What is the difference between plain and iodized salt, kosher and sea salt? And which is better to use when you are watching your salt intake? —M.C., Brookings, Oregon
Salt is an important ingredient in our pantries because it wakes up the flavor in many foods we eat. Without salt as a seasoning, most cooked foods and many fresh ones just don’t reach their full potential. All salts contain sodium. However, some of them taste saltier than others, so you will likely use them in lesser amounts—something to keep in mind if you are trying to reduce sodium in your diet. The reason for the variation comes from the fact that some salts are “fluffed” so that the crystals contain more air. Salts that have less density in the crystals are generally lower in sodium. Kosher salt is a good example—it tastes saltier than common table salt so you can use it more sparingly, which means you are getting more flavor with less sodium. Table salt and iodized table salt are the most widely available and inexpensive of the salts. They each have 2,300 milligrams of sodium per teaspoon. Iodized salt is fortified with iodine to help prevent goiter—an iodine-deficiency disease which can occur where seafood is less available (not as common a problem as it once was). Even though it is sometimes touted as a healthy alternative, sea salt has a sodium content comparable to that of table salt. It is also less widely available and more expensive. Kosher salt is slightly lower in sodium, measuring 1,880 milligrams of sodium per teaspoon. It is more available in some regions than others. Prices may vary. While it’s true that the amount of salt we sprinkle on food can add up quickly, the fact is that only about 25% of the sodium most of us consume comes from the salt shaker. The main sources of sodium in the average American diet are processed and prepared foods.