Allyn Wergin, RDN
Diabetes Education, Nutrition
Sea salt has become increasingly popular in recent years. We see it as a main ingredient in many desserts and snacks — and many recipes call for it by name. Oftentimes, terms such as organic, natural and pure also accompany products that contain sea salt, alluding that it’s a healthy alternative to table salt. But is it really a reason to put the salt shaker back on the table?
The main differences between sea salt and table salt are in their tastes, texture and processing. Sea salt comes from evaporated sea water and is minimally processed, so it may retain trace minerals. The minerals sea salt contains depend on the body of water from which it is evaporated. This may promote a different taste or color in the salt. When speaking in terms of health, the minerals are minor and easily consumed through daily food intake. Regular table salt comes from salt mines and is processed to eliminate minerals. In addition to iodine — an essential nutrient that helps maintain a healthy thyroid — table salt usually contains an additive to prevent clumping.
The reason experts recommend limiting salt in your diet is because this common food topper contains sodium. For some people, sodium can increase blood pressure because it holds excess fluid in the body. The sodium content of sea salt and table salt is identical at 40 percent when measured by weight (i.e. grams). However, because some sea salt may have larger crystals than table salt, sea salt may have less sodium by volume because fewer crystals will fit in a measuring device — such as a spoon. All in all, there is no significant difference in the sodium content of regular table salt and sea salt.
Whether you choose to use sea salt or table salt, remember to use in moderation. Better yet, experiment with herbs and spices to add flavor to your food and keep the salt shaker off the table.
Here are seasoning recommendations from the American Heart Association to add variety to your foods:
- Allspice: Lean ground meats, stews, tomatoes, peaches, applesauce, cranberry sauce, gravies, lean meat
- Almond extract: Puddings, fruits
- Basil: Fish, lamb, lean ground meats, stews, salads, soups, sauces, fish cocktails
- Bay leaves: Lean meats, stews, poultry, soups, tomatoes
- Caraway seeds: Lean meats, stews, soups, salads, breads, cabbage, asparagus, noodles
- Chives: Salads, sauces, soups, lean meat dishes, vegetables
- Cider vinegar: Salads, vegetables, sauces
- Cinnamon: Fruits (especially apples), breads, pie crusts
- Curry powder: Lean meats (especially lamb), veal, chicken, fish, tomatoes, tomato soup, mayonnaise
- Dill: Fish sauces, soups, tomatoes, cabbages, carrots, cauliflower, green beans, cucumbers, potatoes, salads, macaroni, lean beef, lamb, chicken, fish
- Garlic (not garlic salt): Lean meats, fish, soups, salads, vegetables, tomatoes, potatoes
- Ginger: Chicken, fruits
- Lemon juice: Lean meats, fish, poultry, salads, vegetables
- Mace: Hot breads, apples, fruit salads, carrots, cauliflower, squash, potatoes, veal, lamb
- Mustard (dry): Lean ground meats, lean meats, chicken, fish, salads, asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, mayonnaise, sauces
- Nutmeg: Fruits, pie crust, lemonade, potatoes, chicken, fish, lean meat loaf, toast, veal, pudding
- Onion powder (not onion salt): Lean meats, stews, vegetables, salads, soups
- Paprika: Lean meats, fish, soups, salads, sauces, vegetables
- Parsley: Lean meats, fish, soups, salads, sauces, vegetables
- Peppermint extract: Puddings, fruits
- Pimiento: Salads, vegetables, casserole dishes
- Rosemary: Chicken, veal, lean meat loaf, lean beef, lean pork, sauces, stuffing, potatoes, peas, lima beans
- Sage: Lean meats, stews, biscuits, tomatoes, green beans, fish, lima beans, onions, lean pork
- Savory: Salads, lean pork, lean ground meats, soups, green beans, squash, tomatoes, lima beans, peas
- Thyme: Lean meats (especially veal and lean pork), sauces, soups, onions, peas, tomatoes, salads
- Turmeric: Lean meats, fish, sauces, rice