Salt is a mineral compound that’s comprised mostly (or exclusively in some cases) of sodium chloride. It’s a ubiquitous flavoring agent for food and it provides essential electrolytes.
Some types of salt have trace amounts of other minerals, like calcium and magnesium, In some people, too much sodium intake over long periods of time can lead to high blood pressure, so salt is a flavoring agent best used in moderation.
Looking for the best salt for gourmet cooking and high-quality, healthy meals? Our research team has ranked the ten best salts of the year according to flavor and quality.
1. San Francisco Salt Co Red Alaea Hawaiian Sea Salt
Considered by some to be one of the most exotic salts on the market, Red Alaea Hawaiian Sea Salt is made with a mixture of sea salt and red alaea clay from Hawaii’s unique soil deposits.
The result is a deep, rich, red salt that contains a tremendous number of trace minerals. While it’s not the right choice for every recipe, if you want a salt that’s rich in nutrients and unlike anything else in terms of color or flavor, San Francisco Salt Co Red Alaea Hawaiian Sea Salt is an excellent choice.
2. Olde Thompson Mediterranean Sea Salt
Olde Thompson Mediterranean Sea Salt is traditionally-dried sea salt from the Mediterranean Sea. It contains traces of elements like iron, zinc, and potassium that you wouldn’t find in a regular table salt.
Though the primary constituent is still sodium chloride, some people can taste subtle differences in the flavor profile, while others prefer the coarse texture and appearance of these sea salt grains.
3. The Spice Lab Pink Himalayan Salt
The Spice Lab Pink Himalayan Salt has the characteristic pink hue and vaguely different taste profile that’s characteristic of all Himalayan pink salts thanks to their high content of calcium, magnesium, and other trace minerals.
These minerals add some nutritional value and enhance the visual and flavor appeal of the salt. The Spice Lab’s Himalayan Salt is very coarse, which makes it great for hand-grinding and even for display.
Since it’s mined directly out of the ground, you’ll have to keep an eye out for the occasional rock, but that’s what you get when you go with one of the most natural forms of salt you can get.
4. Redmond Real Salt Ancient Sea Salt
Redmond Real Salt makes an unusual and unique sea salt: it’s made in America, and it’s not derived from modern-day ocean water.
Rather, Redmond Real Salt uses the deposits of an ancient inland ocean in Utah as the source of its salt.
Whether this confers any benefits over normal ocean salt is debatable, but it certainly makes this salt a conversation-starter and has won the company some avid fans.
5. San Francisco Salt Co Black Lava Hawaiian Sea Salt
Black Lava Salt is made by blending Hawaiian sea water that settles in lava channels with activated charcoal which gives it its distinctive black-as-night color.
It also helps absorb toxins, and as such, it’s popular among detox dieters, but that’s not its only application.
Gourmet cooks love it for its unique color and flavor, which comes from the blending of ocean water with the minerals contained in the lava flow channels.
6. La Baleine Sea Salt
La Baleine Sea Salt is a safe and reliable option for an everyday sea salt that’s a step up from normal table salt but isn’t quite as exotic as some of the Hawaiian or Himalayan salt varieties.
Like all natural sea or mineral salts, it lacks iodine, a necessary nutrient, so you’ll have to get that elsewhere in your diet.
7. Selina Naturally Celtic Sea Salt
Celtic sea salt is made much in the same way that regular sea salt is made: ocean water is allowed to slowly evaporate, which leaves behind the complex blend of minerals dissolved in the ocean water.
Celtic sea salt also contains the remains of the clay material at the bottom of traditional sea salt evaporation pools, which is why it has a grayish brown tinge to it.
Selina Naturally makes a fine ground Celtic sea salt that’s great in French recipes that call for the dense, heavy, moist properties of Celtic sea salt.
8. Caravel Gourmet Truffle Sea Salt
For a truly gourmet experience, try cooking with Caravel Gourmet Truffle Sea Salt. The deep, savory flavor of truffles is infused into this cooking salt.
It’s great for traditional Mediterranean and Italian dishes like olives, tomatoes, and fatty cuts of meat. Though it’s definitely not compatible with every kind of dish, it’s an excellent secret weapon for your spice cabinet.
9. Jacobsen Salt Co Habanero Salt
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Jacobsen Salt Co Habanero Salt certainly is not for every type of dish, but in niche uses, it’s great. This hot and spicy salt has a combination of table salt and the oils of habanero peppers.
Because of the chemical properties of habanero extract, this salt works best on dishes that are slightly oily, like eggs, meat, avocado, or anything with olive oil.
Though it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, it can be an excellent finishing salt for some key gourmet dishes.
10. Wild Kosher Flake Salt
Wild Kosher Flake Salt isn’t particularly distinctive in its flavor or mineral contents, but it is great for those rare occasions when you want salt that’s thin and flakey, versus the large, rough, coarse grains you’ll get in most other sea salt brands. For margaritas or garnishing, this flake salt is good to have on hand.
