Friday, December 7, 2012

The Truth About Sea Salt - December 7th, 2012

Regardless of how you feel about iodine, here are the simple facts about this popular mineral.

Of the many things we eat, few things are as evocative as sea salt. (To the poetically minded eater, at least.) A dash of the saline crystals can bring to mind the mysteries of the ocean … mermaids, tide pools, mythic sea gods, ancient sailing ships, Greek islands. It’s the sea, condensed into grains we can hold between our fingertips. For many a foodie, it’s imbued with romance for its primal nature and the purity of its essence. (And for others, well, it’s just salt.)

But beyond the reverie it may incite, does salt harvested from the sea offer anything extra beyond what regular table salt provides? Some say it has less sodium, others say it has more minerals, some say its lack of iodine is a problem. Here’s how the facts bear out.

Sea salt helps boost your minerals
Unlike some foods that are harsh to the environment, sea salt is relatively gentle because it's produced by evaporating water from the ocean until all that remains is solid minerals. Much of it is harvested by hand (although there are larger operations in the Mediterranean). Table salt is made by solution-mining, while salt is extracted from underground deposits and then purified. Mining is an extractive industry and disturbs the natural environment, and the waste stream from the mined salt industry has an impact as well. 

Sea salt is a low-impact food
With its minimal processing, sea salt retains many of its minerals. While all salt comes from the sea, salt that is mined comes from ancient sea beds and many of its minerals have dissipated — and the minerals that remain are lost in processing. Some sea salts have as many as 84 trace minerals, in addition to calcium, magnesium and potassium. Many other flavoring agents (like packaged seasoning mixes) have no minerals at all.

Sea salt decreases the additives you consume
Table salt is stripped of its minerals and has anti-caking agents, such as sodium aluminum silicate, or additive E-554. In fact, there are a total of 18 food additives that are allowed in salt. Sea salt contains no chemical additives. If you season with salt, you'll get fewer chemicals in your food if you use the sea salt variety. 

Sea salt may lower your sodium intake
Although it has been reported that sea salt has less sodium than table salt, it’s not true. They both contain the same amount of sodium chloride by weight. However, sea salt has more flavor impact and so most people use less of it. The minerals enhance its flavor, and its larger grains deliver salty bursts in food, rather than the overall saltiness of fine table salt.

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