Sea salt can have larger crystals than regular table salt. Its color and composition depends upon its water source. Salt pictured from left to right: gray sea salt, regular table salt, and Hawaiian red salt.
The use of sea salt is becoming more popular these days, its presence can be found in savory and sweet dishes alike. Some tout it to be a healthier alternative to regular table salt, stating that it offers more trace minerals and a “saltier” taste per teaspoon -thus reducing the amount needed in cooking to add flavor. But is there really a difference between the two types or should this proclamation be taken with a “grain of salt”?
What is salt? In basic scientific terminolgy, salt is a crystalline solid compound that is primarily made up of 2 minerals – sodium and chloride. Its exact chemical composition is dependent upon its origin.
Table salt is mined from underground resevoirs. It undergoes processing that removes trace minerals and adds iodine* and an anti-clumping agent. It is usually ground into smaller and finer crystals than sea salt. Because of this, more table salt typically can fit into a teaspoon in comparison. One-quarter teaspoon of table salt typically contains 590 mg of sodium.
Sea salt is formed from evaporating sea water and its composition is greatly dependent upon its water source. It undergoes very little processing comparatively; and therefore, retains more of its trace minerals than regular table salt. The presence of these natural elements intensifies the flavor of sea salt – leading to a smaller amount being needed by some to season their dish. Sea salt granules also can be larger and coarser in comparison so fewer crystals fit into a teaspoon, although this is not always the case. Depending on variety, 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt can contain anywhere between 400-590 mg of sodium.
If you are looking to add variety to your meals, the use of sea salt is an acceptable alternative, and may have a slight edge over regular table salt concerning its nutritional value. If your reason for its use is to reduce the amount of sodium in your diet, you need to check the nutrition label because some varieties may contain the same amount of sodium as table salt.
*In the 1920′s, table salt became fortified with iodine after it was discovered that iodized salt was linked to a decreased risk for goiter, which is a condition caused by iodine deficiency.
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