Sea salt crystals not only look more interesting than regular table salt, but some potential health benefits stem from their more natural manufacturing. Sea salt is made from evaporated ocean or seawater and is minimally processed, which preserves its natural mineral content. The benefits of consuming various trace minerals include strong bones, healthy muscle tone and efficient electrical conductance.
Sea Salt Production
Sea salt is produced through evaporation of natural saltwater deposits from around the world and usually very little additional processing. This leaves behind certain trace minerals in amounts and ratios that depend on the water source. The minerals not only add color and taste to the salt crystals, but your body utilizes them for a variety of functions. In contrast, regular table salt is mined from underground salt deposits and then heavily processed to eliminate minerals. Additives in table salt prevent clumping and discoloration. As a result, table salt has a very consistent texture, size and color, whereas sea salt varies quite a bit.
Both sea salt and table salt are made predominantly of sodium chloride. Sodium and chloride are important for your body because they act as electrolytes when dissolved in body fluids. Electrolytes conduct electricity, which is essential for nerve communication and the flow of water into and out of cells throughout your body. However, American diets are typically too high in sodium, which contributes to high blood pressure or hypertension. Unlike table salt, sea salt contains dozens of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron, selenium, boron, copper and many others in trace amounts. On the other hand, table salt typically contains more iodine then sea salt, as it’s artificially added to prevent thyroid inflammation commonly known as goiter.
Sea salt contains various other electrolytes such as potassium and phosphorus. Not enough electrolytes can lead to irregular heartbeats and fluid build-up known as edema. The calcium, magnesium and boron within sea salt crystals are beneficial for strong bones and teeth. Calcium is also needed for normal muscle contraction and magnesium for muscle relaxation, which is why a lack of these minerals often leads to muscle twitching, cramps and restless leg syndrome. The minerals in sea salt also tend to alkalize your body, meaning they reduce acidity. This may be beneficial in slowing the progression of some degenerative diseases such as arthritis, although more research is needed before specific medical claims can be made.
Sea salt has some natural benefits over regular table salt, but that doesn’t mean it can be used in unlimited quantities without negative impact on your health. Regardless of what kind of salt you use, sodium intake should be less than 2,300 milligrams daily for women under 50, and less than 1,500 milligrams if you have high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease.
- Encyclopedia of Human Nutrition; Benjamin Caballero et al.
- Contemporary Nutrition: Functional Approach; Gordon M. Wardlaw et al.
- Textbook of Functional Medicine; David S. Jones
Sirah Dubois is currently a PhD student in food science after having completed her master's degree in nutrition at the University of Alberta. She has worked in private practice as a dietitian in Edmonton, Canada and her nutrition-related articles have appeared in The Edmonton Journal newspaper.