Somehow salt--once more prized than gold--has become controversial over the years. We'll tackle the main issues in this Info piece.
Health and Dietary Issues
Is salt healthy or unhealthy?
You have likely heard about health warnings, urging people to reduce sodium intake as a way to reduce blood pressure. This may lead you to wondering if the salt used in our fermentations prohibits you from enjoying our products. Let's ferment the issue.
To be clear: salt is critical for our survival. We especially need sodium, of which salt is comprised (salt's chemical formula = NaCl = sodium chloride). Sodium maintains the membrane potential of our cells. This is a balance between sodium ions (mainly on the outside of our cells) with that of potassium ions (mainly on the inside of our cells). This balance is critical for nerve pulse transmission, muscle contraction, and heart function. In addition, sodium is absorbed in the small intestine, which, in turn, helps in the absorption of chloride, amino acids, glucose, and water. Similar absorption mechanisms occur after the kidneys filter these nutrients from our blood. Sodium also regulates blood pressure and blood volume. Chloride forms part of the hydrochloric acid (HCl) that makes up our stomach's gastric juice. Gastric juice aids in the digestion and absorption of many nutrients.
Our bodies have various mechanisms to help regulate the amount of sodium. But bad things seem to happen when we eat large of amounts of salt on a daily basis, for years and decades. The claim against salt is that it leads to cardiovascular disease, i.e., heart disease. But we need to emphasize that it is excess salt that is the problem. When we eat too much salt, our kidneys filter excess out, which is removed from the body via urine. We can also can lose salt when we sweat. After a certain point, however, we eat so much salt that our kidneys cannot remove enough of it. And if we do not exercise to the point of heavy perspiration, then we are also not removing salt via sweat. In such cases, sodium begins to build up in our body and our blood. Sodium attracts water. This added water increases the volume of our blood, which causes increased pressure on our blood vessels, which forces our heart to pump harder, raising our blood pressure and causing hypertension. The theory holds that increased pressure on our artery walls for years and decades apparently causes them to harden, becoming less flexible, resulting in them being more prone to blockages, which leads to cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and strokes.
This link to cardiovascular disease is why we are encouraged to reduce salt intake. The American Heart Association gives us guidelines, urging us to eat less of it. So does the World Health Organization. Food manufacturers then place a "low" or "no sodium" label on a product to make sales by cashing in on these low sodium recommendations.
As it usually is with nutrition and diet claims, however, there are contradictory studies claiming that salt is not a problem, for most people. There was a large study, for example, showing that having too little salt is just as unhealthy as having too much. (Here is the actual study.) The researchers noted that lowering sodium intake only had health benefits for those with hypertension. Another large study showed that there was no relationship with sodium intake and elevated blood pressure. In another study that looked at older adults (71-80), over a ten-year period, there was no link between sodium intake and mortality from cardiovascular disease. Other researchers noted, after looking at numerous studies totaling over 300,000 people, that the evidence indicates that those eating moderate amounts of sodium, rather than limited amounts, have the lowest rates of heart attacks, strokes, and death. Experts also note that many of the studies indicating that salt raises blood pressure are flawed in that they are "too short, too small, not like the real world, or influenced by factors other than sodium." Another review of salt studies showed that the evidence is inconclusive regarding the effects of dietary salt reduction by individuals. Also, individuals are very different in how they process and eliminate salt.
In sum, the evidence regarding salt intake is uncertain, at best. The only concrete conclusion is that reduced salt intake benefits those who already have hypertension. If you do not have hypertension and are otherwise healthy, there seems to be no need to watch salt intake. But there is, nevertheless, an easy and healthy way to reduce your salt intake without counting milligrams of sodium on food labels. Eat real food that is unprocessed or minimally processed.
