You may have heard sea salt touted as a more healthful alternative to table salt, or maybe you’ve seen it used by gourmet chefs and in restaurants. But is there really a difference between common table salt and natural sea salt? Is sea salt healthier?
There are most definitely differences, and many would argue that sea salt is healthier due to the minimal processing and lack of refinement it undergoes. Others maintain that the only difference is taste, or that sea salt is not healthier due to potentially polluted ocean waters. Let’s take a look at some of the claims and real differences between these two kinds of salt.
Sodium chloride is sodium chloride, and most people associate the term “salt” with this chemical compound. While both sea and table salts contain sodium chloride, table salt contains no other minerals. Table salt does, however, usually have anti-caking agents such as calcium silicate or silicon dioxide (sand) added to it, as well as dextrose (sugar), and iodine. Sea salt does not have anything added to it, but it naturally contains varying amounts of trace minerals and other constituents.
Origins of Sea Salt and Table Salt
Sea salt is obtained by simply evaporating sea water; once the water is gone, the salty deposits are left behind and bottled for sale. Table salt, on the other hand, is mined from underground, and is “purified” by heat blasting or chemical treatments to contain only sodium chloride before the typical additives (noted above) are added. There are concerns that the ocean water used to make sea salt may contain impurities.
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Excessive intake of sodium chloride can cause health problems, but it is worth noting that sea salt has some constituents that may help balance out any harmful effects from the sodium chloride it contains. For example, excessive sodium chloride consumption can lead to inhibited calcium absorption by increasing the secretion of calcium in the urine.This implicates excessive sodium chloride intake as a causal factor in osteoporosis and other calcium-deficient disorders. But sea salt actually contains calcium and magnesium, helping to replace whatever of those minerals may be lost through urination. And the magnesium sea salt contains promotes calcium absorption.
Many people claim that there is a distinctive difference in the taste of sea salt compared to table salt. Recipes, in fact, have been known to turn out “too salty” when common table salt was used instead of the sea salt called for in the recipe. This is probably due to the fact that sea salt contains minerals that do not taste salty (calcium, magnesium, iron, etc.) as well as the one that does (sodium chloride).
Many people simply choose sea salt because they prefer to eat foods that are less refined on principle. Still others may choose table salt because they know how it “measures” in recipes, or to be sure they obtain enough iodine. Those who choose sea salt may obtain iodine through other dietary means, or by taking kelp tablets.