What is the Healthiest Salt?

What is the Healthiest Salt?

What is the Healthiest Salt?

Table of Contents

Written By:
Jennifer Huddy, MS, RD

Key Takeaways

When shopping for salt, you may feel overwhelmed with all the different choices– sea salt, Himalayan salt, kosher salt, and more. Some salt varieties claim to have extra health benefits, but which is the best salt for you? 

What is Salt?

Salt is made up of two minerals: sodium and chloride. Sodium is an essential mineral in the body actively involved with fluid balance and muscle function. It is naturally occurring in foods and has many culinary functions, such as flavoring and preserving foods.1, 2 

Though sodium is essential for the body, too much sodium can be harmful. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that most people consume less than 2,300 milligrams daily.1 For reference, there are 2,360 milligrams of sodium in just one teaspoon of table salt.3 

Surveys show that on average, Americans consume almost 3,400 milligrams of sodium daily.1 Most of this is before reaching for the salt shaker; processed and ultra-processed foods are notoriously high in salt. These include crackers, take-out food, some cheeses, most frozen meals, and different condiments.

High sodium intakes are associated with hypertension, heart disease, and stroke.4 You may need to limit sodium intake if you have certain chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart failure, or kidney disease.5 

Types of Salt

There are so many different salt options available. With varying textures, colors, flavors, and health claims, many people feel confused which is the best salt. Learn more about the key differences between the most popular types of salt.

Table Salt (Iodized Salt)

Table salt, also known as iodized salt, is the most commonly used salt. In fact, surveys show that approximately 88% of households in the world choose iodized salt.6 Table salt is processed to remove any impurities and to give it a pure white color. Anti-caking additives are added to prevent the finely ground texture from clumping. 

Iodine is a trace element that is very important for thyroid health for all ages as well as bone and nervous system development in babies. It is naturally present in some foods, like seafood and eggs, but many people don’t eat enough of these to meet their iodine needs. 

The practice of adding iodine to table salt began in the 1920’s in an effort to lower the rates of iodine deficiency in the population.6 Just ⅓ of a teaspoon of iodized salt provides 100% of your iodine needs.7

Sea Salt

Sea salt has become very popular in recent years. It is harvested from seawater and saltwater lakes worldwide. Sea salt is often more coarse than table salt, giving it an appealing crunch many people prefer. Though most sea salt is not iodized, there are iodized versions on the market. 

The main difference between sea salt and table salt is the content of minerals. While table salt is processed to remove trace minerals, sea salt can contain a wide range of minerals, including calcium, potassium, magnesium, zinc, and iron.8 

Research shows that the mineral content of sea salt varies based on where it was harvested. There is no evidence that the additional minerals in sea salt provide health benefits.8  

Himalayan Salt

Known for its light pink color, Himalayan salt is a coarse textured salt often used as a finishing salt (to garnish your dishes right before eating). The iron content of Himalayan salt is what causes its unique color. 

It is often touted for various health benefits due to its mineral content. However, studies show that in order to obtain a significant amount of nutrients from the pink salt, you would need to eat excessive amounts of it (6 teaspoons). This benefit does not outweigh the risk of the increased sodium intake.9 

Further, one study found that some varieties of Himalayan salt were contaminated with heavy metals like lead, arsenic, and cadmium. Though more studies are needed on this topic, the researchers recommended people limit their intake of Himalayan salt to one teaspoon per day.9  

Kosher Salt

Kosher salt is traditionally used for processing kosher meat due to its crystal shape, though it’s now widely available at grocery stores. It’s larger and flaky compared to finely ground table salt. It generally does not contain minerals or additives, like anti-caking agents or iodine. 

One study found that the coarse, flat crystals of Kosher salt made people perceive a saltier taste. This is interesting because it means that you may be able to use slightly less kosher salt to achieve the same flavor as table salt.4  

Salt Substitutes

Salt substitutes are popular among people on low-sodium diets. The most common salt substitute is potassium chloride, which tastes similar to table salt but contains potassium instead of sodium. Studies show potassium chloride can improve blood pressure in salt-sensitive people with hypertension.8  

However, salt substitutes like potassium chloride aren’t for everyone. Some people dislike the flavor, particularly the bitter and sometimes metallic aftertaste.8 Other people need to limit their potassium intake, like those with kidney disease.10 Talk to your doctor about whether salt substitutes are safe for you.

