Himalayan Pink Sea Salt, Celtic Salt, Smoked Salts, Hawaiian Sea Salts….Is sea salt healthier than table salt?
There are oodles of gourmet sea salts available at high-end retailers and online. Food manufacturers have jumped in too and are using sea salt in everything from chips and soup to caramels and chocolate. But before you buy into the claims that they’re healthier than everyday table salt, read this.
While sea salt is more flavorful than regular salt, it’s not a health food by any means. Sea salt provides essentially the same amount of sodium per teaspoon as regular table salt. For example, La Baleine Sea Salt in my cupboard has 2,320 mg sodium per teaspoon (20 mg more than what we need in a day!) and according to USDA, a teaspoon of table salt has 2,325 mg sodium. Not even enough to call them different.
And when it comes to the “minerals” they provide, you need to put that into perspective of what your daily requirements are for the specific nutrients. Sea salt does provide miniscule amounts of calcium, potassium and magnesium. For example, a teaspoon of sea salt may provide 12 mg of calcium that’s less than 1% of what we need in a day (1,000 mg). For potassium, sea salt may have 10 mg when you need 4,700 mg per day! Clearly, we can’t eat sea salt to get our daily mineral needs.
And when it comes to iodine, a mineral essential for the production of thyroid hormones, sea salts don’t contain sufficient amounts to help prevent iodine deficiency disorders, which are a real public health threat in many areas of the world. Iodine deficiencies can lead to goiter, intellectual impairments, growth retardation and poor pregnancy outcomes. Since the 1920s, table salt in the United States has been fortified with iodine to help prevent thyroid disorders associated with deficiencies. As a nation, we’re generally thought to be iodine-sufficient but pregnant women in the US may be mildly deficient.
Since we all get two or three times as much sodium as we should (2,300 mg per day or about 1 tsp salt total), don’t be fooled into thinking that if a product contains sea salt that it’s better for you. Although salt seems so innocent, so tasty, so wonderful–it can have negative health outcomes.
3 Ways to Enjoy Sea Salt or Table Salt as Part of a Healthy Diet
Thankfully, I have very low blood pressure and exercise all the time so can afford liberal use of sea salt in my diet. And, some studies suggest that some people are less salt-sensitive and can enjoy more liberal amounts of sodium in their diets without any ill-effects. Here are three ways you can safely enjoy more sea salt or table salt in your diet:
1. Make more of your meals with wholesome ingredients. More than 70% of all sodium comes from processed foods so the more you prepare meals from scratch and use fewer processed ingredients, the lower the sodium will be in your diet.
2. Get more K+. Experts recommend a ratio of potassium to sodium that is at least 3:1. Potassium helps neutralize the harmful effects of sodium, so be sure you’re getting at least seven or more servings of produce daily (potatoes, citrus, bananas, peppers are great sources) if you want to have less stress over sodium.
3. Finish with salt. To pump up the flavor of your food with less sodium, sprinkle sea salt on your finished dishes instead of using salt while cooking.
4. Measure salt. Don’t just liberally shake salt onto your food. Measure it out in 1/2 tsp increments and then taste-test.
3. Move more. Exercise…a lot. Getting sweaty meals you lose a lot of sodium, which allows you to enjoy more of it in your diet.
Pearce EN, Andersson M, Zimmermann MB. Global iodine nutrition: where do we stand in 2013? Thyroid. 2013 May;23(5):523-8.