Salt is one of the basic human requirements and tastes. The kind and amount of salt consumed in a day vary with flavor, habit, and physical needs. By the way, the degree of saltiness that satisfies the taste buds is a learned behavior.
Salt is a chemical mixture of primarily sodium chloride. It is essential for life in general. Its earliest recorded usefulness dates back to 6,000 BC.
Sodium and chloride are vital in transmitting brain and nerve electrical impulses. Large amounts can raise blood pressure. Individuals vary with the amount of salt required daily.
It is also one of the world’s most valuable cooking ingredients. Meals would be bland and tasteless without it. Salt is also used as a food preservative since bacteria grow poorly in a salty environment.
There are many types to choose from: table salt, sea salt, Himalayan pink salt, and Kosher salt just to name a few. They all differ slightly in taste and mineral content.
The most common salt is refined table salt. It is finely ground and tends to clump together without anti-caking agents. Iodine is also added to some brands as a public health measure against iodine deficiency and goiters.
Sea salt comes from evaporated seawater. It is often coarse and contains various trace minerals that are absent in table salt.
Due to ocean pollution, sea salt can also contain trace amounts of heavy metals and microplastics. These impurities may also affect the taste.
Himalayan pink salt is obtained from a large salt mine in Pakistan. It has a pink color due to the presence of iron oxide, otherwise known as rust. It also has traces of calcium, iron, potassium and magnesium, making it lower in sodium than table salt.
The color of Himalayan salt can make a dish more appealing. Many people prefer the taste over other types of salt. It is usually more expensive.
Kosher salt has a flaky structure, and it is used in certain Jewish culinary customs. The coarse nature of Kosher salt allows it to be picked up by the fingers and spread over food with ease.
This salt is less likely to contain additives like anti-caking agents and iodine. Due to fewer extras, it weighs less than the same amount of table salt. Kosher tastes the same as regular salt. A little goes a long way.
Different types of salt contain only trace amounts of minerals. Choosing one type of salt over another is unlikely to significantly affect your health.
The western diet uses salt for preservation and as a flavor enhancer. Most of the sodium consumed is from processed foods. If you mainly eat whole, unprocessed foods then there is less commercial sodium in your foods. Feel free to shake a little.
A popular food critic, Jay Rayner, reminds us that, “Salt is the difference between eating in Technicolor and eating in black and white. If a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down than a pinch of salt turns up the music to dance.”
Bobbie Randall is a registered, licensed dietitian, certified diabetes educator in Wooster, Ohio. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. This column shared through the AIM Media Midwest group of newspapers.