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Is Sea Salt Healthier than Table Salt?

You may have heard that sea salt is healthier than regular table salt because sea salt isn't as heavily processed. So are the benefits real, or is it just a matter of taste?

You may have heard that sea salt is healthier than regular table salt, but most experts say it's simply a matter of taste.

The main difference between sea salt and table salt is that table salt is mined from the earth and refined before it's sold, whereas sea salt is produced by evaporation of sea water and rarely undergoes further processing. As a result, sea salt has a different mix of minerals and tastes different than mined salt. In fact, as professional chefs and gourmands like to point out, each type of sea salt has its own unique flavor and properties, much the same as the subtle, and not so subtle, differences in olive oils from different parts of the world.

Both sea salt and mined table salt, however, are made up primarily of sodium chloride, which puts them on an even playing ground when it comes to health. Though some proponents of sea salt-mainly its producers-claim additional health benefits from the natural harvesting process and inherent minerals, there is no evidence that sea salt is any better for your health than conventional table salt.

The bigger question is: How much of any type of salt is too much? Though we hear a lot about the need to lower salt in the diet, the results of more than thirty years of scientific research are conflicting and the resulting debate about the need to lower sodium to prevent or control high blood pressure and other medical conditions is ongoing.

Some very large studies studies, including the 1988 InterSalt Study, which looked at more than 10,000 people in 32 countries, and the well-known DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1997, seemed to establish that salt is not the villain, at least when it comes to high blood pressure. To this day, the DASH diet-a diet that is high in fruits and vegetables and emphasizes low-fat dairy foods and lean meats, but doesn't strictly monitor salt-is recommended for people prone to elevated blood pressure.

Yet other research, including a follow-up study of the effects of the DASH diet published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2001, have shown that lowering sodium intake, in conjunction with following the DASH diet, will significantly lower blood pressure more than if either approach is followed on its own. The medical doctors and other researchers involved in the 2001 study, as members of The DASH-Sodium Collaborative Research Group, called for greater availability of lower-sodium foods, since most of the salt in the American diet comes from processed food products.

The 2005 U.S. Department of Agriculture and Department of Health and Human Services recommendation for sodium intake is no more than 2, 300 mg sodium daily), which is equal to 1 teaspoon of salt. Middle aged and older adults, all people with high blood pressure, and African Americans in general, who are particularly susceptible to high blood pressure, should consume no more than 1,500 mg daily.  Currently, the Institute of Medicine emphasizes a reduction in sodium from all sources-land or sea-and is encouraging food processors to start to reduce the amount of salt added to popular food products so that our taste buds can begin to adapt to lower sodium levels.