When leading a healthy lifestyle, reducing salt intake is often one of the first dietary changes many people make. Many health proponents recommend switching table salt out for Himalayan salt or sea salt for better health. We set out to learn about Himalayan salt vs sea salt to see which, if either, is better for dieting. In this article, we delve into what salt means in the flavor spectrum and review the different types of salt. We conclude with the answer to the question: what's the difference between Himalayan salt vs sea salt?
What Is Salt?
Asking what salt is may seem like a silly question. Most people know what salt is and eat it regularly, but do you know what salt is specifically? Salt is a mineral substance that contains sodium ions and one of the five primary flavor categories in the taste palate. The taste palate is a collection of flavors or sensations experienced in foods. Below we summarize the five primary flavor categories.
The taste of salt is so ingrained into the human mind that it is virtually indescribable without using the words salt or salty to describe it. Humans, along with many other life forms, need some sodium to maintain fluid balance and keep muscles and nerves healthy. It's no wonder that our bodies seek it out. However, too much sodium in the diet can cause health problems
Sweet tastes aren't just reserved for snacks and fruit. Sweetness is this context refers to carbohydrates and the foods that contain them. The body often craves sweet category foods because it knows sugar is a source of energy. Just like salt, too much of a good thing can harm the body, so it's essential to keep a sweet tooth in check.
Bitter foods like coffee and dark chocolate are among some tastier bitter food options, but many bitter foods are tough to swallow. Scientists report that taste may have evolved with an aversion to bitter foods to protect us from eating toxins because many toxins have a bitter flavor.
Sour or acidic flavors come from hydrogen ions in food. This squishy-face making flavor is found in citrus fruits, vinegar, and some greens.
Unami is a Japanese word meaning "savory" is a taste sensation marked by the inclusion ofglutamic acid. Some of the most common Unami foods are cheese, meat, asparagus, and tomatoes.
What Does Salt Do?
Salt, or sodium found in salt, is a vital mineral necessary to maintain a healthy body. If one were to omit sodium from their diet completely, it would throw the body's fluid balance off while negatively impacting nerve and muscle function.
Having too much sodium in the diet is equally harmful. Consuming too much sodium increases blood pressure, makes the body retain fluid and makes the heart work overtime. There isn't an area of the body that prolonged intake of too much sodium wouldn't impact in the long run. Stroke, osteoporosis, heart disease, kidney disease, and some cancers are associated with consistently overeating salt.
What Are the Types of Salt?
When people think salt, the mind conjures an image of table salt or the white granules found in a shaker next to black pepper on nearly every dining table in the West. Table salt is but one of many types of salt found in the world. Below we've highlighted ten different types of salt.
Table salt is finely ground and refined sodium chloride crystals. They mine this type of salt from deposits found within the Earth. Most table salt in the US has added iodine to help people get iodine in their diet. Because table salt is in most prepackaged foods, the American diet tends to have too much sodium.
Kosher salt is a coarse-grained salt coming from either land mined salt or sea salt. Kosher refers to the certifying agent supervising the processing of the salt rather than the salt itself.
When ocean water evaporates, sea salt remains. Sea salt is coarse and unrefined. Because it's not refined, sea salt often contains many of the healthy minerals like iron and zinc. It has a more robust flavor than table salt, but it's also more noticeable as a topping because of its size.
Sea salt is a type of salt but also an umbrella term for all salts that come from the sea. We detail a collection of unique sea salts below.
Black Lava Salt
Black lava salt from the volcanic waters of Hawaii gets its dark color from activated charcoal. This salt is a good source of iron.
Alaea salt or red salt is another Hawaiian volcanic salt produced by volcanoes. This salt draws its color from volcanic clay and contains 80 minerals including iron oxide.
Celtic Sea Salt
Celtic sea salt is a mineral-rich salt containing trace elements like iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, and zinc, among others. Celtic sea salt is gray and has a less-intense flavor when compared to most other salts.
Fleur de Sel
Fleur de Sel, French for "flower of salt," is the thin layer of salt formed when seawater begins to evaporate. This delicate salt harvested in Europe, Brazil, Canada, and Mexico has a higher price tag (around $35 per pound or more) due to its relative rarity and the precision needed for harvest.
Himalayan salt, pink salt, or Khewra salt is a coarse rock salt mined from the Salt Range mountains located just south of the Himalayas in Pakistan. The mineral composition of Himalayan salt is primarily sodium chloride, but it contains trace amounts of calcium, iron, magnesium, and manganese.
Himalayan Black Salt
Himalayan black salt or Kala Namak is a sulfur smelling salt created by heating Himalayan salt in a kiln. The mineral content of this salt is mostly sodium chloride. It also contains trace amounts of sodium bisulfate, sodium bisulfite, sodium sulfide, iron sulfide, and hydrogen sulfide. Despite the name, Himalayan black salt has a dark violet color. When ground, the salt appears pink.
Now that we have a better understanding of the salt types available, it's time to dig into the differences between table salt's top two competitors. In the next section, we compare Himalayan salt vs sea salt to see what sets these salt types apart.
Himalayan Salt vs Sea Salt
With health gurus far and wide advising us to nix table salt for another salt variety, we're curious. We want to understand the Himalayan salt vs sea salt debate. Which is better? Below we break down the differences between Himalayan salt vs sea salt.
Himalayan salt originates in the mountains where a sea once was, but from mountains now nonetheless.
Sea salt comes from saltwater found in the sea, salt lake, or ocean.
Himalayan salt is taken from the Earth using traditional hand mining methods.
Sea salt mining waits for the sun and the wind to evaporate pools of shallow saltwater until the salt is thick enough to extract. Once the salt accumulates, the salt is mined either by hand or by machine.
Himalayan salt comes in shades of pink and purple, white, and red.
Sea salt comes in a wide variety of colors, including white, gray, black, and red.
Himalayan salt has a rough-textured and dry granule that melts quickly when cooking, eating, or dissolving in water.
Sea salt is coarse and ground to various sizes. The granules are moist and do not dissolve when mixed easily.
When broken down, Himalayan salt contains roughly 96 percent sodium chloride, making it only marginally better than table salt's 98 to 99 percent sodium chloride count. The other four percent holds the trace minerals mentioned above. Unlike table salt, Himalayan salt usually isn't refined or mixed with anti-caking agents or iodine.
Because there are so many types of sea salt, it's tough to find precise calculations for nutrition. Most sources agree that sea salt contains between 90 to 99 percent sodium chloride content. Like Himalayan salt, sea salt rarely contains iodine or anti-caking agents.
There is a finite amount of Himalayan salt which lends itself to a lot of speculation over the authenticity of many Himalayan salt brands.
The rule goes, the darker the sea salt, the more impurities it contains. Unfortunately, the water bodies of Earth aren't the cleanest places these days. Because of marine pollution, sea salts can contain dangerous heavy metals like lead, and microplastics.
What we've learned in exploring Himalayan salt vs sea salt is that there is more than meets the eye (and tongue) with these salt varieties. We know that eating salt is a crucial part of keeping the body healthy, but understand that too much sodium destroys the body.
With Himalayan salt vs sea salt, there isn't that much of a difference in nutrition. The most significant differences come from where and how these salts are mined. Pure versions of both salts provide trace amounts of vital minerals that table salt does not. At the end of the day, when used in moderation, both Himalayan salt and sea salt are an excellent option to flavor food. Go with the taste, texture, and appearance that appeals to you most.