Dietary Sources of Sodium
Food is a package deal despite the human tendency to dissect it into individual ingredients, like salt, which perhaps gives us the misguided sense of control when we see an ingredient mentioned on packaging for processed foods and supplements. If you step back, however, you begin to understand that--like many health and diet issues--we are likely missing the forest for the trees with the salt issue. We are focusing on one tree--the "salt tree," if you will, and not seeing the forest. In other words, how are we putting salt--or more specifically, sodium--into your bodies? The salt and sodium is coming from our food, obviously. More specifically, an average of around 70% of the sodium in our diet comes from salt added to food outside of our home. More to the point, most of our sodium intake is a result of our poor diet, which consists of too many processed foods and eating too often at restaurants, especially fast food. The rest of our sodium comes from the naturally occurring sodium in food (~14%) and the salt that we add ourselves when we either cook at home (~6%), or when we add it at our dinner table with the salt shaker or grinder (~5%).
What foods contain the highest amounts of sodium? Not surprisingly, it is processed food and factory-farmed meat that are the top sources of sodium. Some of the main culprits are: deli meats; restaurant pizza; white bread; boneless, skinless chicken breast; chicken nuggets; restaurant chicken strips; canned chicken noodle soup; fast food cheeseburger; American cheese; and potato chips. We must note that sodium does not always come from salt, i.e., sodium chloride. Processed and manufactured foods contain many sodium-containing salt substitutes such as sodium benzoate, sodium phosphate, and sodium bicarbonate (baking soda).
Salt is used by food manufacturers to preserve food, and to enhance flavor and taste. Salt, along with sugar and fat, are the three pillars of processed foods. All three are carefully used to create cheap, addictive, long-lasting products. If something is labeled low sugar, then more salt or fat is added. If something is labeled low-fat, then more salt or sugar is added. Never are all three lowered in the same food. For more on this, I highly recommend the book, Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, if you are interested in a great, eye-opening look behind the curtain of the manufactured food industry, and why salt, sugar, and fat are the three pillars of the processed foods making us fat and sick.
Sodium is added heavily to processed and factory-farmed meats mainly for preservation. But preservation is not the only reason why factory-farmed meat is "enhanced" or "plumped," as it is called, with injections and marinades of chemical solutions. According to an industry brochure, plumping helps steaks and roasts "retain good appearance, flavor and texture." It helps deli meats "maintain whole meat structure with less shrinkage." It is added to hot dogs and bologna to create a "stable emulsion" that "avoids moisture and fat leakage even when weaker binding meats are used." Chicken, pork, and beef are "tumbled" in a phosphate for 30 minutes to several hours to "achieve quality products." ("quality" - LOL!) This, however, is my favorite, disgusting description: "Chunked and formed ham and turkey products [i.e., deli meat, cold cuts] are mixed with phosphate and salt until a sticky exudate forms.The exudate binds deli rolls and roasts into products with strong integrity and good sliceability." Yummy. Ham and turkey sandwich anyone?
Let's look at some of the other issues with this industrial practice of injecting and marinading meats in chemical solutions.
First, the consumer is paying for these cheap, chemical solutions. According to meat industry guidelines, injections and marinades increase the weight of the meat product anywhere from 3-20% of its natural, "green" weight. In fact, a complaint filed with the USDA, by a few natural chicken processors, complain that their larger, industrial competitors are not truthfully labeling their "enhanced" chicken products, some of which contain up to 30% of added solution!! Meat is sold by the pound. Do you think they subtract the "enhancing" chemical solutions from the pound price? (That's a rhetorical question.)
Second, remember the word "exudate"? It is the slimy fluid that leaks out of meat. Adding phosphate solutions to meat exponentially increases the number of sickness-causing Campylobacter bacteria in the exudate of meat. This bacteria is the greatest cause of food poisoning. Here is a short video on the issue.
Third, the addition of phosphate to foods obviously increases the level of phosphate in our bodies. This increased and constant exposure to phosphate is a strong predictor of chronic kidney disease, heart attacks and deaths. Phosphate is a huge danger for those already suffering from kidney disease or who are undergoing dialysis.
