Table Salt or Sea Salt, Which One is Healthier?

 IMG_1955The answer may make your heart skip a beat because they both have the same nutritional value of 40% sodium.  An April 2011 survey conducted by the American Heart Association found that 61 percent of us thought sea salt was a low sodium alternative to table salt.  Many of us assume that sea salt is better for our heart because it is oftentimes marketed as a healthy, more natural alternative.  However, the only difference between the two forms of sodium is the way they are processed, their texture and taste.

How They Are Processed Table salt is mined from salt deposits within the earth.  During the manufacturing process, minerals are removed, anti clumping agents are added and the nutrient iodine is added to help keep our thyroid gland healthy. Sea salt on the other hand results from very little processing.  It is created from evaporated ocean water or saltwater lakes.  A coarse and colorful sea salt is created, which naturally contains the different minerals and elements unique to the region from which it was harvested.  While some advocates suggest that these remaining minerals, mainly magnesium, potassium, calcium, manganese, zinc and some iodine convey health benefits, most aren’t present in meaningful amounts. Differences in Taste and Texture Sea salt has a more course, crunchier and unique flavor which is why many chefs prefer to use it over table salt.  Sea salt comes from a variety of regions including Mediterranean, Himalayan, Hawaian, colors (pink, grey, black, yellow), textures (flaky, levels of coarseness) and smoked or flavor infused (chocolate, lemon, citrus, garlic, rosemary and thyme). However it does come with a price tag.  Regular table salt costs $1.39 for 26 ounces while sea salt ranges in price from $10-$20 for only 3.5 ounces. It ultimately boils down to taste and price. What’s My Sodium Limit? According to the American Heart Association, you should limit your sodium to 1,500 milligrams per day.  However, many healthcare providers including myself, prescribe a more liberal 2,300 milligrams per day for those individuals without medical conditions warranting the stricter limit.   By reducing your intake to these levels you lower your risk for high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. Many people falsely think they are shaking the salt out of their diet when they add less salt at the table or in home cooking but they actually reduce it by just a dash, a mere 11 percent.  The top sources of sodium in the United States diet are:

  • 77% processed foods (soups, sauces, frozen or box meals, cereals, packaged pre seasoned pasta, rice and side dishes; canned vegetables and meats and snack foods just to name a few)
  • 12% naturally occurring in fresh foods
  • 6% salt added at the table
  • 5% salt added in cooking

6 Tips to Reduce Your Salt Intake

  1. Always taste your food before adding salt and add it at the very end. When it’s the first thing that hits your taste buds, you can use less.
  2. Read the nutrition label, paying close attention to the portion size and milligrams of sodium per serving.  Aim for 500 milligrams or less per meal.
  3. Sodium rich foods include sauces, processed meats (bacon, sausage, ham), canned foods, soup, salty snacks, salt seasonings.  Generally restaurant and fast foods are also high in sodium so limit dining out or choose wisely.
  4. Rinse canned food items to remove some of the sodium or buy the low sodium option.
  5. Try using citrus and vinegars in replacement of salt or salt free seasonings such as Mrs. Dash.
  6. Cook from scratch more often.  You control the sodium of your recipes, save on your grocery bill and gain better health

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Categories: Nutrition & Wellness

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