What's the difference between sea salt and table salt?
For more than a decade, sea salt has boomed in popularity among restaurants, food producers and consumers. Some chefs prefer it over regular table salt for its coarse, crunchy texture and stronger flavor. Manufacturers are using it in potato chips and other snacks because it’s “all natural,” while some health-conscious consumers choose it because it contains minerals like magnesium.
Yet from a health perspective, there’s really very little difference in the amount of sodium between the two.
How does the amount of sodium in sea salt compare with table salt?
In a survey conducted by the American Heart Association, 61% of respondents incorrectly agreed that sea salt is a lower-sodium alternative to table salt. Table salt and most sea salts contain about 40% sodium.
Kosher salt and some sea salts may have larger crystal sizes than table salt, so they may have less sodium by volume (e.g., by teaspoon or tablespoon). A teaspoon of table salt has about 2,300 milligrams of sodium, but a teaspoon of sea salt or kosher salt may have less sodium simply because fewer crystals fit on the spoon.
Some varieties of sea salt claim to have less sodium than table salt. You can check the Nutrition Facts label to compare how a given sea salt compares with table salt, which has about 575 mg of sodium per 1/4 teaspoon.
What’s the difference between the way sea salt and table salt are made?
Sea salt is obtained directly through the evaporation of seawater. It is usually not processed, or undergoes minimal processing, and may retain an uneven or darker color, as well as trace levels of minerals like magnesium, potassium, calcium and other nutrients. Table salt, on the other hand, is mined from salt deposits and then processed to give it a fine texture so it’s easier to mix and use in recipes. This processing strips table salt of other minerals, and additives may be used to prevent clumping.
Himalayan pink salt is harvested from mines in Pakistan. Similar to sea salt, it is less processed, having larger crystals and some trace minerals.
Is there a health advantage to eating sea salt?
Most sea salts don’t offer any real health advantages.
The minute amounts of trace minerals found in sea salt are easily obtained from other healthy foods. Sea salt also generally contains less iodine (added to prevent goiter) than table salt. Because sea salt is not processed, it may contain some impurities found in the ocean such as lead.
Which salt should I choose?
You can usually let your taste buds choose between kosher salt, sea salt and table salt. They all contain about the same amount of sodium.