Salt benefits and side effects
Many health organizations claim that high intake of salt causes or contributes to a number of serious health issues, including heart disease and high blood pressure; we’ve been warned repeatedly to limit salt in the diet.
But evidence collected over decades does not always support the theory that it’s dangerous to consume salt. (1)
Some studies actually indicate that eating a diet very low in salt can be harmful, especially if it means your body doesn’t get enough iodine.
Let’s sort through the facts and get clear on the role salt plays in our bodies, how much is too much, and the effects of salt on health.
Salt has been used as a preservative for centuries; the high amount of sodium in salt inhibits the growth of bacteria that can cause spoilage.
Sodium chloride (NaCl) is commonly called salt; it consists of 60% chloride and 40% sodium. Salt and sodium are used interchangeably to refer to this compound, which is often used to improve the flavor of food.
We get most of the sodium in our diets from salt, although it occurs naturally in small amounts in most foods.
Salt contains essential minerals that act as electrolytes in our bodies. The minerals in salt work to ensure proper muscle function, balancing fluid levels, and participating in the process of transmitting messages through the nervous system.
Salt is obtained through mining it from the earth or the evaporation of seawater or other water rich in minerals; table salt is the most common type available, and others include sea salt and Himalayan pink salt.
Flavor and texture varies between types, and the health effects of different kinds of salt are actually quite similar.
People who already have healthy blood pressure don’t need to drastically decrease their salt intake. Cutting back on sodium intake can make a dramatic difference in blood pressure levels for people who have a condition called salt-sensitive hypertension, but the average blood pressure reduction in healthy subjects is minimal. (4)
A 2013 study reported significant salt restriction practiced by healthy individuals dropped pressure by only 2.42 mmHg systolic and 1.00 mmHg diastolic. Here’s an example of how a person’s blood pressure measurement might change: 130/75 mmHg could be reduced to 128/74 mmHg. (5)
We’ve been told eating too much salt jacks up blood pressure and raises the risk of suffering a stroke or heart attack, but the actual benefits of restricting sodium are in question.
This is obviously not the drastic reduction one would hope for by removing most salt from the diet.
Salt intake that is too low could be associated with negative health consequences. Some scientific research has found that very low sodium diets can be harmful in some cases.
For example, a meta-analysis of studies indicated heart failure patients restricting sodium had 160% higher risk of dying than those who did not. (8) Moverover, eating less than 3,000 mg sodium daily was associated in several studies with a higher risk of dying from heart disease. (9, 10)
Very low sodium intake might not be great for cholesterol levels either. Restricting salt is linked with higher levels of LDL cholesterol (the bad kind), as well as elevated triglyceride levels. (11)
Sodium levels that are too low could also negatively affect your metabolic health. One study found that type 2 diabetes patients who restrict sodium are at higher risk for death. (12) Additionally, eating a low-salt diet has been associated in several studies with insulin resistance. (13, 14, 15)
Some evidence suggests that sodium intake could increase your risk for stomach cancer.
Observational studies have linked high salt intake to an elevated risk of developing stomach cancer, and several hypotheses about why this may be so have been suggested. Excessive salt may damage the lining of the stomach, which could lead to increased exposure to carcinogens. (16, 17)
A review of studies published in 2012 analyzing data from more than 200,000 test participants showed that those who habitually consume high amounts of salt run a 68% higher risk of developing stomach cancer than people who eat a low-salt diet. (20)
Salt is 40% sodium by weight, and 2,300 mg amounts to about a teaspoon of salt (6 grams). Estimates gathered from survey information indicate as many as 9 out of 10 Americans consume more than the recommended amount. (24)
The majority of salt in a typical diet is from processed foods and restaurant foods. Estimates indicate that only about a quarter of most people’s salt intake comes from what is added to food when cooking at home or at the table. (25)
Read food labels before making a purchase to determine how much sodium the product contains.
Some health conditions require a restriction of sodium, so if your doctor has advised you to watch your salt intake, it’s important to follow the guidelines you’ve been given. (26)
For healthy people who eat only minimal amounts of processed food and focus on whole, natural foods, there is probably no reason to be concerned about salt intake.
Salt delivers sodium, an essential electrolyte for keeping your body functioning. Some types of salt, like sea salt and Himalayan salt, also deliver trace amounts of other minerals like zinc, potassium, or magnesium that help with neural and muscular function.
Restricting salt intake can have long term health benefits for people with certain conditions, but evidence does not support the practice of sodium restriction for many of the high-profile applications generally recommended, such as protecting heart health. Indeed, certain chronic health conditions seem to get worse on very low sodium diets. So, unless you’ve been told that you need to be on a sodium restricted diet, you don’t need to be extremely stringent about your salt intake.