Love tasty and savory dishes? Then you probably can’t cook or eat without at least a dash of salt!
But as a vegan, have you ever thought about the possibility of salt being non-vegan?
If you had ask me this in my early vegan years, I’d say no way! But as I learned more about the diet and the deceits of commercial food processing, I realized it’s easily possible.
This lead me to the quest for vegan salt. It also caused a lot of other questions to pop in my head. Do vegans even eat salt? And of course, which salts are vegan?
What’s In A Salt?
The world’s most favorite food additive is actually a mineral, contrary to some people’s belief that it’s a rock. You might remember from your science class back in grade school that salt is simply a compound of sodium and chloride.
Salt can come from 2 sources: the ocean and salt mines.
Sea water is perhaps the most widely known. It’s a popular idea that when you leave ocean water to evaporate, you’ll get (sea) salt as a result.
Salt mines, on the other hand, are areas with huge salt deposits. These are usually places that spent thousands to millions of years under sea water before becoming a dry land. Salt mines use brine to produce salt.
Dried salt from both sources must be ground up into even-sized grains. The grains will also have to undergo processing to purify the salt content, making it saltier.
This is because natural salt straight from its sources (especially sea salt) also contain other minerals in trace amounts.
Bleaching is also common with commercial salt, often with the use of chlorine and sulfuric acid. It is what gives salt its white color and its clean appearance.
If you are wondering, yes, salt is a highly refined product just like white sugar. Dextrose is also a common additive that acts as a stabilizer
Trace Minerals In Salt
These minerals are present in trace amounts only usually because of the purification process that aims to increase salt’s sodium levels. The higher the sodium is, the saltier it gets, which is the goal in making salt, after all.
Unrefined salt varieties have these minerals in higher amounts since there is no heavy processing done.
Other minerals such as iodine (potassium/sodium iodide) can also be added, like in the case of iodized salt.
Processing also improves the quality of salt including its shelf life. For example, the addition of anti-caking chemicals help to prevent salt from clumping, making it easier to sprinkle.
Common Anti-Caking Agents In Salt
Although there are concerns about the safety of some of these chemicals, its amount in salt is actually quite low. Specifically, for people freaking about cyanide, most salts only contain 0.0013% of it.
- sodium ferrocyanide or yellow prussiate of soda (E535)
- sodium aluminosilicate
- magnesium carbonate
- calcium silicate
These ones are often from chemical or synthetic sources. However, there are also anti-caking ingredients that come from animal fatty acids.
Additional Minerals In Salt Fortification
These are the common minerals that manufacturers add to commercial salt. Oftentimes, this is a measure done to alleviate specific nutritional deficiencies in susceptible areas.
- Folic acid
Is Salt Vegan?
For us vegans, food processing is the major culprit when it comes to the non-vegan contamination of naturally vegan foods.
The best example is sugar, which can contain traces of animal products from bone char filters. Does the same go with commercial salt?
Salt also undergoes numerous processing methods to make it really white and “salty enough” for seasoning. This includes the use of anti-caking chemicals and fortification with minerals. These additives are usually vegan, so you don’t have to worry much about it!
If you find any chemical name in salt labels that sound unfamiliar to you, you can always look it up.
That’s what us vegans do anyway when in doubt. And if you can’t find the answer, just leave it and look for other ones with simpler ingredients. There will be plenty in the grocery aisles I’m sure.
One thing though. There’s an argument about sea salt and its source, which is of course the vast oceans. Strict vegans can argue that sea water also contains fragments from sea creatures. This also includes planktons and other microscopic swimmers. This is true of course, but that amount is highly negligible.
Veganism can be as strict and hardcore as one wants it to be, but it doesn’t have to be. The harder you make it out to be, the less feasible the diet will be for you.
Besides, it’s not like sea creatures had to die for salt in water to occur. That’s not the case here. But as always, you have the last word as to what goes in your body.
Sodium Intake: How Much Salt Is Healthy?
You’ve probably heard about all the negative impacts of excessive sodium on one’s health.
But admit it, despite all the warnings, you find it hard to avoid salt especially when you love tasty food.
However, first things first. If you want to be on the safe side, you must know the limits first, right? So how much sodium is too much? And how much (or little!) do we need for normal function?
According to FDA, the daily limit for sodium is 2,300 mg (about 1 tsp). Now to make food labels useful in this regard, the FDA recommends that we use the percentage of the Daily Value (DV) in the Nutrition Facts.
- Low sodium: 5% and below
- High sodium: 20% and above
Or if you want to go by serving size:
- Low sodium: 140 mg per serving
- Very low sodium: 35 mg per serving
- Sodium/salt-free: less than 5 mg per serving
These will help you estimate your daily intake more easily. If you also cook at home, be mindful of how much salt you use and include that in your estimation.
No you can choose your salt wisely!
The Effects Of Too Much Salt In The Diet
Sodium is an important nutrient that helps to maintain some of the most important functions of the human body. This includes electrolyte and fluid balance, and nerve and muscle function.
