Monday, May 2, 2011

Myth: All salts are created equal.

Answer: BUSTED!

Three different types of salt
Recipes can be complicated and adding simple ingredients such as salt is not as straight forward as it seems. When shopping for salt in the grocery stores there are several types that are available. Should you buy ordinary table salt or other types such as sea salt or kosher salt?

Salt, also called table salt or rock salt, has been around for thousands of years and has been an important ingredient used for seasoning and preserving meat. It contains two minerals, sodium and chloride, and is essential for humans and animals in small amounts. Too much sodium in the diet, however, is associated with high blood pressure. According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, sodium intake should be less than 2300 milligram (mg) per day. Individuals who are middle aged or older, or at risk for high blood pressure or having other health problems should limit intake to only 1500 mg per day.

The size of a grain of salt differs from one type to another, but sodium levels are approximately equal. Choosing a particular type of salt becomes a personal choice since there isn’t one that is considered better than another. Table salt contains approximately 590 mg of sodium per ¼ teaspoon. Sea salt will vary in sodium content because it is obtained from the evaporation of sea water. One-quarter teaspoon of sea salt contains 400-590 mg of sodium. The mineral content in sea salt is also slightly different than table salt. Kosher salt contains similar amounts of sodium (500-590mg) but may vary, so it is best to read the label. Kosher salt also has larger grains so it takes up more space and more would be needed when adding it to a recipe. Unlike the other types of salt, kosher salt lacks iodine, which can contribute to health problems if it is lacking in the diet. Reading labels is the best way to know exactly what you are consuming.

Next time you are cooking, try substituting herbs and spices to flavor the meal instead of reaching for any kind of salt. Also, look for low sodium or no salt products in order to keep your sodium levels low.

Visit the MissouriFamilies website for more information about nutrition and health.

Contributors: Wendy Madarasz, Sodexo Dietetic Intern & Denise Schmitz M.A., R.D., Nutrition & Health Education Specialist, University of Missouri Extension

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