Is Sea Salt Healthier?

While walking down the grocery store aisle, you spot over ten types of sea salt, ranging from a pretty Himalayan pink to a Hawaiian black lava, all claiming to be healthier than the standard package of salt. The only problem? These exotic, eye-catching salts are offered at a much higher price point than our go-to Morton’s. So are these all-natural sea salts worth it or is it just a fad?

Well, it’s complicated. Before delving deep into the pros and cons of these sea salts, it’s important to know that they are just salt. And salt, as we well know, is only good for us in moderation. Adults today generally consume fifty percent more than the recommended amount, which is 2,3000 milligrams. Too much salt can cause hypertension, dehydration and water retention. And when it’s not eaten enough, the lack of salt can affect joints, muscle cramping and hydration. So although these colorful sea salts look different, they can still cause some problems if over-eaten or under-eaten.

For many, sea salt is seen as a lower sodium option. Although they can offer minerals that act as regulators to help important bodily functions and give tiny amounts of macro-minerals, they do not offer any less sodium. Sea salt also doesn't contain any iodine, a mineral that is essential for regular thyroid function and is present in standard table salt. Sea salts are not fortified with the mineral, so they lack this important component. However, sea salts lack additives, which are significantly present in table salt, and they naturally assimilate into the body.

The American Heart Association recommends that adults eat less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day. This represents approximately 1 teaspoon of salt, an amount that many of us easily surpass. By choosing fresh foods (or frozen or canned foods without added salts), then sprinkling on a bit of sea salt sparingly, you can cut back on salt intake while adding a bit of flavor and texture.

Sea Salt vs. Table Salt

Why sea salt over our traditional table salt? Nutritionally, all salts are the same. Sea salt is harvested from evaporated seawater and is minimally processed. Because of this, the minerals from the water are left intact, and add a slight flavor and color to the salt. Table salt is mined from underground salt deposits and contains a small amount of calcium silicate, which keeps it from clumping.

The main difference between sea salt and table salt is the texture. The fine granules of table salt dissolve quickly (and give off a sharp taste), which makes it ideal for baking, Sea salts have larger, more irregular grains, which when sprinkled on foods, add a crunch and a slight briny flavor. The grind of sea salt determines its intensity – with larger crystals having a more biting salt taste.

Types of Sea Salt

Sea salt can be used in a variety of recipes, from condiments and breads to vegetables and meat brines. All it takes is a bit of experimenting to learn to appreciate and distinguish between the different varieties of sea salts available. By choosing the right sea salt you can enhance the flavor of many of your favorite recipes. Following are some examples of sea salts that are readily available:

Black salt is an Indian mineral salt that is actually a pinkish gray in color. Used in Indian cuisine as a condiment, the salt has a sulfurous mineral taste and is often added to chutney’s, raitas and other savory snacks.

Grey salt is a light grey, somewhat pink in color. It is collected by hand and is a moist, unrefined salt that is considered to be the best quality salt available.

Fleur de Sel, or flower of the sea, is a condiment salt made of young crystals that form naturally on the surface of salt evaporation ponds. It is often used for salad, vegetables and grilled meats. A true Fleur de Sel will come from the Guerande region in France.

Hawaiian sea salt contains red clay from Kauai that is rich in iron oxide. This gives the salt its pink color. Hawaiian sea salt has a more mellow flavor than regular sea salt and is used to season and to preserve. It is a good choice for use on prime rib and pork loin.

The naturally moist salts that are harvested from the Atlantic seawater off the coast of Brittany, France are referred to Celtic salts. They are hand-harvested using the Celtic method, which utilizes wooden rakes (no metal touches the salt). They are rich in trace mineral content.

In addition to the wide variety of sea salts, hailing from around the world, there is a growing list of flavored – or infused – sea salts that boast some truly delicious flavors. They include espresso infused, Matcha salt, or Sun Ripened Pepper.

Salt is no longer a basic commodity. Sea salt’s benefits can be easily enjoyed with just a bit of culinary experimentation.

Sprinkle away.

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