Sea salt versus regular salt. Which is healthier?
Sea salt is a hot topic right now. People have inquired about it in my classes, it's all over my dietitian list serves, chefs are discussing it in interviews and food manufacturers are touting it.
But I always know when a topic has truly hit mainstream when my Mother calls me up and asks me about it. Which she did last week.
Part of the reason for sea salt's surge in popularity is due to food manufacturers. Many are replacing regular salt in their products with sea salt, then claiming the products are now healthier or more "natural".
Get this: in 2010, over 1300 products were introduced (or revamped) to contain sea salt. And you can guarantee that all of them are taking advantage of the "naturally-sourced" and "less sodium" claims.
Sea salt is the new sugar.
But the question remains: Is it healthier? And, could the use of sea salt decrease our currently high intake of sodium/salt thereby reducing our risk of high blood pressure and stroke?
Here is what we know:
Both sea salt and regular table salt have basically the same mineral make-up (part sodium and part chloride). Sea salt has a courser grind (small clumps or chunks) while table salt is much finer.
Sea salt is actually dehydrated from sea water - and depending on the sea, the salt might contain a bit more trace minerals, but nothing that would affect its nutritional value. This minimal processing however, might-possibly-slightly affect sea salt's taste a tiny bit. Some people (particularly chefs and food manufacturers) claim that sea salt tastes slightly saltier than regular, although I have not found any concrete evidence. Texture and color variations are definitely affected, as well.
By contrast, table salt is mined from underground salt mines and is more heavily processed. Table salt is void of any additional trace minerals and an additive is included to keep it from clumping. Some regular salt brands also include iodine - an essential mineral that was once deficient in American diets.
Nutritionally teaspoon-to-teaspoon, sea salt (due to its courser nature) could have just a bit less sodium than regular table salt - about 35% sodium content to 37% in regular table salt. Again, it depends on the sea source.
* The sodium difference per teaspoon is too minimal to truly make a difference in reducing high blood pressure or stroke risk - we are still consuming too much sodium - be it sea, kosher or regular salt. We have to cut down across the board to make any progress in reducing our disease risk.
* If you do find a variance in taste and prefer sea salt, by all means, use it when you cook at home - just use less. If your recipe calls for 1/2 tsp of regular salt, use 1/4 or less of sea salt.
* Keep in mind that sea salt is more expensive than regular salt.
* Since 75% of our sodium intake comes from packaged, processed and restaurant food, we still need to read labels and choose products with 15% or less sodium per serving (10% is ideal). And ask for your meals to be prepared without salt.
* Don't be fooled by food manufacturers' or restaurants' claims of lower sodium.
Unless the packaged products is labeled a "low-sodium" or "reduced sodium" food as qualified by the FDA (like Campbell's sea salt soups), chances are the sodium amounts are the same.
Or even worse. Wendy's has a new "sea salt" fry that actually has more sodium than the regular fry. Choose a small sea salt version and you'll be getting 30% more sodium per order.
Seriously.....how is that helping anybody?
References: webmd.com, mortonsalt.com, wendys.com