Let's crawl out of that rabbit hole of industrial meat "enhancing" and get back to sodium.
It is clear that we get most of our sodium from things we should avoid eating: processed, refined junk food and cheap, factory-farmed meat bloated with chemical cocktails. The solution, therefore, is not for people to eat junk food and deli meats with "reduced sodium." The solution is to stop eating that crap, and eat REAL food! To be clear, real food is whole plants (i.e., unprocessed or minimally processed), such as veggies, fruits, berries, nuts, tubers, and whole grains, and also local, natural, unadulterated and sustainably raised meat, eggs, dairy, and fish products. It is that simple. Also, reduce or eliminate trips to restaurants, especially fast food. Cook and prepare real food, at home. It is no surprise that these rational, common sense food choices--part of the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension)--greatly reduces sodium intake and, therefore, blood pressure.
Eating real food has other benefits, other than just reducing our sodium. One of these is an increase in our potassium intake. Americans get just over half of the recommended daily allowance of potassium. Potassium has the opposite effect of sodium. Potassium reduces our blood pressure. (See here and here.) Apparently, potassium blunts the effect of sodium by causing our bodies to excrete more sodium in our urine. Potassium also reduces the tension in the walls of our blood vessels. This site by Oregon State's Linus Pauling Institute has a great overview of the studies indicating that potassium reduces blood pressure as well as studies indicating that adequate potassium intake reduces strokes, osteoporosis, and kidney stones. It also makes clear that the richest source of potassium is whole plant foods such as fruits and vegetables. Here is the USDA nutrient database. Search for potassium. Potassium supplements, i.e., pills, however, should not be used without consulting a physician due to overdosing risks.
Summary of Health and Dietary Issues
So where do things stand on salt? Let's ferment what we currently know:
1.) Sodium, which makes up salt, is critical for cellular function, and our survival, but we only need a certain amount.
2.) The studies on the health affects of excess salt intake are not entirely clear. The one consensus is that those who already suffer from hypertension should watch their sodium intake. Reduced sodium intake does not seem to benefit others, however, and some studies even indicate that eating very little or no salt seems to have its own adverse health issues.
3.) We get most of our sodium from processed food, factory farmed meats injected with chemical solutions, and restaurant food.
4.) We can greatly and easily reduce sodium intake by eating more whole or minimally processed foods, and preparing real food at home. By doing so, we can use the salt shaker and eat naturally-fermented foods, without worrying about getting too much sodium.
5.) Eating real food--and more plants, specifically--gives us the added benefit of providing us with more potassium, which helps counteract damaging effects of excess sodium. In addition, eating real foods provides us with all the nutrient benefits that real food has over refined and processed foods.
Are expensive, gourmet salts healthier than table salt?
You may have heard various claims as to why gourmet and specialty salts, such as Celtic sea salt or Himalayan pink rock salt, are healthier than regular table salt. Let's delve into these claims about specialty and gourmet salts to see if there is a "grain" of truth to them, or if these claims are just fabrications from uninformed "experts," which are then leveraged by purveyors of "gourmet" salts to bilk consumers out of their hard-earned money by paying a lot for what is essentially just NaCl.
What is salt?
Salt is--chemically-speaking--sodium chloride. The chemical formula for salt is NaCl where "Na" is the symbol for the element sodium and "Cl" is the symbol for the element chlorine. The more pure a salt, the higher percentage of NaCl and the less of "impurities," i.e., non-NaCl substances, it contains. Impurities such as minerals, clay, dirt, etc., give unrefined salts, like sea salt or mined rock salt (such as pink Himalayan salt), their coloration. Therefore, salt being "refined" is not a bad thing, per se. That said, even the unrefined, gourmet salts consist almost entirely of NaCl, although percentages vary slightly, depending on the alleged analysis, blogger claims, or perhaps the sample tested. (For example: One, supposed full analysis of Himalayan salt shows it contains 91.5% NaCl. This one shows 97.4%. This university article claims 95-97%.)
