When you do choose to use salt, choose wisely. Like many commercial food products, salt can be highly processed — and might include additives like anti-caking agents. The next time you shop for salt, look for it in its natural form, keeping these factors in mind:
Origin. Natural salt doesn’t look like the stuff in most shakers. Salt crystals come in various sizes, shapes, and colors, ranging from white to pink, black to blue. Each crystal contains hints of its birthplace in the form of trace minerals, such as magnesium, calcium, potassium, and bromide, that the body needs to function optimally.
Taste. Upgrading to a high-quality salt amplifies more than its nutrient availability, says Mark Bitterman, author of several books on salt, including Salted: A Manifesto on the World’s Most Essential Mineral. “Natural salt also improves taste and texture, dramatically. The distinctive crystals and trace minerals of unrefined salts strike unique chords as they strum between your food and your mouth.” A natural salt generally retains some moisture that gives it a delicate resiliency. “It lolls around in your mouth, giving you a fuller, richer experience of the food,” he says.
Freshness. Buy natural salt in glass or high-quality plastic containers, because poor packaging allows salt’s natural moisture to evaporate. If it’s in a bag, give it a little pinch to test its freshness, Bitterman says. “Moist salt has a suppleness you can crunch and crush between your fingers. If it feels hard or brittle, it’s dried out.”
Cost. Look for high-quality salt at better groceries, natural markets, specialty cooking shops, and online spice retailers. It will cost more than table salt — on average, between $0.25 and $1 an ounce compared with $1 a pound for processed table salt. “The actual increase in cost per serving is never more than a penny or two,” notes Bitterman. That makes tasty, healthy salt one of the most affordable luxuries around.
This originally appeared in “The Great Salt Debate” in the March 2018 print issue of Experience Life.