What You Need to Know About Salt

Despite their hype, specialty salts may not live up to all their health claims.


By Jennifer House, R.D.


Scour the shelves of your local specialty supermarket and you will see never-ending choices for salt: regular iodized salt, sea salt, pink Himalayan salt, Black Hawaiian salt, and lots more. The health claims are extensive too. Suddenly, salt is changing from something to avoid to something that can strengthen bones, balance pH, remove toxins and lower blood pressure. But is there any truth to this? 

All salt contains sodium, which increases risk of heart disease 

While some studies have recently questioned this, most experts still concede that too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure and heart disease. All types of salt contain approximately the same amount of sodium. The recommended amount of salt is less than 2300 mg per day

In 2010, The American Heart Association went even further and recommended that Americans limit sodium intake to a maximum of 1500 mg per day. Just one teaspoon of any type of salt contains approximately 2300 mg of sodium. Approximately 77% of the sodium in our diet comes from restaurant and packaged foods, not from salting home-made foods. 

One benefit of regular table salt: iodine 

While I wouldn’t encourage eating more salt to increase iodine intake, one edge that regular salt has over specialty salts, is its fortification with iodine. Iodine is added to all table salt in Canada and the United States, originally to prevent goiter. Iodine is mainly used to make thyroid hormones and helps to regulate the rate your body uses energy. 

While we only need a small amount of iodine (150 ug per day), it’s not plentiful in our diet. Fish is the highest source of iodine in our diet, and contains approximately 80 mcg per serving. One teaspoon of regular iodized table salt contains 380 mcg of iodine. Many other forms of salt do contain some natural iodine, but not nearly as much. 

Other minerals in specialty salts are minute 

What about the other minerals in specialty salts? Are these unprocessed, unrefined, mined- from-caves, volcanoes and the deep sea trace minerals from specialty salts unique and important for our health? Unfortunately, no. 98% of the volume of any salt is still sodium chloride, so they contain only minute amounts of other minerals, which we are able to get from other foods in our diet. And if the online analysis of Pink Himalayan salt is accurate, some of these minerals (like mercury and aluminum) are best not consumed. 

The bottom line is that most of us should be consuming less salt, not more, regardless of type. There is no evidence in published journals to back the lofty health claims of specialty salts. 

If you prefer the look and taste of speciality salts, go ahead and replace iodized table salt with your specialty salt of choice. But remember to still use it in moderation. Otherwise, regular iodized table salt is fine. Better yet, flavor your food at home with herbs and spices. Garlic, ginger, basil, lemon and thyme are sodium-free, providing flavor without increasing your blood pressure.

Jennifer is a registered dietitian, registered nutritionist, and a member of the Alberta College of Dietitians and Dietitians of Canada. Combining her personal and professional passions, Jennifer loves to blog about food and eating during pregnancy and for young kids and families. You can find her on First Step Nutrition.

Main Photo Credit: lenka/; Heart Pain Photo Credit: file404/; Table Salt Photo Credit: Orsis Arisara/; and Salmon Photo Credit: Elena Barstad/

Jun 13, 2015

I don't want to be Hawaiian anymore.(islanders really like salty stuff, well at least all my ohana does) I love salts. Sad face. Guess I'll just need to be more careful.