In other words, these gourmet salts are essentially just that--salt. They simply contain trace amounts of impurities that give them their color and (according to some) perhaps unique taste. It is also the reason these gourmet salts have trace amounts of heavy metals and radioactive elements, such as lead, mercury, cadmium, uranium, etc. So, are these gourmet salts "healthier"? Do these "impurities" make an actual difference in regards to health or taste? We look at that below.
How Salt Is Gathered, Processed, and Purified
All salt is essentially "sea salt." Salt (NaCl) occurs naturally in two states: 1.) in solution (a.k.a., brine) or 2.) crystallized rock salt. (NaCl forms cube-shaped crystals.) "In solution" means NaCl is dissolved in water (e.g., oceans, seas, salt lakes, or underground reservoirs of salt water). Rock salt, also known as the mineral halite, comes from the drying up of ancient oceans and lakes. These deposits are most often below ground, although some salt flats, such as the Bonneville Salt Flats, in Utah, are above ground.
Salt is gathered, using one of three methods: 1.) evaporation of salt water in shallow reservoirs; 2.) mining of rock salt from underground salt beds; and 3.) solution mining from underground salt beds. Salt is processed in its form as either rock salt or brine. Rock salt used on roads or sold as gourmet salts is simply crushed into usable sizes. Brine goes through various stages of evaporation, depending on what the salt will be used for.
Most of the salt we eat is a result of "solution mining." Salt producers drill holes into underground salt beds, and then shoot hot water into these holes. The salt is dissolved by the water, which becomes a heavily salted solution, i.e., brine. The brine is brought to the surface through another pipe. This brine often has high amounts of calcium and magnesium that are first removed with water softeners such as quick lime and soda ash. These additives bind with calcium, magnesium, and sulfate to create precipitates such as lime and gypsum, which then fall out of the solution and are removed from the brine. If not removed, calcium and magnesium would cause the salt to cake and harden. The brine then goes through boiling and drying stages to remove water.* For food purposes, the end result (before any additives) is a product that is at, or close to, 99.99% pure NaCl.
Then, for table salt at least, anti-caking chemicals and iodine are added. Calcium silicate is the most common anti-caking substance used for table salt. (It is what Morton's Table Salt contains.) About 0.5 to 1.0 % of the final salt product is an anti-caking product. As for being a safe ingredient, calcium silicate gets the safest rating from the Environmental Working Group (EWG). Of course, you can buy table salt that is free of additives.
*Note: Many food bloggers and "experts" also repeat the myth that salt is heated to 1200 degrees Fahreheit. The myth is that this high heat burns off all the minerals or destroys the salt somehow. LOL! (As if salt and minerals are organic, carbon-based substances that can be "burnt off.") This is complete nonsense. First, about 300 degrees Fahrenheit (150 Celsius) is the highest temperature reached during drying of brine, using the common, vacuum process.) Second, even if the salt was heated to 1200 degrees, minerals do not vaporize at that temperature (salt is a mineral, and it remains!). Potassium--a mineral often found in salt deposits--for example, only begins to boil at 1398 degrees Fahrenheit.
Table Salt Is NOT Bleached -- NaCL Is Naturally White
It is sad, if not somewhat amusing, that we need to address such an absurd issue. But, surprisingly, many of the blogs and websites that make health claims about expensive gourmet salt also vilify table salt by claiming that it is harmful due to it being bleached, and, therefore, contains "bleach residue." This is silly nonsense and completely false. The claims are obviously never accompanied with a citation, much less a scientific citation supporting this claim. This is because the salt is not bleached, but lazy "experts" and bloggers keep repeating it.
Pure salt would be pure NaCl. Pure NaCl is naturally colorless or white. In fact, pure NaCl crystals are a mineral called halite. When salt is not white, then it is not halite, i.e., NaCl. Specialty salts contain "impurities," such as sediment, clay, minerals, iron oxide, copper, lava, sediment, or residue from bacteria, and/or algae. These impurities impart salts with various colors, such as pink, brown, or black. Back before the irrational, specialty salt craze, white salt was prized because it was pure. If salt is not white it is because it has "dirt" in it, as Mike Kurlansky, author of, "Salt: A World History," succinctly put it.
