Is All Salt Created Equal?
For as long as I can remember, my go-to "salt" has been "lite salt," since I figure that it can't be any worse than regular salt. Yet it is only now, as I scour the world for health topics to write about, that I've found myself wondering... what on earth is this stuff?
"Lite salt" is a lower sodium salt substitute made of half sodium chloride (salt) and half potassium chloride, and it turns out that it's actually is pretty good for you— at least in comparison to typical salt. Since potassium can relax your blood vessels, it makes the burden of excess fluid in the body that can come with high sodium consumption and that contributes to high blood pressure less problematic.In one study, substituting salt for lite salt in the diets of patients with hypertension was shown to lead to decreases in their blood pressure. However, consuming too much potassium can also be dangerous for certain people; you should check with your doctor before using lite salt if you have any problems with your heart, kidneys, or liver, or if you take a potassium-sparing diuretic.
Additionally, though both sodium and potassium are safe for most other people in the quantity at which they are generally consumed, deficiencies or overdoses of either of these electrolytes can literally kill you.
So while lite salt is a probably a better option than table salt for someone trying to lower their sodium intake, one shouldn't go too crazy with it since it does still contain a not-insignificant amount of sodium. If you've been told to avoid salt completely, there are also entirely sodium-free salt substitutes out there. They are usually called "nu-salt" or "no-salt" and made entirely of potassium chloride.
Some people also report detecting a bitter or metallic taste in salt substitutes containing potassium chloride, so they may just not be your cup of tea. If you can't stomach these substitutes, you could try flavoring your food with metabolism boosting herbs and spices instead and getting your potassium from healthy foods like avocados or spinach.
However, salt, lite salt, and nu-salt aren't the only three players in the game. There's also sea salt, which is made by letting the water evaporate from seawater, leaving only the "sea salt" behind. It contains slightly more minerals than normal salt, but it can also contain dangerous impurities called "microplastics" that come from ocean waste.
Then there's Himalayan salt, which is mined only from a specific part of Pakistan and is known for its unique pink color, which comes from its iron oxide content. Like sea salt, it also may contain trace minerals and can be coarser and more flavorful than normal salt.
There's also kosher salt, which got its name because its flaky, coarse structure made it unusually efficient at extracting blood from meat as per Jewish law. Since it is made of larger grains, it is also easier to pick up and spread over food.
Finally, grayish "Celtic salt" is a specific type of sea salt that is popular in France. It also contains trace amounts of minerals along with small amounts of water, which makes it slightly lower in sodium than conventional salt.
Use these varieties of salt if their unique flavor and texture is all you're after, or if you're looking for a salt product free of the anti-clumping additives sometimes found in conventional table salt. However, the minerals that they provide usually amount to less than one percent of your daily value, so make sure you're getting plenty of healthy foods for the rest.
Additionally, while table salt and lite salt tend to be fortified with iodine, sea and other salts tend not to be, so take extra care to ensure that you have enough iodine in your diet to avoid thyroid problems if you're a sea salt devotee.