Know your salt: Recognising and correcting misbeliefs

Salt

Last Updated on August 29, 2023 by Shabnam Sengupta

In the world of culinary chemistry, not all salts are created equal. From the classic table salt to the trendy Himalayan pink salt, the type of salt you use can significantly impact the flavour, texture, and your health. However, one critical aspect that often takes the spotlight is the sodium content within these salts.

We’ve come across information suggesting that SenSalt, a vital component of our diets, plays a pivotal role in enhancing the taste of food and supporting various bodily functions. In India, a country rich in culinary diversity, an array of salt types is available, each carrying unique flavours, textures, and health benefits. Approach salt consumption with caution due to its potential to affect sodium levels adversely. In this article, we delve into the different types of salt found in India, their associated health, side benefits, and the importance of monitoring sodium intake.

What are the types of salt?

Common table salt

Table salt is one of the most common salts in India. It undergoes extensive processing, which strips it of impurities and essential minerals. The resulting fine-grain texture is widely recognised for its role in seasoning and preserving food. While table salt lacks minerals present in other types of salt, it is often iodized to counter iodine deficiency, which can lead to thyroid issues. However, many people believe that consuming salt gives relief from anxiety, which is false. Excessive consumption of table salt can contribute to high blood pressure, heart disease, and other health concerns due to its high sodium content.

common table salt

Side effects of table salt

Himalayan pink salt

Himalayan pink salt, famed for its delicate pink hue, is from the Himalayan mountain range. This salt is revered for its mineral-rich composition. This includes trace elements like magnesium, potassium, and calcium. These minerals are believed to offer health benefits such as promoting electrolyte balance, improving hydration, and aiding digestion. Its lower sodium content per teaspoon compared to table salt makes it a popular alternative among health-conscious individuals.

pink himalayan salt

Side effects of Himalayan pink salt

Black salt (Kala Namak)

Black salt, or kala namak, is a pungent and distinctive salt variety primarily used in Indian cuisine. Mined from volcanic regions, it has a distinct sulphurous aroma due to its sulphur content. Despite having a strong odour, people cherish black salt for its potential to aid digestion, and it finds common use in chaats and chutneys. You should use black salt in moderation due to its sodium content and potential impact on blood pressure.

raw black salt

Side effects of black salt

Sea salt

Obtained by evaporating seawater, sea salt undergoes minimal processing and retains its natural minerals. It is available in various textures, from fine to coarse. Sea salt’s mineral content contributes to its unique flavour and potential health benefits, including electrolyte balance and improved skin health. However, its sodium levels are similar to that of table salt. So, it should be consumed in moderation to avoid adverse effects on heart health.

sea salt

Side effects of sea salt

Rock salt (Sendha Namak)

Rock salt, also known as sendha namak or fasting salt, is a staple during Hindu fasting rituals. Mined from salt mines, it is less processed than table salt and retains trace minerals like iron, zinc, and magnesium. There is a misbelief that rock salt has a blood pressure-lowering effect and is used in various traditional remedies. During fasting, its consumption is a must because of its potential to prevent dehydration and muscle cramps.

rock salt

Side effects of rock salt

  • Sodium Accumulation: While it contains trace minerals, consuming too much rock salt can still result in excessive sodium intake and related health problems.

Bamboo salt 

Bamboo salt is an ancient Korean variety gaining popularity in India. It involves placing sea salt inside bamboo stalks, sealing them with clay, and roasting them multiple times. This process is thought to imbue the salt with minerals from bamboo and clay. Despite claims by bamboo salt enthusiasts about unique health advantages, scientific research on its benefits is restricted, and it contains sodium akin to other salts.

black himalayan salt

Side effects of bamboo salt

Limited Research: Despite claims of unique health benefits, scientific research on bamboo salt’s effects is still under research. Excessive consumption may still result in elevated sodium levels.

