Until recently salt was considered a basic commodity. Lately however, sea salt has received a lot of attention as a nutritional supplement. The health benefits include claims of everything from improving digestion to imparting “harmonious energy,” and are credited to minerals and trace elements that are refined out of the ordinary kind that is processed, have anti-clumping characteristics and is “pure”.
Sea salt by itself is generally far from being pure. It comes from evaporating sea water and unless it is processed, contains a lot of leftover minerals and elements. Impurities are its big selling point and sometimes gives it identifying colors or flavors. An example would be the grey variety that has tiny bits of clay in it, or a Hawaiian variety that has iron-rich red volcanic clay added to it. Lately, there are all kinds of gourmet varieties available and you can now get dead sea, Himalayan, kosher or any kind of sea salt you want.
Information from the Mayo Clinic website indicates that sea salt and table salt have the same basic nutritional value and both consist mainly of two minerals, sodium and chloride. However, regardless of this fact, sea salt is often marketed as the more natural and healthy alternative. The real difference between the two is in the taste, texture and processing, not the chemical makeup. A major difference is the cost.
Sea salt and ordinary salt contain about the same amount of sodium chloride by weight. Nutritionally, your body only needs a couple hundred milligrams (mg) a day to stay healthy. But, sodium is an ingredient in most processed foods and most people get far more (read this as too much) sodium than they need, mostly from processed foods.
The importance of minerals in the diet can’t be dismissed. Iodine is commonly added to table salt to help prevent thyroid conditions. But I’ve found little research that proves sea salt is better for you than ordinary salt and claims are usually made from personal perspective and preference by whoever you are talking to.
The biggest difference I’ve found is in the way salt is produced. Sea salt is produced by evaporating sea water. This usually leaves small trace amounts of minerals and elements depending upon how much is in the water. With no further processing the minerals add flavor and color to sea salt.
Ordinary table salt usually comes from underground salt deposits. Table salt is more heavily processed to eliminate trace minerals and usually contains an additive to prevent clumping. Most table salt also has added iodine, an essential nutrient that appears naturally in minute amounts in sea salt.
Regardless of which type of salt you prefer, you should keep sodium consumption between 1,500 and 2,300 mg of sodium a day if you’re a healthy adult. If you have medical conditions, you should follow your doctor’s recommendations concerning sodium consumption. People with high blood pressure, and anyone middle-aged or older should aim for the low end of that range.
Salt as we have known it for years, is a pure white free flowing spice that is essential to flavor our daily foods. Now, there are all kinds of gourmet varieties with different flavors, colors and textures available from many sources. Color and flavor usually depends on where and how the spice is produced.
Many gourmet chefs, in homes and in restaurants, have learned to appreciate and distinguish between the distinctive qualities of the many varieties of sea salts and how these spices enhance the flavors and finish of foods.
The bottom line is that sea salt may not be any healthier than ordinary table salt. If you prefer sea salt and believe that it has some health benefits, then it may be worth the added cost. If you like to experiment with different colors and flavors, then find a good source where the quality is high and advice is available.