I can only assume that the bleach myth arose somehow from the fact that bleach (NaClO) is made from salt, and, therefore, contains sodium (Na) and chloride (Cl) ions.
Table salt contains sugar to Stabilize Iodine
Yes it does, if the salt has added iodine. Iodine is an element that is critical for human health. In 1924, as a safety precaution to make sure we are not lacking in iodine, US salt manufacturers began adding it to salt. Iodine by itself, however, is somewhat unstable, meaning it oxidizes and breaks down, becoming ineffective without a stabilizer. Sugar, in the form of dextrose, is the stabilizer used to keep iodine from oxidizing. We do not need much iodine to be healthy. At most, 0.01% of table salt contains iodine. And the amount of sugar added to salt to stabilize this iodine is also exceedingly minuscule: 0.0374%. So when you see internet outrage about sugar in your salt, you can yawn and move on, knowing that it is for your own health, and that there are much more important things about our food system to be outraged about.
Gourmet Salts Are Not Healthier Than Table Salt
Gourmet salts contain more impurities than table salt, which means they contain slightly less sodium than table salt. You may also use slightly less of the gourmet salts by pinch or by measurement (e.g., teaspoon), if the gourmet salts are used as larger crystals or flakes. This is a density issue. You can pack a tablespoon, for example, with more tiny, table-salt crystals than you can with larger sea salt crystals.
The fact is, however, that the sodium difference between the salts is not great, especially in light of how much we apply at the table or through home cooking. Himalayan salt is about 97% NaCl, according to this analysis. Table salt is about 99.99% pure NaCl, before additives, and about 99.00%, after additives. (The FDA allows up to 2% additives.) Regular table salt contains the following amounts of additives: anti-caking additives make up, at most, 1.0%; dextrose and iodine together make up, at most, 0.08%.
Sea salt has less sodium due to the very high moisture content. This brand, for example, has about 85% NaCl, and about 10% moisture content. This brand has 84% NaCl and 14% water. So perhaps sea salt has a slight edge here because you're getting (and paying for) a significant amount of water content. But, why not buy the cheaper salt, without additives, and add a little less, thereby getting the same amount of sodium, for less money?
But, the truth is that we simply do not--relatively speaking--add that much salt to our food at the dinner table. We get most of our sodium intake (~70%) from salt that is added to processed foods by manufacturers and processors before the consumer even touches it (e.g., packaged foods, frozen meals, deli meats, injected beef, pork, and chicken). We only get about 6% of our salt from the salt shaker. So, in reality, if you want to cut sodium intake, the type of salt that comes out of your salt shaker or grinder is, relatively speaking, of little consequence.
This is one area that gourmet rock salts (e.g., Himalayan) and sea salt, i.e., evaporated from salt water, may claim a very slight advantage over "table" salt. Rock salts and sea salts are less refined and, therefore, have more minerals than the highly-refined and almost-pure table salt. Here is a claimed analysis of Himalayan salt, showing that it contains 94 elements. This analysis of a brand of sea salt shows 73 elements. Some of these elements, such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, copper, and iron, are trace, essential nutrients that our bodies need. But the amount of these elements in salt is very small. Furthermore, the amount of salt that we add to our food via our salt shakers is, relatively speaking, small. This means that the amount of these elements that we get from salt that we add in our homes or on our meals is very small. As an example, let's take the amount of potassium we get from Himalayan salt.
