Second, table salt is highly refined and devoid of minerals. Did you know that salt isn't naturally white? White salt has been refined so that all the minerals, except sodium chloride, are removed -- then iodine is added back in. Third, table salt usually contains anti-caking agents and even sugar (source
)! (What?? No thanks!). Don't all these problems with table salt make you question using it?
The Different Types Of Salt
On the other hand, when eating a balanced diet of whole foods, there's plenty of room to experiment with the amazing different kinds of salt that can really make your cooking shine. And plain sea salt is just the beginning. Mineral-rich salt is also extracted from salt mines or evaporated from mineral pools, too. Well over 40 different types of salt exist! Different regions around the world offer uniquely flavored salts, each serving its own purpose. So let's discuss a few of the different types of salt and how to use them!
Alaea Hawaiian Sea Salt
The earthy and mellow flavor of the Alaea Hawaiian salt reflects the natural environment Hawaii is so famous for. 'Alaea' is a Hawaiian term used to describe the red clay which provides the unique red-brown coloring of this salt. Small amounts of this clay are added to enrich the salt. Due to Hawaii's volcanic soils, this salt is high in minerals, particularly iron, yet it is not overly salty. USAGE:
This is a rather hard salt and is much better suited for use before, or during cooking to allow it to sufficiently dissolve. Use it in marinades to tenderize meat or in a meat rub. It is also delicious added to vegetables, soups, and stews during cooking. Use coarse Alaea Hawaiian Sea Salt in a grinder or measure it out in its finely ground form to conveniently add it to marinades and meat rubs.
Brittany Sea Salt
More widely referred to as Celtic gray salt, or in French sel gris
, Brittany sea salt is considered a premium salt due to its unique and labor-intensive harvesting methods. It's a highly concentrated salt with a soft and fresh flavor. As water naturally evaporates out of shallow coastal pools between May and September, salt crystals slowly form. Artisan harvesters rake the salt to the edge of each bed, entirely by hand using traditional Celtic methods. No mechanical machinery is ever used. The salt picks up its gray color and distinct flavor from minerals in the bed's clay bottom. Nothing is added, and nothing is removed. This time-consuming and labor-intensive process produces superior sea salt. It's naturally moister than other kinds of salt because of the higher concentration of magnesium which retains moisture. USAGE:
Only one-third the amount of Brittany Sea Salt is required to provide the same saltiness of regular table salt. As it's a moist salt, you'll find it's preferable to sprinkle it onto dishes by hand or grind it over finished dishes. For this reason, it also won't suck moisture out of food. While it's perfect for steak seasoning, it's not ideal for making a ferment like sauerkraut. It still makes a great pickling salt, however.
Fleur De Sel De Guerande
Translated from French, it means "Flower of Salt from Guérande," a region in France. It is widely considered the caviar of the salt world. It is the least salty, purest part of the saline. In fact, for every 80 pounds of sel gris
(gray Brittany sea salt) produced, only 3 lbs of Fleur de Sel are harvested. In the region of Guérande, the currents of the Atlantic Ocean run cleaner than many other salt harvesting locations. This makes salt from the Guérande region preferred over other "salt farms." The salt fields of Guérande are long narrow series of basins that are flooded by gravity. The size allows artisan plunder (craftsman salt harvester) to "sweep" the top of the evaporating seawater capturing the white bloom that appears on the water’s surface. This gourmet salt comes with a premium price tag because it's so rare. Due to its mineral content, the color of this salt can range from gray to pink. It has a fine, light texture. The taste of Fleur de Sel is the complex balance of the sea and its minerals with small flaky crystals, moist texture, and a slight gray/pink cast. USAGE:
Fleur de sel is naturally flaked and best used as a finishing salt -- sprinkled lightly over a dish as it is served, not used during the cooking process. It is a natural complement to fresh raw vegetables, salads, or grilled meats. A truly fulfilling moment is fresh trimmed radishes dipped in Fleur de Sel and served with sweet butter and sliced baguette. Because of its premium price, you should use this salt sparingly on gourmet dishes where you want it to shine -- not to salt pasta water, for example.
Dead Sea Salt
Given its name, it should come as no surprise this salt is harvested from the Dead Sea. Bordered by Jordan, Israel, and Palestine, the Dead Sea is over 400 meters below sea level, making it Earth's lowest elevation on land. Compared to the ocean's salinity of 35%, the Dead Sea has a salinity of 337%! You've probably seen photos of visitors floating in the Dead Sea and caking themselves with its mineral-rich black mud. This salt in this region high in bromide, calcium, magnesium, and potassium -- minerals known for their therapeutic uses in promoting healthy skin. Magnesium, in particular, plays a key role in hydrating your skin and reducing inflammation. USAGE:
Dead sea salt is not an edible form of salt as it is low in sodium and bitter to taste. It is best used therapeutically and cosmetically because of its high mineral content. Dead sea salt is popular as a treatment for skin conditions like acne, psoriasis, and dermatitis. The idea is that by soaking in dead sea salt, you're feeding the skin minerals. When the skin is depleted of minerals, dryness, wrinkling, and inflammation arise. What a great excuse to soak in a warm bath! Try using Dead Sea salt to make your own herbal bath salts!
Considered the purest form of salt on earth, Himalayan salt hails from northern Pakistan, deep in the Himalayan mountains, where it is hand-mined. The pink coloring comes from the iron and elements naturally found in that region. Wildly Organic's Himalayan pink salt
is free from any additives or anti-caking agents. It's a truly raw and unrefined salt, perfect for the gourmet cook. USAGE:
Himalayan salt is a great replacement for table salt. It's very affordable when purchased as a coarse salt
and ground over both sweet and savory dishes. It's also excellent for fermenting, measuring into baked goods, and more!
Kala Namak (Indian Black Salt)
Originally mined in Northern India around the Himalayan region, Kala Namak a popular salt used in Indian and South Asian cuisines. This "Black Salt" is not really black at all but rather a burgundy-pink. These colors come from the presence of trace minerals and iron. Kala Namak has a strong sulfuric taste and smell that adds a special sulfur taste -- similar to garlic and onions. Many people say it tastes a little like eggs. When used correctly it heightens the flavor in foods. This distinct aroma and taste do dissipate to some extent during cooking. Kala Namak is also naturally high in sulfur which makes it very therapeutic. Sulfur salts have been used for many centuries as natural disinfectants and for their purifying and remineralizing effects. USAGE:
It is used in Indian cuisine as a condiment, added to chaats
(fruit glazes), Indian fruit salads, chutneys, raitas (plain yogurt with cucumbers and tomato), tasty salads, and savory deep-fried Indian snacks. Black salt goes well in vegetable dishes and with seafood. Chaat masala, an Indian spice blend, is dependent upon Black salt, among other ingredients, for its characteristic aroma and flavor. Indian Black Salt is also considered an appetizer, especially when a pinch of it is eaten with a slice of fresh ginger before a main meal. You don't need to have a degree from culinary school to use any of these delicious, mineral-rich salts
. Surprise and impress your dinner guests with a unique salt from around the world! One of the best things about salt is that it's a natural preservative so there's no risk in stocking up a variety for your pantry. When stored in a cool, dark place, salt lasts for years!
What's your favorite salt to use? Did you know about all these different types of salt? Does this change your mind about iodized table salt?