By: Nutrition expert- Vidula Kozarekar, Mumbai.
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Salt, also commonly named table salt, is an ionic compound made of sodium and chloride ions with the chemical form of NaCl. Sodium is an essential nutrient involved in the maintenance of normal cellular homeostasis and in the regulation of fluid and electrolyte balance and blood pressure (BP) (1).
In the last few years there has been a growing interest in gourmet salts not only because food industry has made them fashionable but also because people tend to believe that these types of salt are healthier. Salt occurs naturally around the world as mineral halides and in seawater and salt water lakes. The distinct chemical compositions of salts may contribute to some taste differences. Mineral content of salts differs depending on the harvesting location (2).
Different types of Salt: (3), (4)
- Sea salt is obtained directly through the evaporation of seawater. It is usually not processed, or undergoes minimal processing, and therefore retains trace levels of minerals like magnesium, potassium, calcium and other.
- Table salt, on the other hand, is mined from salt deposits and then processed to give it a fine texture so it’s easier to mix and use in recipes. Processing strips table salt of any minerals it may have contained, and additives are also usually added to prevent clumping or caking.
- Halite commonly known as Rock salt is a type of salt, the mineral (natural) form of sodium chloride (Na Cl). Halite forms isometric crystals. The mineral is typically colorless or white, but may also be light blue, dark blue, purple, pink, red, orange, yellow or gray depending on inclusion of other materials, impurities, and structural or isotopic abnormalities in the crystals.
Nutritional comparison of different types of Salts: (5)
Health problems associated with excessive salt intake: (6)
- There is a strong association between salt intake and blood pressure.
- Besides increasing blood pressure, excessive salt may also affect stomach mucosa and result in atrophic gastritis and gastric cancer.
- Higher sodium intake leads to greater calcium excretion which may result in reduction in bone density.
Recommendations for salt reduction by WHO: (7)
- For adults: WHO recommends that adults consume less than 5 g (just under a teaspoon) of salt per day.
- For children: WHO recommends that the recommended maximum intake of salt for adults be adjusted downward for children aged two to 15 years based on their energy requirements relative to those of adults. This recommendation for children does not address the period of exclusive breastfeeding (0–6 months) or the period of complementary feeding with continued breastfeeding (6–24 months).
- All salt that is consumed should be iodized or “fortified” with iodine, which is essential for healthy brain development in the fetus and young child and optimizing people’s mental function in general.
Which salt is healthiest?
You can usually let your taste buds choose between Himalayan salt, sea salt and table salt. No matter which salt you choose, the small amount used contributes little nutritional value to your overall diet, making your selection a matter of personal taste. They all contain about the same amount of sodium.