Is Sea Salt Healthier than Table Salt?

Sea Salt 

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:

sea salt

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.

–Julie

 

Resources:

Pearce EN, Andersson M, Zimmermann MB. Global iodine nutrition: where do we stand in 2013? Thyroid. 2013 May;23(5):523-8.

 

 

Comments

  1. Mary Beth Elderton says:

    The idea to finish with salt is a great one! I always urge people to compare the amount of salt in a “salty” snack like potato chips to the amount of salt in a canned food–the difference is astounding! Several “servings” of potato chips have far less sodium that a can of vegetables. The difference is that the salt in chips is on the top where you taste and enjoy it.

  2. Mary Hardwick says:

    I agree, Mary. You get more of the salt flavor at the table and with sea salt having a more robust flavor; I keep it on the table and we do use less than we would in the cooking process.

  3. Kathleen Conner says:

    for over 30 years I had borderline low blood pressure, causing endless health problems. (In Europe, low blood pressure is considered a problem, just like high blood pressure.But here in the USA,if you have low blood pressure, they say “you will live longer”. What they don’t say is that you will suffer from fatigue, chronic headaches, dizziness, and various other problems that can make your longer life quite miserable.)

    When I first ran into this possible solution, I did the “test” comparing sea salt and commercial iodized salt. (Put a teaspoon of each into a glass, add lukewarm, and see how they dissolve. HINT: the commercial stuff doesn’t, hence the high blood pressure–the salt is literally clogging the veins, among other things.)

    Once I did this, and understood what was happening, I felt less nervous about increasing my salt. Within one day, some of my symptoms subsided, and it only got better from there.

    I would recommend that everyone switch from commercial to sea salt, if not for the taste, than for the health benefits. There are many sources out there who will say that, as long as you don’t go crazy, you don’t need to worry about sea salt affecting your blood pressure–in fact it regulates whether you are high or low.

    And that’s my two cents! =)

  4. Salt is all about enhancing flavor. If we teach people how to use salt effectively, we can stop with the often ignored droning about cutting out salt except in the most severe of conditions. It is possible to eat delicious, well seasoned food and still consume modest sodium, especially if you are eating mostly minimally processed whole foods. Highly processed “value added” products contribute 70% of sodium in American diets. I also find when I don’t consume excess carbohydrate my body retains much less fluid–even with moderate sodium intake. Not enough is said about the role of insulin and fluid retention.

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