Sea Salt vs. Table Salt

Okay, now for a little controversy.

Is sea salt a healthier option than table salt?

You might be surprised to hear this, but no. It is not. And that’s because sea salt and table salt have the same chemical composition. They are both composed almost 100% of two elements: sodium, and chloride. They are both approximately 40% sodium by weight.

True, there are trace amounts of certain minerals in sea salt, like potassium and magnesium–but the levels are practically undetectable. And there is no evidence that these amounts will have any impact on your health.

There are other differences, however. For starters, sea salt and table salt are manufactured differently. Table salt is mined from dried-up ancient salt lakes, whereas sea salt is made from evaporated ocean water. Table salt typically has iodine added–an essential nutrient that prevents goiter–enlargement of your thyroid.

The other main difference is in the taste and texture. We all love the taste of sea salt, right? Big, chunky crystals–and the different colours and textures of the many varieties of sea salt can give subtle and interesting flavors to food. Making sea salt much beloved by chefs and foodies alike.

But just to be clear, equivalent amounts of sea salt and table salt will give you the exact same sodium intake. And it’s sodium that’s relevant for your health. Specifically, as it relates to your blood pressure.

Now–the health effect of salt, itself, is not without controversy. The dangers of sodium are not so clear cut, in my book. If you’re not afraid of a little debate, you can read my post about salt right here.

But, whether you fill your shaker with sea salt or the table variety, the much greater evil than a little shaken salt on your food is the hidden sodium in processed food. This is where most of our sodium comes from, this is where things can get out of hand, and this is where you need to direct your energies. More than 75 percent of the sodium in our diet comes packaged/processed/convenience foods, and restaurant meals.

Which is one more reason why it’s a good idea to stick to real food. Whole food. The kind you find in a Mediterranean diet, for example. The kind in the Anti-Inflammatory diet, as another example.  

When it comes to salt, I think a lot of people who love the taste (count me as one of those) can fool themselves into thinking they’ve made a healthier choice by opting for sea salt. Don’t make that mistake.


6 Comments on “Sea Salt vs. Table Salt

  1. The only time I cook with salt, is when I am braising a brisket and I use kosher salt for the flavour. The salt shaker is on the kitchen table, but is rarely used, except for broccoli & rice (but then it is only the teenage boy & myself who use it). I agree that salt is not a healthy choice but like everything we eat, the key, I believe is moderation.

  2. Dear Dr. Kim Foster,

    My name is Patrícia Bento and let me tell you that the are diferent types of salt, and not all of them have the same quimical composition. Sea Salt is veru different from the Traditional Sea Salt, which is a salt with less sodium chloride. I agree you should not use many salt in the cooking, but if you are using any salt at all you should use a better one. I suggest you use Traditional Sea Salt and Fleur de Sel (the first to cook and the second for seasoning).

    • Well, I knew not everyone would agree with me, of course. If you have any documents about the chemical composition of different salts I’d be happy to read them; please send me a link! All the scientific papers I’ve read, however, have confirmed what I wrote about salt above. I agree with you about Fleur de Sel, though–it does have a wonderful taste.

      • Have there ever been any studies that investigate whether not the scouring action of the silicates in table salt (up to half of the content of table salt, insoluble, and not present at all in natural forms of salt) contribute to vascular, G.I. inflammation or fluid retention, as theorized by some in the CV med community?

      • I’m not familiar with any studies on this issue, off the top of my head–but I will certainly look into it! Thanks for raising this.

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