Sea salt has recently gained extreme popularity with fans of healthy eating and in many restaurants and supermarkets. More and more chefs consider sea salt preferable due to its special flavor and health benefits. But is sea salt really a must-have for your kitchen or is it just another trend? In this article we are going to compare them and see whether sea salt is worth its price and all the fuss!
Regular table (common) salt is an important product every family has at home. Basically table salt is a mineral with a chemical formula NaCl (sodium + chloride) with little amounts of other chemical elements. Table salt is mined from salt mines, old dried bodies of seawater that have been gone for thousands or even millions of years.
During salt mining these deposits are processed with water in order to dissolve salt and create a solution, which is later evaporated. After that common salt is further processed and in the end the consumer gets a pure product without other minerals or dangerous substances. Sometimes anti-caking agents or additional minerals (like iodine or fluoride for regions which lack these minerals in the ground) may be added for practical and health purposes. Such salt is called fortified.
As salt is essential for any animal life – one of the basic human tastes is saltiness. Sodium and chloride are electrolyte minerals and take an active part in the normal functioning of muscles and nerves. Electrolytes are important not only for skeletal muscles, but for the heart muscle as well.
Table salt was one of the first preservation methods used and is a primary and widespread seasoning around the world. Salt helps keep water in the organism and prevent dehydration and is therefore an essential nutrient. But as with any other product its consumption should be controlled, as too much salt may cause edema and fluid retention, which, in turn may lead to increased blood pressure and higher risk of strokes and heart attacks.
The amount of sodium recommended by the World Health Organization equals 2 g, i.e. about 5 g of salt (1 teaspoon) to be consumed daily. This is quite a reasonable amount, taking into account the fact that many raw products already contain salt naturally. For example meats, veggies and fruit contain salt in small quantities. Therefore a limited intake of added table salt is not dangerous to the main body functions, unlike excess intake with snacks and canned foods which contain extreme amounts of salt for flavoring and preservative functions.
Sea salt is a type of edible salt produced from seawater evaporation and not from salt mines like common table salt. Nowadays it is widely used in cooking as a replacement for regular table salt and in the cosmetic industry, as it is claimed to have a number of benefits to human health and well-being, although there is no proof of this. Refined sea salt is homogenous and white, while unrefined it may be off-white. It may even be found in some shades of red, green, grey, yellow and blue according to the local clays and algae in the sea water used for making it. Black sea salt is not a myth, it can be found in India and in Hawaii.
Looking back in history, every salt can be considered as sea salt, because salt mines were formed from seawater at a certain point.
Sea salt types available at supermarkets may have different contents; they may contain magnesium, calcium and potassium, but the latter three only in small amounts. Probably that’s the reason why sea salt is considered to be a healthier option – due to the minerals in it. Some gourmets believe sea salt tastes a lot better and adds a specific taste sensation to the dish. Possibly that’s true, but how many of us are able to say exactly which type of salt was used for this or that dish?
The main and the most obvious one, as we mentioned above, is their origin.
Sea salt is manufactured via sea or ocean water evaporation with little processing. This makes it possible to leave some other minerals and trace elements in it in small amounts. Common salt is collected from salt mines. It is usually processed more thoroughly to keep the contents free of admixtures and often fortified with minerals (like iodine for the thyroid gland or fluoride for oral health). Some additives may be added to prevent salt clumping. Among other differences there are slight differences in taste and texture.
Minerals and elements left in sea salt after evaporation may affect the color and coarseness level while common salt usually has a bright white color.
Sea salt is usually considered healthier, but the supporting arguments for this point of view are mostly subjective, as the basic nutritional value of sea and common salt are almost equal. The amount of sodium is also approximately the same.
Basically any edible salt is nothing more than 95% sodium chloride and it all comes from the sea one way or another. Refined sea salt is just like regular table salt – nothing more than purified sodium chloride. Unrefined sea salt may contain traces of different elements like algae, sediment and even sea bacteria that can tolerate high salt contents. It provides a special taste and may add special nutritional qualities, but again, it’s just a matter of a few percent, so it’s up to the consumer to decide what type of salt to choose.
|Sea salt||Regular table salt|
|Processed by ocean or sea water evaporation||Processed by salt mining|
|May have different colors or shades||Is usually white|
|When unrefined may contain a small amount of admixtures like sediments, algae and sea bacteria||It is purified sodium chloride, usually with anti-caking agents and may be fortified with iodine or fluoride|
The difference between sea salt and regular table salt in 100 seconds here: