Why do some recipes call for sea salt instead of regular salt? Is it healthier? What about kosher salt?
There’s very little difference, chemically speaking, between these types of salt. All are at least 97.5 percent sodium chloride and have a similar amount of sodium by weight.
Sea salt, which comes from evaporated seawater, often has a different texture than regular table salt, which is the primary reason you’ll see it recommended in some recipes. It can come coarsely ground or in flakes, offering a bit of flair when sprinkled on top of a dish. Some people say the flavor of sea salt is softer than regular salt, or that the minuscule amounts of other minerals in sea salt provide a distinct flavor, but that’s debatable.
Table salt comes from underground salt deposits. It’s normally more heavily processed than sea salt to remove other minerals, and it contains an additive to prevent clumping. Most table salt also contains iodine, which helps prevent goiter, a thyroid gland condition. Even if you go easy on salt, you’re probably getting enough iodine from the iodized salt you do use.
Kosher salt is a coarse-grain salt used to prepare kosher meats. It contains no iodine, so it’s often recommended for use in canning and pickling because iodine can cause an adverse reaction with some foods during those processes.
A teaspoon of any coarse-grain salt will actually contain less salt, and therefore less sodium, than smaller-grain salt. There simply are larger air pockets in a measure of coarse salt. That’s evident if you compare the weight of a teaspoon of coarse salt with a teaspoon of regular salt: The regular salt will be heavier because it’s more densely packed.
One teaspoon of regular table salt contains 2,325 milligrams of sodium, or about one day’s worth. But most sodium people consume isn’t from the salt shaker. In fact, many high-sodium foods don’t even taste salty. A package of flavored oatmeal can have more sodium than a bag of chips. Fresh poultry is often saturated with a high-sodium solution to tenderize the meat. Get into the habit of checking sodium content on Nutrition Facts labels.
Health professionals recommend limiting sodium to 2,300 milligrams a day, or 1,500 milligrams for people who are likely to experience health problems from high sodium. That includes anyone 51 or older, African Americans of any age, and anyone with high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease.
For ideas on how to cut back on sodium, see the “10 Tips Nutrition Education Series” on http://www.choosemyplate.gov and download the “Salt and Sodium” fact sheet, or learn more at http://www.cdc.gov/salt.
Chow Line is a service of Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH, 43210-1044, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor: This column was reviewed by Julie Kennel, nutrition program specialist for Ohio State University Extension and director of the Dietetic Internship Program in the Department of Human Nutrition in the College of Education and Human Ecology.