Rumors about salt are everywhere. Some headlines say that you should only use fancy pink salt. Then others claim that all salt will give you heart disease. But then still others claim that sea salt is okay, but table salt is deadly. What is the health-conscious person supposed to believe, let alone do? Salt is more than just a sprinkling seasoning, but despite the headlines and low-salt or no-salt advertisements, salt doesn’t have to be this complicated. You too can learn how to use salt to your benefit without overwhelming your mind or oversprinkling your food.

What is salt?

Whether you’re at a fancy restaurant with cloth napkins or enjoying an easy meal at home, chances are you have a shaker full of salt sitting on your table. In its most basic form, salt is a crystalline compound of sodium chloride, NaCl. Salt experts estimate that there are over 14,000 different uses for salt: it is so much more than just a plain white underrated seasoning.

What are the different types of salt?

Standard table salt may be the most well-known salt variety, but it is far from the only one you should know or experience. The following salts may not get as much press as table salt, but after you try them, you will never underestimate salt again.

Sea salt

It’s not just a fancy name for expensive salt: sea salt is finer and is usually less concentrated than general table salt. This means that it is a great choice for baking because your teaspoon of salt will be evenly distributed throughout your cookies instead of sticking in one salty lump.

Kosher salt

Contrary to its name, kosher salt is not always kosher itself. It is, however, the best salt to use while making meat kosher because it is easy to spread and has a lower salinity (salt flavor) than other standard salts. Kosher salt is great to use if you’re salting meat or salting hot water to boil pasta because it is coarse, but make sure to taste it first.

Iodized salt

You know this one even if you think you don’t. Iodized salt is common table salt — good for basic baking and recipes that call for limited amounts of salt, but because it is overly processed and may have a metallic taste, consider going with a different version of salt for most dishes.

Coarse salt

Coarse salt is what it sounds like: coarse. Coarse salt is usually sea salt, but it is coarser than the previously listed sea salt category. Because of its coarseness, coarse salt isn’t always great in baking or cooking: it’s better used as a pretty garnish or when you are really sure that you want a drastic hit of salt in your food.

Flaky salt

Flaky salt may not taste as salty as other salts, but it sure is pretty. Professional chefs tend to love flaky salt, especially in salty garnishes, but the cost of the product makes it prohibitive for many home chefs.

Pink Himalayan salt

This pink salt variety has a slightly different flavor than other salt products, so make sure you taste it before throwing it in your cookies or on your fish. It is one of the most versatile salt varieties: you can get it finely ground, coarsely ground, and even in big serving slabs.

Salt is a delicious addition to nearly any food, and knowing your salty options can only benefit your life and your cooking. Salt has been shown to help balance electrolytes, keep you hydrated, and even promote heart health, so don’t fear the salt options. Just remember to taste first!