A Sea of Salts: A Complete Guide to the Different Types of Salt
Salt is what makes things taste bad when it’s absent (Photo: iStock)
Salt is what makes things taste bad when it’s absent (Photo: iStock)

A Sea of Salts: A Complete Guide to the Different Types of Salt

Your salt packet comes with a ‘vaporised and iodised’ tag but I’m sure you’ve never really thought what that means. You take a pinch of it every day, it’s the workhorse of the kitchen, the most integral taste enhancer, and also one of the most essential requirements of your body. There are a variety of salts in the grocery store aisle, so what’s the difference and what are they used for?

Know Your Salt

Besides enhancing taste, salt is also used as a preservative because bacteria can’t survive in a salty environment (Photo: iStock)
Besides enhancing taste, salt is also used as a preservative because bacteria can’t survive in a salty environment (Photo: iStock)

Salt in its purest form is made of sodium and chloride. Your body can’t produce these elements on its own, so you must get them from your diet. It maintains a delicate balance with other minerals inside and outside every cell of our body to keep it alive and functioning.

Sea Salt

Obtained from old dried sea bed this is the most natural, unadulterated and unrefined form of sodium chloride mixed with other minerals like selenium, boron, chromium and copper. These additional minerals are needed in our body for tissue and bone building. They balance sugar and have cleansing action too. It is off-white, grey or pink in colour. This is the best salt for cooking. But alas! Not available easily and a bit expensive.

Table Salt

Available at every kirana store, and in every kitchen shelf, this free-flowing salt is obtained from new sea water bed. It’s highly refined and heavily ground so most of its impurities and trace minerals are removed. Now heavily ground salt can clump together so anti-cake agents (which can be harmful to health) are added to make it free-flowing.

This also has the added potassium iodide which helps prevent goitre. Table salt is present in all processed and packaged food items as it is a great preservative and increases the shelf life of products.

It’s not good for cooking as it is devoid of the balancing minerals which are stripped during processing and refining. It’s good to sprinkle over food and salads to enhance flavour.

Rock Salt

Obtained from rocks and not sea water, this salt is pink in colour and has a pungent smell. Besides sodium chloride it also contains other minerals like calcium and potassium but no iodine. It’s also called black salt (kala namak) and can be used in cooking.

Kosher Salt

A commercially made product. Available in the west, it has large crystals and is used to marinate large pieces of meat.

Now you know that you can keep more than one variety of salt on your kitchen shelf.

Dangers of High Salt Diet

When you eat more salt, your body retains water to stabilize the concentration of sodium in your body. That’s why salty foods make us feel thirsty (Photo: iStock)
When you eat more salt, your body retains water to stabilize the concentration of sodium in your body. That’s why salty foods make us feel thirsty (Photo: iStock)

Daily we consume approximately 6-7 grams of salt. But only less than 5 grams of salt is recommended daily to keep fit. It’s long been associated with high blood pressure, heart disease, heart failure, kidney failure and stroke. In such patients less than 3 grams per day is the recommendation.

1 teaspoon = 5 grams

So all those fitness freaks, stop when your hand reaches for pickle, sauce, fried salty snacks and packaged food. No, don’t sprinkle salt over any food item.

Dangers of Low Levels of Salt

Many people are familiar with salt restricted diet. But few know that very low levels of salt can be even fatal. Conditions like diarrhoea, cholera, voluminous vomiting, excessive sweating during outdoor sports, patients on diuretic therapy where excessive urination occurs, can lead to dangerously low levels of sodium.

The skin is rough and dry, loses elasticity. Sunken eyes, feeble pulse, confusion, restlessness, dizziness, coma and sometimes even death can occur. These symptoms often go unnoticed. Hospitalisation and sodium replacement is required.

Also Read: The Ugly Side of Thin: Broken Bones, Depression & Infertility

(Dr Niruta Sharma is a Consultant in Cardiology Department at RML Hospital and Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, New Delhi. She wants to simplify health issues for public. She can be reached out on Twitter/@Nirutasharma)

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