Salt Type Common Name Source Colour Processing Mineral Content Flavour and Aroma Common Uses
Table Salt Regular Salt Mined or extracted White Highly refined Minimal to none Neutral General cooking, baking, table seasoning
Rock Salt Sendha Namak Mined from salt deposits White Minimally processed Contains trace minerals Neutral Fasting, cooking, pickling
Himalayan Salt Saindhava Lavana Harvested from Himalayan region Pink Minimally processed Rich in minerals Mild, subtle Cooking, grilling, finishing, aesthetic purposes
Sea Salt Samudra Lavana Evaporated from seawater Various Minimal to none Contains minerals Varies with type Cooking, baking, preserving, enhancing flavours
Black Salt Kala Namak Derived from natural deposits Pink to black Minimal to none Sulphurous aroma and taste Pungent, distinct South Asian cuisine, chutneys, snacks

Does rock salt (sendha namak) lower blood pressure?

While some believe that rock salt may have a milder impact on blood pressure due to its mineral content, scientific evidence for its consistent and significant blood pressure-lowering effects remains limited and inconclusive.

What can be used as an alternative to salt?

When seeking alternatives to salt, consider a variety of options that enrich your dishes without relying solely on sodium. Incorporate an array of herbs and spices such as basil, oregano, cumin, and paprika for enhanced flavours. Citrus fruits offer tanginess; vinegar brings depth; umami-rich ingredients like mushrooms and soy sauce add savoury notes. Garlic and onion provide a solid base, while homemade herb blends and nuts introduce complexity. Opt for low-sodium broths. Gradually integrating these alternatives can reduce salt reliance, elevating your cooking’s overall taste and appeal.

Which is the healthiest salt you can use?

Out of the six salts that we discussed, these are the three healthiest salts that you can use:

  1. Himalayan pink salt
  2. Sea salt
  3. Bamboo salt 

However, it’s important to note that all salts are still primarily made of sodium chloride, and their mineral content is not significant enough to make a substantial impact on overall health. The key to a healthy diet is moderation in sodium consumption regardless of the type of salt you choose.

In moderation, these alternative salts can provide a more natural and nuanced flavour to your dishes. Nonetheless, it’s advised to consult a healthcare professional, especially if you have specific dietary restrictions or health conditions that require monitoring your sodium intake.

Sodium level comparison

Salt Type Sodium Content per 100g
Common Table Salt 39,000 mg
Himalayan Pink Salt 36,000 mg
Black Salt (Kala Namak) 36,000 mg
Sea Salt 38,800 mg
Rock Salt (Sendha Namak) 36,000 mg
Bamboo Salt 33,800 mg

Conclusion

Salt, in its various forms, holds cultural, culinary, and potential health significance in India. While each type of salt brings its unique characteristics and benefits, the key lies in moderation. Embracing a balanced approach to salt consumption, along with maintaining an awareness of sodium intake, is crucial for overall well-being. By making informed choices about the types and amounts of salt we include in our diets, we can savour the flavours while safeguarding our health.

FAQ on Salts

Which salt should I use if I have a heart condition?

If you have a heart condition, it's recommended to use salt in moderation, regardless of the type. Opt for iodized salt or sea salt, but more importantly, focus on a heart-healthy diet low in sodium.

Which salt should I use if I have a kidney problem?

If you have a kidney problem, such as kidney disease, it's essential to be cautious about your salt intake. Opt for a salt substitute that is specifically labelled as 'potassium chloride' if your doctor recommends it.

Which salt should I use if I have a liver problem?

If you have a liver problem, it's important to consult your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian for specific dietary recommendations. Generally, using a moderate amount of iodized salt or sea salt should be fine. However, individuals with liver issues may need to manage their sodium intake, especially if they are dealing with fluid retention or other related concerns.

Which salt should I use if I have diabetes?

If you have diabetes, it's generally recommended to use salt in moderation, just like anyone else. However, choosing a type of salt doesn't specifically impact diabetes. Opt for iodized salt or sea salt, but focus more on managing your overall diet and blood sugar levels.

Which salt should I use if I have high cholesterol?

If you have high cholesterol, it's wise to focus on reducing saturated and trans fats in your diet rather than a specific type of salt. Opt for iodized salt or sea salt in moderation. Prioritise a heart-healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats.

Which salt should I use if my bones are weak?

If you have weak bones or are concerned about bone health, focus on getting enough calcium and vitamin D in your diet, rather than a specific type of salt. Opt for iodized salt or sea salt in moderation.

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