Fine-grained standard salt is out of date. Today's salts are all about expensive rarities like Persian blue salt, or Hawaiian salt, to which bamboo extract or activated charcoal is added. The pale green or jet black grains look spectacular on the plate and top chefs sing the praises of the tangy aromas and crunchy texture of the crystals. Or the way in which the wafer-thin salt flakes melt on the tongue – as with the trendy Murray River Salt from Australia.
Health benefits not proven
Exotic salts can indeed create new taste experiences and give a dish a distinctive finish. However, promises that they boost our health should be treated with caution. Himalayan salt – its reddish colour comes from iron – is said to help cure all kinds of medical conditions prevalent in the civilised world. However, according to the Swiss Society for Nutrition, its health benefits have not been proven. Even the highly acclaimed sea salt hardly brings any additional benefits, as the mix of minerals and trace elements it contains is too small.
Different types of salt according to extraction
No matter what kind of salt you use, it consists mainly of sodium chloride, the compound of the light metal sodium with the gas chlorine. Chemically, therefore, one salt is like another. When experts distinguish between rock salt, evaporated salt and sea salt, the key factor is the way in which it is extracted.
Rock salt, composed of deposits from geologically ancient oceans, is extracted directly from mines by drilling, cutting or blasting.
Evaporated salt is produced when the salt is leached with water, extracted as brine and crystallised by boiling. It’s produced in Swiss salt works and sold as refined table salt. Often enriched with iodine and fluorine, it also contains an anti-caking agent to make it flow better.
Finally, sea salt is made from evaporated seawater. A speciality is fleur de sel or flor de sal, where a thin layer is deposited on the surface of the water. This salt flower is harvested by hand and prized as a delicately tasting speciality.
How much salt is healthy for us?
There's no question that humans need salt every day. It plays an important role in our water balance, nervous system, bone formation and digestion. However, experts disagree about the maximum amount we should consume. In this country, the average daily salt consumption per capita is 9 grams – too much as far as the latest findings show, which is why the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends reducing consumption to 5 grams.
Too much salt is unhealthy
The reason: too much salt is said to promote a number of conditions such as high blood pressure, kidney damage or strokes. However, a Canadian study now doubts this warning. It claims that salt consumption is only dangerous if it exceeds 12.5 grams per day, which is more of a problem in China.
Reduce salt consumption
Whoever wants to eat less salt, regardless of the lack of agreement among experts, needs to know that most of it is found in processed products. For this reason, try eating only moderate amounts of ready-made pizzas and soups, cheese, sausages, bread and snacks and cook for yourself more often. But when cooking at home, don’t just add salt without thinking. Taste it first, and preferably use herbs and spices as flavouring. If that certain something is still missing, act like a gourmet chef and sprinkle a few grains of your favourite salt over the dish before serving as a special topping.