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Q&A: Is Sea Salt better than Regular Table Salt?

Picture source: Flickr. By: D Sharon Pruitt

Question:

Is sea salt better/ healthier than regular table salt?

Answer:

Not really. Although it’s marked as “natural,” the advantage is insignificant. And the buzz about seafood and omega-3 being good for health should not give this food a healthy reputation.

Sea salt is not better than regualr salt. They are the same. Here’s why:

  1. Sea salt and table salt have the same chemical composition. Chemically, they are both sodium and chloride. They both have the same effect on hypertension, heart disease, and kidney disease. A low salt intake, regardless of the type, is recommended to prevent and/or treat those diseases.
  2. Sea salt lacks iodine, table salt can be readily found with iodine. Iodine is needed for a healthy thyroid gland function, and its deficiency leads to goiter, enlargement in the thyroid gland. Goiter was common during World War I and when iodized table salt became available in he 1920’a, the prevalence of this deficiency dropped. Websites that market sea salt claim that there’s no need for iodine anymore. However, iodine is very low in plant foods because in some geographical areas, it has leached out of the soil due to erosion (rain, snow and glaciation) and was deposited in the oceans. Compared to all parts of the world, the US has low rates of iodine deficiency, mainly due to the availability and acceptability of iodized table salt. However, in Italy, where only 3% of households use iodized table salts, rates of iodine deficiency are much higher (also in all Europe and Mediterranean countries).
  3. Other minerals are insignificant. Websites that sell sea salt claim that it has a higher percent of healthy minerals, especially magnesium. However, these minerals are found in trace amounts that do not justify the addition of sea salt, or large amounts of it, to the diet. Instead. it’s more important to focus on good sources of minerals, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and whole grains.

The processing of these salts is different: sea salt comes from the sea and is allowed to dry under the sun whereas table salt comes from mines and goes through a boiling process. However, when it comes to human health and metabolism, table or sea, salt is salt. And a restricted amount, even for healthy individuals, is recommended to prevent heart disease complications.

How much? No more than 2,400 mg sodium each day.

Sea salt has a different texture and taste. If this is something you prefer in your cooking, don’t let the word “sea” fool you. Practice moderation! You can also look for iodized sea salt.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Nagla April 19, 2010, 12:52 pm

    Thanks for sharing! I’ve definitely wondered about this. One thing I’ve noticed is that when I have used sea salt in the past, I’ve had to use more than regular table salt. For some reason I feel it tends to be less salty.

  • Crystal's Cozy Kitchen April 19, 2010, 2:56 pm

    I’ve always been wary of the lack of iodine in Sea Salt (as well as regular salt.) Thanks for the info!

  • Nour El-Zibdeh, RD April 21, 2010, 12:11 am

    Nagla: thank you for the comment. That’s interesting. I’ve never used sea salt before. Maybe that’s my culinary pitfall but I don’t pay too much attention to salt other than cutting back on as much as possible. If other people feel the same way and use more of it, then it’s actually hurting their health more than the “natural” claims sea salt companies make.

    Crystal: thanks for stopping by and the comment. Iodine is one of those additives that we want in our food!

  • Eric Brooks April 14, 2012, 2:08 am

    The key difference with sea salt is flavor!

    In fact, I’ve recently hit a serious dilemma. I have used sea salt for decades, and the difference that it brings in improving the taste of food is absolutely profound. Table salt simply cannot remotely compare.

    However, since the nuclear disaster in Fukushima released millions of gallons of concentrated radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean it is definitely now more dangerous to consume seafood, sea plants and sea salt from the world’s contiguous oceans.

    So my dilemma is that, since the disaster, I have run out of my last container of iodized sea salt.

    I naively believed that I could just switch back to regular table salt, but let me tell you, it ain’t so!

    I am an avid cook and my food now tastes -terrible- to me because I am so accustomed to the -far- superior flavor of sea salt.

    Hence, now I have set upon a -determined- hunt to find an iodized sea salt from a safer inland sea like the Mediterranean. That is how much better sea salt tastes!

    And this far superior taste leads me to believe that the article above is overly simplistic and that some of the the myriad trace minerals in sea salt are indeed better for health. Otherwise why would it taste so much better. The body is wise about such things.

    Beware however. Non-iodized sea salt does not have enough iodine in it, so if you switch, find one that is iodized; and as noted above is not made from a water body sharing any currents with the Pacific (and therefore Fukushima).

    Better flavor is not worth radiation contamination 😉

    • Nour Zibdeh April 14, 2012, 9:51 am

      Thanks Eric for the comment. My post was written before the nuclear problem. The question is (and I’m not a physicist so I can’t answer that), is there enough radiation to contaminate sea salt? Have you done any research about that? You’re absolutely right, flavor is not worth radiation contamination.

      It’s very interesting that you notice a big difference in taste. I don’t use salt a lot anyways, but I’ll try to make a note of taste difference. If you can find iodized sea salt from a good source, and you can tell the difference in taste, by all means, use it. keep in mind that the sodium content, which was the purpose of my original post, is similar to regular salt so don’t over-consume it. A lot of people think sea salt is much healthier so they end up over-salting and taking too much sodium in.

      Nour