Which Salts Have the Lowest Sodium?

Kosher, iodized, sea salt, and pink Himalayan salt—we break down which types of salt have the lowest sodium.

You may feel overwhelmed by the options of fancy gourmet salts available. What kinds are healthiest for you, which work best in your recipes, and which have the lowest sodium?

Use our guide to see how it all shakes out. To start, know that the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend Americans consume less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day or less if they are younger than 14. To put that into perspective, you should aim for about a teaspoon of table salt per day. We know that may seem extreme. The purpose of understanding sodium intake is not to shame you for what you eat. Instead, it's to heighten your knowledge and help you feel prepared and educated in your food choices.

Salt vs. Sodium

Before we dive in all the way, we should clarify: Though people often use the terms "salt" and "sodium" interchangeably, they're not the same. Salt (sometimes called by its chemical name, sodium chloride) is a common crystal-like compound found in nature. Sodium is a mineral and chemical element in salt.

Lowering excess sodium from your diet can reduce blood pressure, according to the CDC, which can reduce your risk of hypertension and, consequently, as the American Heart Association points out, heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and more. The FDA reports that despite popular belief, over 70% of dietary sodium comes from packaged and restaurant foods. The CDC says, this may be why Americans consume an average of 3,400 milligrams of sodium daily.

It may not be clear which foods you're eating have sodium.

The CDC reports that more than 40% of consumed sodium comes from 10 types of food:

  • Bread and rolls
  • Pizza
  • Sandwiches
  • Cold cuts and cured meats
  • Soups
  • Burritos and tacos
  • Savory snacks (chips, popcorn, pretzels, snack mixes, and crackers)
  • Chicken
  • Cheese
  • Eggs, and omelets

Eating a lot of these salty foods can result in an increased feeling of hunger. The FDA notes that not all foods high in sodium taste salty, so it's important to check food labels.

Packaging Guidelines

FDA guidelines require food labels to have 140 milligrams of sodium or less per serving to claim "low sodium" on food packaging. The product must have 35 milligrams of sodium or less per serving to claim "very low sodium" on its packaging and 5 milligrams of sodium or less per serving to claim "salt/sodium-free."

For something to be labeled "reduced sodium," it must have at least 25% less sodium than the regular alternative. If you see "light in sodium" or "lightly salted" on the packaging, the FDA requires the product have at least 50% less sodium than the regular product.

And keep in mind, if you see "unsalted" or "no salt added" on the packaging, it means no sodium was added during processing, but the product may not be sodium-free.

Other Roles of Sodium

But wait! We're not hating on sodium. After all, it can make your meal taste yummy, is used to preserve certain foods, and is necessary for curing, baking, retaining moisture, and several other cooking techniques.

It has a greater role, too. Sodium is an electrolyte that, along with potassium, helps your body maintain fluid and blood volume, according to the CDC. An April 2019 study published in BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine suggested that replenishing your body with electrolytes could prevent exercise-induced muscle cramps. This is part of why you'll see athletes drink sports with electrolytes; they're replenishing sodium loss.

Cooking with salt, in most cases, will lead to lower sodium intake than consuming packaged or prepared meals at restaurants.

Being in control of your sodium intake may seem daunting, so we're here to give you an overview of what to know about the salt you buy: which salts have less sodium, which may be tastier, and which are best for certain cooking and baking techniques.

By the way—we know life happens. Cooking home meals with vegetables, protein, and grains is not always possible. But this guide can increase your mindfulness and make you feel more prepared in your food choices.

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Iodized Salt

You may know the term "iodized salt" or recognize its packaging. Table salt is often fortified with iodine, which is important for producing thyroid hormones, according to the American Thyroid Association. If you don't have enough iodine, you may become at risk for an enlarged thyroid.

Iodized salt is a great source of iodine and dissolves the quickest in food, making it ideal for most of your cooking and baking needs.

Bottom line: One teaspoon of iodized salt contains about 2,360 milligrams of sodium (just above the recommended daily serving), according to the USDA. Use it in recipes with exact measurements and in the pasta water.

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Kosher Salt

While you get more precise measurements cooking with table salt, many pro chefs go for kosher salt—which is flatter, lighter, and flakier. Its irregularly shaped granules add a subtle crunch. Its larger crystals are also ideal for meat's koshering process.

Bottom line: One teaspoon of kosher salt contains about 1,240 milligrams of sodium, according to the USDA. That seems like a lot less than table salt, but it's because its flakes are so large. Use it to season your food (especially if you're trying to add crunch).

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Sea Salt

Sea salt comes from evaporated ocean water or saltwater lakes. Because sea salt is less processed than iodized salt, it 1) has less iodine but 2) retains small amounts of minerals like potassium.

Sea salt has bigger granules than other types of salt, which can potentially mean more flavor for less sodium. But skip this briny salt in everyday cooking or baking since it doesn't dissolve easily, which can cause issues with the taste and texture of dishes. It's more fun to sprinkle it on top of your dishes.

Bottom line: One teaspoon of sea salt has about 2,000 milligrams of sodium, according to the USDA. Try it as a flavorful garnish for soups, salads, and even chocolate chip cookies.

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Low-Sodium Salt

Low-sodium salt is growing in popularity, but what exactly is it? It's sodium chloride (you know, salt) that has had some of its sodium replaced with potassium chloride, a mineral that tastes salty but is bitter when heated.

While more research is needed to understand the full effects of low-sodium salt, a 2021 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine showed the potential for low-sodium salts to decrease rates of stroke, major cardiovascular events, and death. This study used a salt substitute that contained 75% sodium chloride and 25% potassium chloride.

Bottom line: Low-sodium salt may be a good alternative to table salt if you're trying to reduce your sodium intake. However, if you have kidney disease or take certain medications, the NIH recommends you speak to a health provider before using low-sodium salts with potassium chloride.

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Pink Himalayan Salt

Pink Himalayan salt is mined in Pakistan near the Himalayas. You've maybe seen it at the dinner table in salt grinders, on a nightstand in a bedside lamp, or in spas, where "salt rooms" advertise non-dietary health benefits like stress or allergy relief.

Pink Himalayan salt has slightly less sodium than table salt. It also has trace amounts of mineral elements (that help make it pink) like magnesium, zinc, iron, calcium, and potassium, but not enough to have an impact on your health.

Pink Himalayan salt does have less iodine, which your body needs. The NIH notes that if you live in mountainous areas like the Himalayas, you are at risk for iodine deficiency unless you consume iodized salt.

Importantly, not enough research supports the most popular health claims like stress, allergy, or muscle-soreness relief.

Bottom line: A teaspoon of pink Himalayan salt has about 1,680 milligrams of sodium, according to the USDA. It may be a great addition to your meal. But we still need more research to understand the non-dietary benefits of pink Himalayan salt.

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