The current recommended daily intake of sodium is 2,300 mgs, which we can get from 1 teaspoon of pure salt (NaCl). (Note that only about 40% of pure salt is sodium (Na), with chlorine (Cl) making up 60%.). So, let's assume we can grind Himalayan salt down to the size of table salt crystals, such that we can get about the same amount of Himalayan into a teaspoons as we can table salt. (Technically, we could add a very, very slight amount more of Himalayan because it contains slightly less NaCl (97.4%) than table salt (99%--assuming additives), but, for simplicity's sake, we'll call it a draw, sodium-wise.). This certificate of analysis shows that the sample of Himalayan salt tested had 3.5 g/kg of potassium. This translates into 0.0035 (3.5 g/1000 g), which is 0.35%. So 0.35% of that batch of Himalayan salt contained potassium
A teaspoon of salt--the current, recommended limit--weighs 5.69 grams. Therefore, a teaspoon of Himalayan salt contains 0.02 grams of potassium (0.0035 x 5.69 g). Converted to milligrams, 0.02 grams equals 20 mg (0.02 x 1000 g).
The daily recommended intake of potassium, for an adult, is 4,700 mg. This means, if we consume an entire teaspoon of Himalayan salt per day (giving us the recommended limit for sodium), we will only get about 0.4% of our daily potassium requirement (20 mg K/4,700 mg). In comparison, you can get 1600 mg of potassium from eating a potato, with skin, which gives your 34% of the daily requirement of potassium.
In sum, the gourmet salts have a slight advantage in essential mineral category, but, from a health perspective, the amount is fairly insignificant (source: Consumerlab.com; paid subscription required). So is it worth the extra money, for the insignificant difference, when you can use the extra money to buy some fresh food, which often has a much higher amount of essential minerals?
Toxins and Contaminants
For the same reason that gourmet salts have more beneficial mineral content than table salt, they also contain heavy metals and other harmful elements, such as aluminum, arsenic, barium, cadmium, lead, mercury, and even a minuscule amount of uranium and plutonium. (Himalayan analysis; sea salt analysis). Granted most of these toxins are in such incredibly small amounts that they likely do no harm. But, not always, depending on the type of salt you choose to use. The heavy metal content is higher in the darker salts. Based on these results, Consumer Lab recommends that you stay away from the darker salts, if "you want to minimize your intake of lead and other toxic elements." (source: Consumerlab.com; paid subscription required to see answers and test results). Most samples tested had lead levels around 0.5 mcg, which is Consumer Lab's cut-off for finding that a supplement product is contaminated with lead. A sea salt, Sal Gris De Guerande, however, had the highest lead levels, at 1.3 mcg. (In light of this, a small amount of innocuous anti-caking agent, such as calcium chloride, found in table salt, doesn't sound so terrifying, does it?)
Furthermore, just because one sample of a gourmet salt does or does not contain high levels of toxins, does not mean that testing another batch of the same brand of salt will show the same results. Precisely because these salts are unrefined, their composition could vary depending on where that particular batch of salt was gathered. Salt from one area of a salt mine or from one part of the ocean, for example, may have a very different composition than salt taken from another area.
In regards to sea salt that is gathered and dried, the contamination changes in real time as the environment changes. Now, for example, because our oceans have been used as dumping grounds for trash and waste, sea salt contains microplastics. The health affects are not yet known.
Why Are Gourmet Salts So Expensive?
Some gourmet salts are upwards of 20 times more expensive than table salt (up to $279/lb, for the most expensive!). I believe that there are a few reasons for this.
First, some gourmet salts are harvested using more labor intensive methods. The more expensive sea salts, for example, are harvested by hand, using the same techniques that have been used for a thousand years. Himalayan pink salt is also often romanticized as being so wonderful because it is "hand harvested," without the aid of much of the modern machinery. Although the purveyors of gourmet salt myths use this fact to make you think rock Himalayan pink salt from Pakistan is special, the truth seems to be that the manually digging out rock is back-breaking, dangerous, and low paying work. Shocking. I know.
