Is Sea Salt Better for You Than Table Salt?

What kind of salt is this?. (Photo: Dubravko Sorić/Flickr)

Have you noticed that more snacks are being seasoned with sea salt and manufacturers are proudly announcing that information on the front of food packaging? It reminds me of a couple of years ago when soda manufacturers and other processed food manufacturers started announcing that their sodas contained "real sugar" instead of high fructose corn syrup. When consumers started to become leery of high fructose corn syrup, marketers jumped on the chance to make real sugar seem like a health food.

Consumers are also concerned about salt, or sodium. A high intake of sodium can lead to health problems. Many processed and packaged foods contain high levels of sodium to help preserve them and to make them more palatable. Some food manufacturers have begun voluntarily lowering the amount of sodium in their foods. New York City has tried to encourage restaurants and food manufacturers to reduce sodium in foods. It’s clear that health officials and consumers are concerned about sodium in food.

So why would a food package have information about salt on the front of the package? The words on the front are usually there to entice shoppers to pick up the package and buy it. My guess is that there is some idea in the public’s mind that sea salt is healthier than table salt. Is it?

According to the Mayo Clinic, both table salt and sea salt "have the same basic nutritional value, despite the fact that sea salt is often marketed as a more natural and healthy alternative.” They contain equal amounts of sodium chloride, what we usually refer to as simply sodium, by weight. One gram of sea salt and one gram of table salt have the same amount of sodium.

Sea salt, as its name suggests, comes from the sea. It’s what is left behind after the seawater evaporates. It can contain small amounts of whatever minerals might have also been in the water. This can affect color and taste, but not nutrition.

Table salt comes from underground salt deposits. It's processed to remove any minerals and often has iodine added to it. So, if you want your food the least processed it can be, you might want to choose sea salt over table salt in your packaged foods and in the food you cook. However, if you’re choosing a package of potato chips made with sea salt over a package made with plain old salt because you think they’re healthier, you’re falling for a marketing trick. It may affect taste, but it won’t affect the nutrition. The amount of sodium in both are the same.