Hi! I have read various articles about healthy salt. Some say Himalayan Pink Salt and another article talks about Celtic sea salt. I know it’s important to get iodine in our diet. Which salt is best?
– Mary F.
Besides the sodium-chloride compound we know as the base of our table salt, natural salts of the earth contain other elements and possibly some contaminants. In the case of Himalayan pink salt which is harvested from mountains in Pakistan and sun-dried, the mineral content varies by mine since the salt range is so expansive. Iron oxide is evident in the characteristic pink color, while potassium, magnesium and calcium are imperceptible. The content of these trace minerals is so low that it would take cups, if not pounds, of Himalayan salt to make a nutritional impact.
Similar to sea salt procured elsewhere around the globe, Celtic sea salt harvested in seaside fields contains minerals, sediment, and algae that affect its color and taste. It is sun-dried in solar evaporation ponds and contains small amounts of magnesium, potassium, calcium, and to a lesser extent, iodine. Contaminants like microplastics and heavy metals are possible, as there is global ocean pollution and open water circulates.
Granulated table salt is refined to remove such impurities, but other trace minerals are lost and chemical traces remain. Ferrocyanide, talc, and silica aluminate are commonly included in its processing. The addition of potassium-iodide to salt in the United States began as a public strategy for treating goiter and continued as a prevention, much like our fortification of folate in cereals for neural tube defects during pregnancy. About 70% of the table salts sold in the US are iodized and contain additional stabilizers.
Other notable food-grade salts include Kosher salt coarse grains usually processed without iodine, fleur del sel flakes collected from the top of seawater salt ponds, sel gris salt crystals from the bottom of those evaporated ponds, rock salt mined through brining, and those mixed with earthen compounds (such as kala namak, Hawaiian ‘alaea’, and black lava salt).
The best salt for you depends on your concern. If you need to limit sodium intake but want to use a naturally sourced salt, then consider a coarse or “rough” granule of any raw type as there is less packing of salt crystals in a measured volume. If your concern is getting enough iodine, then you can choose a Celtic sea salt and eat sea vegetables, potatoes, cranberries, strawberries, yogurt, navy beans, eggs and salmon for additional iodine.
Of course, if you rarely salt your food or only use small amounts like ¼ teaspoon in baking, the health difference is probably negligible and iodized table salt will work.
– Debbie J., MS, RD
This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.
Some questions have been edited for length and/or clarity.