What is the Best Salt For You?

Research comparing the types of salt is limited and has not identified one salt as the healthiest. Though the different types of salt vary in taste, coarseness, and mineral content, they all contain the same amount of sodium by weight.11 This means that your sodium intake will not decrease by switching to a different kind of salt. Further, the mineral content of salts like sea salt and Himalayan salt has not been proven to provide health benefits.

Salts with a coarser texture will technically have less sodium per teaspoon. This is simply because the grains of salt take up more space and less will fit in a teaspoon compared to finely ground salt. 

The best salt for you may depend on your taste preferences, the cooking application, and your medical history. Generally speaking, most people benefit from the iodine content of iodized salt, so this is a great choice if you are unsure which salt to choose.  

How to Limit Your Salt Intake

Limiting your salt intake can feel overwhelming. Understanding where the salt in your diet comes from is a great starting point. Dietary surveys in the United States have found that most of our sodium intake comes from packaged foods and foods from restaurants, not from cooking at home. Interestingly, the top source of sodium in the American diet is the sandwich category, which includes deli sandwiches, hot dogs, breakfast sandwiches, and burritos.1 

If you’ve been told you need to limit your salt intake, the best way to do this is to start cooking more at home. Experiment with other ways to add flavor to food, such as herbs, spices, and citrus. 

Do an audit of your pantry items to identify packaged goods with high amounts of salt. Look for terms like “less sodium,” “reduced sodium,” and “no salt added” on food labels.1 

Decreasing your salt intake slowly will help your taste preferences adjust over time to enjoy foods that are less salty.12

Overall, a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and minimally processed foods will be naturally low in sodium and is associated with a lower risk of chronic diseases.1

Why Nourish?

If you have concerns about your salt intake or which salt is best for your health, the registered dietitians at Nourish can help you set realistic goals for long-term success. With virtual visits covered by insurance, connecting with an expert couldn’t be easier. Get started today with Nourish. 


  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. December 2015.
  1. Fayet-Moore, F., Wibisono, C., Carr, P., Duve, E., Petocz, P., Lancaster, G., McMillan, J., et al. (2020). An Analysis of the Mineral Composition of Pink Salt Available in Australia. Foods, 9(10), 1490.
  1. FoodData Central. (n.d.). Retrieved February 10, 2023, from https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/746775/nutrients
  1. Quilaqueo, M., Duizer, L., & Aguilera, J. M. (2015). The morphology of salt crystals affects the perception of saltiness. Food Research International , 76(Pt 3), 675–681.
  1. Farquhar, W. B., Edwards, D. G., Jurkovitz, C. T., & Weintraub, W. S. (2015). Dietary sodium and health: more than just blood pressure. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 65(10), 1042–1050. 
  1. Leung, A. M., Braverman, L. E., & Pearce, E. N. (2012). History of U.S. iodine fortification and supplementation. Nutrients, 4(11), 1740–1746.
  1. Iodine. (n.d.). Retrieved February 10, 2023, from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iodine-HealthProfessional/
  1. Drake, S.L. and Drake, M.A. (2011), Comparison of Salty Taste and Time Intensity of Sea and Land Salts from Around the World. Journal of Sensory Studies, 26: 25-34.
  1. Fayet-Moore, F., Wibisono, C., Carr, P., Duve, E., Petocz, P., Lancaster, G., McMillan, J., et al. (2020). An Analysis of the Mineral Composition of Pink Salt Available in Australia. Foods, 9(10), 1490. 
  1. Cepanec, K., Vugrinec, S., Cvetković, T., & Ranilović, J. (2017). Potassium Chloride-Based Salt Substitutes: A Critical Review with a Focus on the Patent Literature. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, 16(5), 881–894.
  1. Sodium Content of Various Salt Products. (n.d.). Retrieved February 10, 2023, from https://www.fsai.ie/science_and_health/salt_and_health/sodium_content_of_various_salt_products.html
  1. Bertino, M., Beauchamp, G. K., & Engelman, K. (1982). Long-term reduction in dietary sodium alters the taste of salt. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 36(6), 1134–1144.


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