Salt From the Sea or the Earth: Is One Better?

So, for adding small amounts of salt to your food, should you use salt from the earth or salt of the sea (sea salt)? Recently a reader wrote to ask after seeing TV ads from fast-food restaurants that seem to indicate that french fries seasoned with sea salt are somehow safer and healthier. What’s the truth?

Here’s some information from one of my favorite medical journalists, Sandra Fryhofer, MD:

An American Heart Association (AHA) survey of 1000 adults age 18 and older showed that 61% of those surveyed believe that sea salt is a low-sodium alternative to regular table salt.

So what’s the difference between sea salt and salt from the earth?

  • Both contain about 40% sodium.
  • There may be a little difference in taste.
  • The texture is different; sea salt is more granular while table salt has additives that keep it flowing.
  • There are definitely differences in processing. Sea salt is made from evaporating seawater, so trace minerals, including a little iodine, are left behind. Table salt comes from underground salt deposits. It is processed to remove trace minerals and often iodine is added.
  • Because sea salt comes from ocean water you might call it more natural, but it’s not necessarily healthier.

The AHA clearly states that high-sodium diets raise blood pressure and increase risk for heart attack and stroke. The AHA recommends daily sodium intake of no more than 1500 mg.

Sea salt sodium adds up exactly like table salt sodium.

The survey confirmed another misconception: When asked the primary source of sodium in the diet, 46% of those surveyed thought it was table salt. However, up to 75% of the salt in our diets comes from processed food like soups, snacks, condiments, and canned foods.

So, what can we who want to be more highly healthy do? Number one, read labels carefully and look for key words like “salt,” “sodium,” or “soda,” or the chemical symbol NA. Also, do not to be fooled; those sea-salted french fries may taste good but they still count just as much in your total sodium intake and may not be good for you.

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