Why Use Sea Salt?
Salt or sodium chloride (its chemical name) is a compound that is familiar to almost all mankind. Its taste (saltiness) is one of the five basic taste sensations of man. Sodium, which is found in salt, is a natural mineral that is essential for life. It helps control the body’s fluid balance and is regulated by the kidneys. It plays an important role in sending nerve impulses and promotes muscle function.
Edible salt is used by most people to enhance the flavor of food, while others may also use it for preserving food. It may be found in two common forms, namely as unrefined sea salt or as refined table salt. The differences between sea salt and table salt lie in their texture, taste, and method of processing.
Sea salt is produced by simple evaporation of sea/ocean water or saltwater lakes. This usually involves little processing. Different water sources may contain varying amounts of trace minerals such as magnesium, calcium, potassium, and other elements, which are also left behind after water evaporates. These minerals add color, flavor and nutrients to sea salt, and may also affect the texture or coarseness of the product.
On the other hand, table salt usually comes from underground salt deposits. As you will notice, it has a finer texture and appearance because it is more heavily processed. This eliminates impurities and minerals from the salt, although manufacturers may place some additive in the product to prevent the crystals from clumping. Most table salt products also have added iodine, which is an essential nutrient that helps maintain healthy thyroid function.
Table salt and sea salt contain comparable amounts of sodium (40%) by weight. They have the same basic content, although one teaspoon of table salt may have more sodium (2,300 mg) than the same volume of sea salt because it contains more crystals.
Sea salt has become very popular in restaurants, supermarkets and health stores. Gourmet chefs prefer to use it over table salt because of its coarse texture and stronger flavor. Some manufacturers use it in snacks like potato chips for its “all natural” flavor. Many health-conscious individuals also choose it because they believe it is healthier than table salt since contains minerals like calcium and magnesium.
A survey conducted by the American Heart Association showed that more than 60% of respondents believe that sea salt has a lower sodium content than table salt. However, in reality, the sodium content of the two types of salt is essentially the same when taken in equal weights.
Experts also agree that sea salt contains minute amounts of trace minerals that are easily obtained from eating other healthy foods, and it contains less iodine than table salt.
Healthy Intake of Salt in the Diet
Whatever type of salt you enjoy, health experts advise doing so in moderation. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the recommended sodium intake must not exceed 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day in healthy adults. People who are 51 or older, black, or have medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or chronic kidney disease must not consume more than 1,500 mg daily.
The average American eats more than 3,400 mg of sodium every day. Most people tend to underestimate how much salt they eat, while others are unaware of how salt they consume daily. The American Heart Association recommends keeping sodium intake in check as part of an overall heart-healthy eating pattern. Doctors emphasize eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, and nuts, while limiting the consumption of red meat, processed foods and sweets.
Sodium is also found naturally in various foods such as milk, cream, and eggs. It is found in even higher amounts in many processed foods such as bacon and other processed meats (about 1,500 mg/100 g), bread (about 250 mg/100 g), snack foods like popcorn and pretzels (about 1,500 mg/100 g), in condiments like soy sauce (about 7,000 mg/100 g), and in bouillon cubes (about 20,000 mg/100 g).
To find out the amount of sodium in your food, read the Nutrition Facts label, which lists the amount of sodium (mg) per serving. You may also check the list of ingredients for words like salt, sodium, and soda. The total sodium includes sodium from salt and other sodium-containing ingredients like sodium citrate, sodium nitrate, monosodium glutamate, or sodium benzoate. Be careful about the serving size stated on the label. If you are eating a portion size that equals two servings of the product, you are actually eating twice the amount of sodium listed.
Consuming too much salt in the diet increases your risk for high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke, which are the top causes of death in the whole world. Therefore, it matters less which type of salt you use, as the amount you typically consume daily, in determining if your diet is healthy.
This information should not take the place of medical advice. We encourage you to talk to your health care providers (doctor, registered dietitian, pharmacist, etc.) about your interest in, questions about, or use of dietary supplements and what may be best for your overall health.
Mayo Clinic. What’s the difference between sea salt and table salt? http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/sea-salt/faq-20058512
AHA. Sea Salt vs Table Salt. http://sodiumbreakup.heart.org/sodium-411/sea-salt-vs-table-salt/
AHA. Sodium and Your Health. http://sodiumbreakup.heart.org/sodium-411/sodium-and-your-health/
WHO. WHO issues new guidance on dietary salt and potassium. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/notes/2013/salt_potassium_20130131/en/