The other day I was winding my way through the crowds at the Public Market in Granville Island in Vancouver when a pretty display of sea salts caught my eye. The salts were arranged neatly in little containers with clear lids showing off their delicate colours. Sea salt has become gourmet.
That encounter got me thinking about sea salt. In contrast to regular table salt, most of which comes from salt mines, sea salt has developed a halo of health. Sea salt is perceived as more natural, less refined and thus healthier than table salt. This is not the case. There are a number of health claims circulating on the Internet for unrefined sea salts in particular. These health claims have not been substantiated by scientific research.
In addition to their main component of sodium chloride, unrefined sea salts contain small amounts of minerals such as magnesium, calcium, potassium and sulphur, along with trace amounts of many other minerals. It is these added minerals that form the basis of the unsubstantiated health claims. However, most sea salts are washed to remove impurities, and as a result their mineral composition is actually very similar to table salt—which is almost entirely composed of sodium chloride (NaCl).
Since it is the sodium (Na+) in both sea and table salt that raises blood pressure, and the sodium composition is virtually the same for sea and table salts, sea salt is no better for you. Sea salts, like any salts, are best when used in very small amounts as it is easy to exceed both the recommended daily amount (1500 mg) and the recommended daily upper limit for sodium (2,300 mg) for healthy adults—these limits are even lower for healthy adults over 50 years of age and for children.The amount of sodium in about one teaspoon of salt is equal to the upper limit of 2300 mg.
At home I have a few different flavoured sea salts. I use them occasionally and sparingly to accentuate the flavour of fresh produce like tomatoes, cucumbers and radishes. In addition to lowering daily sodium intake, increasing daily vegetable intake is an important strategy to prevent high blood pressure.
What are your thoughts on sea salt?