Salt, also referred to as sodium chloride, is a type of mineral that comes from the sea, and in its natural form is referred to as rock salt for halite. Salt gives ocean water its unique taste and smell and also enhances herbs and spices used in various baking and cooking recipes. In ancient times, salt was so prized that it had monetary value and is still a prized possession today, not only for its taste but also for its health, skin care, and medicinal benefits.
Salt is so important that the word “salary” comes from it and though it is a highly valuable staple all over the world, it’s best consumed in smaller quantities due to its health concerns. However, we all benefit from salt and though you may be familiar with basic table salt, there are actually many more types of this mineral that add their own unique composition and tastes to your meals. Here are a variety of salts and their benefits that you may want add to your grocery list.
Most Americans are accustomed to the presence of table salt, as it is found in restaurants, supermarkets, fast food eateries and even at home. In fact, table salt is so beloved that according to the Food and Drug Administration, 90% of Americans are consuming more of the substance than they should. However, table salt is the most the most widely utilized form of salt available and is harvested by salt crystals that are taken from underground and treated with an anti-caking agent to keep the crystals from clumping together.
Most table salts are also infused with iodine, a vital nutrient that is needed within the diet in order to help balance thyroid hormones, responsible for metabolism, bone health, immune response, the growth of the central nervous system and the health and maintenance of basically every organ within the human body. Table salt is the most processed of the salts and is highly processed and unlike other forms of salts that are typically dried in the sun, table salt is cooked up to 1200 degrees Fahrenheit and infused with synthetic chemicals.
Himalayan Pink Salt
Himalayan pink salt is the purest form of salt in the world and comes from the Himalayan mountains of Pakistan and contains approximately 84 trace minerals. Himalayan pink salt can range in color from pale pink to a deeper salmon tone, which is due to some of the trace minerals, such as potassium, magnesium, and calcium, adding a nice flair to any dish. Compared to table salt, Himalayan sea salt imparts a robust flavor, making it a highly popular mineral that is added to an array of meals.
The mineral is also utilized for various skin care treatments, as well as medicinal purposes. Himalayan sea salt is purported to assist in alleviating regulating the body’s water levels, as well as strengthening the bones. Himalayan pink salt is also often used as lamps for therapeutic purposes.
Fleur De Sel
Fleur de sel is French for “flower of salt” and is harvested off the coast of Brittany, France. Unlike table or Himalayan pink salt, fleur de sel appear more like shavings rather than rounded crystals and are carefully cultivated, with wooden rakes, as the rising tide emerges. Although Fleur de Sel is also versatile in its use, it is not as readily available as much as other forms of salt, therefore it has been given the nickname, “the caviar of salts” and comes at a much steeper price than other forms of the mineral salts.
Fleur de sel forms as a delicate crush on top of seawater that has been evaporated and is blue-grey in color. Due to its lightweight, dainty appearance, it makes the perfect dressing for savory creations, as well as fruit, sweets, chocolates, or caramel. It lends a light flavor, so it won’t be too overpowering, however, as with any form of salt, a little goes a long way.
Coarse Salt/Kosher Salt
Coarse salt, sometimes dubbed as Kosher salt, is more about texture than it is about taste or the type of salt it is. Coarse salt is typically thicker and grittier than conventionally finer textured salts. Due to it’s larger grain, it usually adds more flavor to dishes, but due to its ample appearance, you don’t need to use as much since you get more out each grain due to its size.
Most coarse salts do not contain iodine and not all are created equal. Although some salt is certified kosher, meaning that the salt has been cultivated utilizing the guidelines of the Jewish law, some are not, but is instead utilized during the koshering process when cooking meat. At any rate, coarse salt is all a matter of taste. Anything that it is sprinkled on will burst with more flavor. Coarse salt can be utilized to create brines, sauces, to marinate meat as well as add saltiness to chocolates and other sweets.
Lava salt is derived from the volcanic regions of Hawaii. It is a blend of purified charcoal and sea salt. Activated charcoal can also be added for more benefits. Lava salt tends to add a light smoky or warm flavor and is used for the finishing touches to a variety of meats, soups, salads and other fares for added contrast. While black lava gets its name due to its earthy hue, it does not actually come from volcanoes as the name implies.
The health benefits of lava salt abound, as it helps with:
- Water retention
- Alleviated muscle cramping
- Gas and bloating
- Removes toxins
- Improved brain function
While lava salt is great for finishing dishes, using it while cooking may give off a grey color, so it is recommended that it not be used in that manner. However, the flavor is a truly unique taste experience and adds drama to light-colored dishes, such as mashed potatoes, fish, poultry, or bright vegetables.
Sea salt is produced by the evaporation of seawater and gives off a grainy, unrefined texture. Depending on where it is cultivated, sea salt will typically capture the minerals of the location it was grown. Sea salt is high in potassium, iron, and zinc and perfectly complements any meal with a delicious flavor profile without overtaking it, unless you add too much. Though all types of salt essentially come from the sea, sea salt gets its name simply for marketing purpose, as other names for it, such as bay salt or solar salt are also widely used.
Because of sea salt’s grainy texture, it is ideal to use for cosmetics purposes, such as body scrubs and hair sprays, salt water gargles for a sore throat and even as a healing agent for the treatment of joint pain and rheumatoid arthritis. Sea salt adds ample flavor to sweet and savory dishes, bringing out flavors of accompanying herbs and spices.
Kala Namak is cultivated in the Himalayan mountains of Pakistan and is a robustly flavorful salt that has been blended with other seasonings, charcoal, herbs, and bark, fired in a furnace for 24 hours before being cooled and stored. Kala Namak is usually red in color with a strong, pungent flavor that is ideal for meats and vegetables. Some even claim that it tastes like eggs. it is used in Ayurvedic healing is utilized for a variety of vegetarian and vegan dishes to add more flavor.
Kala Namak pairs best with various Indian dishes, but can also be used in western meals to season a variety of vegetables, grains, and meats. Since it gives off the sulfuric taste of eggs, it is ideal when added to tofu to mimic the flavor or real eggs, for those who are on a vegetarian or vegan diet.
Red Hawaiian Salt
Red Hawaiian Salt or alaea salt is cultivated from the mountain region of Waimea, Hawaii, a region that produces reddish clay that is full of iron. Traditionally, it has been used to purify, cleans and bless and is also the perfect season for dishes that call for an interesting flavor, such as poke and pipikaula, both traditional Hawaiian dishes.
The salt is created when it is caught in tidal pools that stir up red clay. When this salt evaporates, it leaves behind a red residue, due to the natural clay. The red color from the clay comes from its rich iron, which also fortifies the salt with the important mineral. Alaea is said to contain 80 different minerals and is ideal for fish, meats, as well as vegetables for an interesting flavor and taste. It is also said that alaea imparts spiritual powers, and is utilized in religious ceremonies, as well as culinary dishes and in medicine.
Salt is a precious commodity in our world. While we may think of salt as just the white stuff that you mindlessly sprinkle on your food, it’s worth noting that salt is much more than that and that it comes in many flavors and varieties that can elevate your meals and your wellbeing. Keep these salts in mind for spicing up your meals and as an alternative to a variety of treatments.