sea salt

sea salt

by Jackie Patti

When I first joined the adrenals group, one of the things that baffled me was their insistence that one should use unrefined sea salt. As a general rule, their recommendations were science-based, but the sea salt thing was defended with lots of wacky arguments that made no sense. Eventually, I quit arguing and just decided to go with the flow since they had empirical experience that it worked. This is when I discovered that sea salt TASTES awesome.

That is still my primary reason for using it as the health-based arguments are just not very compelling. Table salt is not "bleached," it is white because pure sodium chloride is white. The minerals present in sea salt are just not very worthwhile health-wise. And while it is true that anti-caking compounds are added to many table salts; how bad that is depends on exactly what is added.

mineral analysis table salt vs sea salt

Sea salt is 86% sodium chloride; purified table salt is 98% sodium chloride. If we just look at the sodium content, 1 tsp salt weighs 5.69 g; in sea salt, 30.6% is sodium, so it contains 1.7 g sodium. Table salt contains 2.4 g sodium per teaspoon, so it is definitely more, but in comparison, sea salt isn't exactly low sodium.

Looking at some of the other minerals available in sea salt, I did similar math and compared to the RDA:

mineralpercentageamount in 1 tspRDAamount of sea salt to get RDA
magnesium3.68 %0.21 g0.36 g1.7 tsp
calcium 1.18 %0.07 g1.0 g14 tsp
potassium1.11 %0.06 g4.7 g78 tsp

So you really can't get useful amounts of these minerals in sea salt without going WAY overboard. Of the other minerals we need in relatively large amounts (RDA measured in mg), these are not in sea salt: iron, manganese, phosphorous and zinc.

There are some trace minerals in sea salt, but this is both good and bad. For example, it contains both bromide and fluoride, which displace iodide in the body - and sea salt does not contain iodide, so you've got a double-whammy there (sea vegetables and fish contain iodide, but not sea salt - see references).

After we account for the sodium chloride, the minerals in my table above, bromide and fluoride, and bicarbonate, borate and strontium, ALL the other trace minerals add up to less than 0.001% - so you're not exactly getting even useful trace amounts of copper, molybdenum or selenium.

additives in table salt


Iodide is added to many, but not all, table salts. Morton says it's iodized salt contains potassium iodide and dextrose (glucose) to stabilize the iodide (note that the amount of glucose is insignificant, no one has ever had their bG go up from iodized salt!)

The purpose in adding iodide is that people who live in the middle of the country have little iodide in their soil and thus in their vegetables and at one time, seafood was very expensive for them. Iodized salt prevented a lot of goiter in the middle of this country. Furthermore, it has reduced birth defects; low-iodide mothers produce children with cretinism, characterized by mental deficiency, deaf-mutism, squint, disorders of stance and gait, stunted growth and hypothyroidism.

If you do not use iodized salt, you need to make sure you get enough iodide in your diet - the best sources are sea vegetables and seafood.

Supplementing is controversial, some claim to have healed all sorts of things through iodide supplementation, others have actually had health conditions worsen. Personally, I tried it at one point and saw neither improvement nor worsening of symptoms, so discontinued it.

anti-caking compounds

When I was a kid, these didn't exist. Everyone put a few grains of rice in their salt shakers to absorb moisture and prevent the salt from clumping. Even restaurants had rice in their salt shakers; everyone did this.

There are apparently a number of compounds that can be used for this purpose; the most controversial being sodium aluminosilicate due to it's aluminum content.

Not that I'm particularly fond of Morton, but it's been the most common table salt everywhere I've lived all my life (MA, TN, FL, KY, NJ and PA). Their anti-caking agent is calcium silicate.

This is a compound containing calcium, silicon and oxygen. It is most often derived from limestone or diatomaceous earth. My well water is full of limestone and I use diatomaceous earth in the garden and with the chickens, so I have a hard time getting up in arms about this being in salt.

I'd be perfectly content using Morton table salt as far as health goes, but for another brand, I'd want to investigate which specific anti-caking compound was involved.

Is table salt real food?

There's two issues - table salt is purified and it has additives.

As a chemist, I have a difficult time being alarmed about purity. Sorry, I know that's not very "real-foodie" of me.

As for the additives, there are plenty of salts available without them: canning, pickling and kosher salts are other options if you want the purity but not the additives.

I use unrefined sea salt

To some degree, all salt can claim to be sea salt, as all salt, including that which is mined, came from the sea originally.

However, the unrefined stuff is generally colored, not white, you only get the white color when it's purified. The common examples are Himalayan salt, which is pink, and Celtic Sea Salt, which is gray. But there are many other salts in an amazing array of colors. If you're a gourmet, you may want to explore the wonderful world of salt out there.

I don't use unrefined sea salt for health reasons; I use it because it tastes good. But I'm not gourmet about it, just any sea salt will do for me; that translates into looking for the best deal.

The stuff to the right is what I bought most recently. Given that this is a four-pack of 2.2 lb packages, and thus almost 9 pounds of salt, it will be a long, long time before I need to buy salt again. This stuff was well under $2/lb.

Unrefined sea salt is hygroscopic, it absorbs water from the air. Even though these packages are well-sealed, once opened, the salt gets soggy. What I do is throw some in a pan and stick it in the oven until it's dry, then store it in a sealed quart jar. It stays dry in the jar for weeks, even months.

Because it's crystalline, I needed a salt shaker to grind it. A good pepper grinder usually has a carbon-steel grinder, but salt would corrode that. The best grinder for salt is made from ceramic. I went through quite a few cheap grinders before I learned this!

The set I have is to the right. It has both the ceramic grinder for the salt and the carbon-steel on the pepper. The set is currently priced at under $25 with free shipping.

If you don't like the style I chose, make sure you get the right grinder mechanisms on whatever you choose!

useful info

When I got my set, I ground a teaspoon each of salt and pepper. My grinder takes 120 grinds to make a teaspoon of salt, but only 30 grinds to make a teaspoon of pepper. This information has been very useful to me in converting recipes to use my salt and pepper.

(Speaking of pepper, I use whole peppercorns for the exact same reason I use sea salt, it tastes WAY better than ground pepper. Not being a gourmet, I just get plain black peppercorns, which Amazon sells in bulk. I freeze the packages until I need to open one, then store in a quart jar, and they stay quite fresh.)

I also weighed my tsp of ground salt and then weighed out the unground salt and discovered 1 tsp ground salt = 2 tsp unground salt. This is handy info to know when you don't have to grind, if you can add the salt to liquid in a recipe instead of grinding.

I only measured the salt once and I probably dry a pan maybe once a year, so it's not onerous for me to use the crystalline stuff. However, my husband finds it too difficult to deal with the grinder. On his side of the table, there is a salt shaker with Real salt.

Real salt is hygroscopic also, so you need to throw about 10-15 grains of rice in your salt shaker to keep it free-flowing. Basically, they didn't put in any additives, so you have to. ;) It's a bit pricier than the crystalline stuff, but comes in at under $6/lb.

But you don't have to do any of this if you don't want to; Morton table salt is perfectly edible stuff.


Seawater composition from Marine Bionet

Morton table salt - with nutrition facts

Dietary Reference Intakes: RDA and AI for Vitamins and Elements (PDF) from the Food and Nutrition Information Center of the USDA - I used the RDA for young adults in my calculations; when it differed, I averaged the RDA for men and women.

Morton Salt FAQS - see the sections entitled "Why is iodine added to salt? Why is dextrose added to salt?" and "Why is calcium silicate added to salt?"

Disclosure: Affiliate
What kind of salt do you use?