Second, depending on where you live, the salt must be shipped very long distances. If you're in the United States, for example, French sea salt and Himalayan pink salt from Pakistan must be shipped thousands of miles. Is the mystique surrounding these salts worth the extra money and environmental impact of shipping? And if part of the point of paying a huge mark-up for these salts is the less-intensive way they are produced--like a bare-footed French guy skimming sea salt crystals in a bucolic setting--is any such benefit negated by the environmental cost of shipping that salt thousands of miles to your grocery store or your front door?
The U.S. is the world's second-largest producer of salt products, including not only table salt, like Morton's, but also sea salt. Yes, production is highly mechanized and efficient, but that makes the salt cheaper and working conditions safer. Furthermore, the distance for sea salt dried in San Francisco Bay to get to your U.S. home is likely much cheaper than that of Celtic sea salt. Finally, if your goal is to support smaller, labor-intensive operations that sell salt products, there are usually local purveyors of such items. If you live in the U.S., for example, here is what appears to be a seller of hand-harvested sea salt, in Maine.
Third, one wonders if these specialty salts may have heavily inflated prices, to take advantage of the current hype. Manufacturers and marketers might be thinking, if people are willing to pay over 20 times the price of table salt for chunks of pink salt or dried sea water, then why not take their money?
Do gourmet salts taste better?
This is the only clear way that gourmet and specialty salts may have an advantage on table salt. The gourmet salts may taste different--some may say, better--due to their impurities, such as sulfur or iron oxide. But are the amounts too small to be noticeable? Hard to say without a blind test.
This guy apparently ran a blind test of his own, with 50 people, concluding that cheap kosher salt from the supermarket beat out all of the expensive salts. The salt was tasted directly, for this test, and not mixed with food, which is how it is usually eaten. It is even more unlikely then that a person can taste a difference when the salt is actually used, and mixed in with food flavors.
And if people claim they do taste a difference in salts, is it all in their head? This reminds me of the expensive wine phenomenon. If we know one wine is more expensive, our mind will trick us into thinking it tastes better. If a blind taste test for wines is undertaken, however, the cheap wine is favored just as much as the expensive wines.* I think this psychological factor, of our mind convincing us that more expensive means better, plays a large part in the salt hysteria. People buy expensive salts because they think, or were told, that it tastes better, or is even better for them. Then they convince themselves it does taste better because they just paid a lot of money for dirty NaCl.
With all that said, in the end, we don't really sprinkle that much salt on the food we cook or eat in our homes, relatively speaking. So, if paying (a lot) more for gourmet salt makes someone happy, or allows them to show off to their "foodie" friends, then no harm done.
*Note: An entertaining movie related to this topic is called, "Bottle Shock." It is about how, in 1976, up-and-coming wine region, Napa Valley, wins a wine tasting competition between California and French wines--judged by French wine "experts," in France. The "experts" thought they had chosen French wines as the winners. Imagine their shock. Ooh la la.
Salt is NaCl. The small amounts of essential minerals one gets from gourmet salts is insignificant, relative to the amounts we get from our food (or could get by eating real food). The trace amounts of heavy metals and other toxins found in gourmet salts may also be insignificant--except for lead and microplastics. Gourmet salts may have various "flavors" as a result of their small amount of impurities, but these taste differences may be in people's heads, and any actual differences may be lost when added to food. Furthermore, table salt is not evil, nor more unhealthy than any of the gourmet salts. And if one truly wants pure salt, i.e., NaCl, without any additives, and you live in the U.S., then pickling salt and U.S.-harvested sea salt are available. They have no additives, cost less, and do the same job as any gourmet salt brought in from the other side of the world.
● Health and Dietary Issues
Is Salt Healthy or Harmful?
Dietary Sources of Sodium
Summary of Health and Dietary Issues
● Are expensive, gourmet salts healthier than table salt?
What Is Salt?
How Is Salt Gathered, processed, and Purified?
Table Salt Is NOT Bleached -- NaCL Is Naturally White
Table Salt Contains Sugar to Stabilize Iodine
Gourmet Salts Are not Healthier than Table Salt