However, as sodium is exceedingly abundant in most foods we eat today, it is easy to go over the limit.
If you don’t watch your sodium intake and enjoy it too often, there are health consequences to pay:
- High blood pressure (leading to heart attack and stroke)
- Kidney damage
- Fluid retention
- Higher risk of stomach cancer
- Calcium loss (which can lead to osteoporosis)
Sodium is also inversely proportion with potassium. This means if you have too much sodium in your body, your potassium levels will go down, and vice versa.
Potassium is another important mineral so any disruption in the balance between these two can also lead to health issues.
Low Sodium Vegan Diet
A typical western diet is high in sodium. In fact, the FDA reveals that Americans consume an average of 3400 mg of sodium a day! That is way beyond the limit!
Overconsumption of sodium is especially common among busy individuals who resort to convenient food choices.
Did you ever pause to check the label on that ready-to-eat pack of food? They’re all shockingly high in sodium!
Now if you want to make a conscious effort to cut down on sodium, it’s going to be tough. But here are the things you can do for a start:
- Eat more raw fruits and vegetables
- Only add salt AFTER cooking
- Always check food labels and stick to those with 5% DV of sodium (or less)
Avoid these high-sodium foods:
- boxed or packaged meals
- fast food
- processed and canned foods
- baking mixes
- pickled foods
When going on a low-sodium diet, be careful NOT to restrict yourself too much. Remember that sodium is vital to health and the effects of deficiency can be just as bad as overconsumption.
Vegan Salt FAQs
1. Do vegans eat salt?
Yes of course! But ideally within the daily limit only. Because a vegan diet must also be healthy with the right balance, salt consumption must be kept in moderation. That is, no more than 1 teaspoon each day.
2. Is iodized salt vegan?
Yes. It is just regular salt fortified with iodine using potassium/sodium iodide/iodate, which are from chemical solutions.
3. Is sea salt vegan?
Strictly speaking, sea salt is not vegan as it would have fragments of sea creatures. However, since these fragments are only microscopic in amount, which are easily negligible, sea salt is okay for vegans.
4. Is table salt vegan?
Table salt is mostly vegan. They are commonly made from salt mines and undergo heavy processing before they are sold in the market.
5. Is Chicken salt vegan?
“Chicken Salt” is a popular flavored salt from Jada Spices, which is also an all-purpose seasoning. Contrary to what the name implies, it is actually vegan. It comes in many flavors but they are all vegan-friendly. Other manufacturers produce Chicken Salt varieties too but are NOT vegan.
6. Is Himalayan salt vegan?
This popular pink salt is from the salt mines in Pakistan, and is vegan. Its pink color is from the other minerals it contains since it does not undergo refining to remove impurities.
7. Is there a vegan Bacon Salt?
The brand Bacon Salt from J&D’s doesn’t necessarily use pigs to make their signature flavor. However, the popular seasoning’s original flavor contains milk in its ingredients. Only their Hickory flavor is vegan.
Vegan Salt Brands
Although most salts are vegan, only a few brands label themselves vegan. This is probably because vegan certifications take time and cost money.
Other brands, I guess this is not seen as something too important. Well, most people think that salt is vegan anyway.
However, with the growing popularity of veganism, it probably won’t be long until more brands consider a vegan certification. In the meantime, here are some brands that do carry a vegan label:
Personally, I avoid highly processed food products so for salt I always choose the unrefined ones. For that, here are the 3 things I look for in a salt:
- Coarse, with grains that are uneven in size
- Moist and clumpy (no anti-caking agents!)
- Yellowish in color and NOT white (no bleaching and filtration done, more natural minerals!)
If you haven’t found a brand yet, I’d recommend Aztec sea salt. It’s all-natural, organic and flavorful. If you want finer salt, you can just use a grinder.
You can also add raw rice grains inside your salt dispenser if you want less moisture. It will also make it easier to sprinkle!
Raw Vegan Salt
Commercial processing of salt requires high temperatures especially during evaporation. This high heat means regular commercial salt wouldn’t pass as a raw food product. Salt production also requires higher boiling temperatures for evaporation since salt water has a higher boiling point than plain water.
However, natural evaporation methods without high heat can be done, which can yield real raw salt.
If you prefer raw salt, make sure you are buying a food grade variety. This is because most raw salts are made for industrial uses such as deicing, and not for human consumption.
Here are some raw salt brands you can try:
Raw salts are naturally vegan and contain more minerals. They’re a bit harder to find, but are definitely worth it.
Salt is vegan. However, it is also highly processed just like sugar. And although it makes food taste better, it is best to limit your daily intake below 1 teaspoon only.
This doesn’t mean that you should avoid salt completely since sodium is an important nutrient for a healthy body. Limit it but don’t avoid it.
If you want salt in its most natural (and vegan!) form, choose raw and unrefined ones.
Is there a brand of salt you stick to? How do you control your daily consumption? Let me know on the comment section below. And don’t forget to share this article in your favorite social media platform.