It comes with a whole host of benefits for us humans. But why sea salt over table salt? Is there such a thing as healthy salt? And what’s up with all these gourmet salts available now?
Sea salt is what’s left over when sea water is evaporated, leaving behind salt crystals.Natural sea salt has been used since ancient times in cooking, preserving, cleaning and for personal hygiene. Today, not much has changed, with the global sea salt market growing each year. Always in demand for de-icing roads and softening water, it’s growing market could be down to the rise of gourmet salt in home cooking and the trend towards more natural health and cleaning products.2,3
There has been a huge rise in the popularity of gourmet salts in recent years. From the pink-hued salts from the Himalayan and Atlas mountains, to oak and beech-smoked salts from Denmark, it seems every kitchen cupboard now harbours at least one ‘posh’ salt.
The difference is usually either the location salt was mined in, or the treatment it has undergone afterwards to impart flavour, such as smoking over wood.
The difference between Himalayan pink salt and regular table salt is that it’s mined in a specific location – the Khewra Salt Mine in Pakistan – which gives it a pink tinge.
It’s thought that pure sea salt and high-end salts like Himalayan pink salt holds extra health benefits through a higher concentration of minerals, but this isn’t definitively proven.It’s important to know that these gourmet salts contain as much sodium as plain old table salt.6
As table salt and sea salt contain the same amount of sodium, it’s not true to say that sea salt is better for high blood pressure.
Sea salt is made up of sodium chloride and tiny amounts of minerals. Table vs sea salt benefits have been debated, but it’s certainly true that we need salt.
Sodium is an essential mineral. Our bodies can’t make it, so we get the small amounts we need from our diet.Sodium regulates water levels in the body, keeps electrolytes balanced.8
Unlike basic table salt, sea salt also delivers some trace minerals. These minerals are also found elsewhere in a healthy diet, though, so salt shouldn’t be a primary source.Many convenience, processed and fast foods include high amounts of sodium. A healthy diet would only include these types of foods in moderation and stick to the NHS recommendation of no more than 6g of salt a day (2.4g sodium) – that's around 1 teaspoon.9
Eating whole foods, prepared at home from fresh wherever possible and cooking with very small amounts of salt will help you to keep your sodiumintake in a normal range.
As any keen cook will tell you, a meal prepared without salt is usually a bland affair. Sea salt helps season food and enhances subtle flavours.Salt has a profound effect on our taste buds. It can fool us into thinking food is thicker in texture and sweeter than it is, as well as masking metallic or chemical tastes while improving overall flavour intensity.10
Some of the top uses of salt in cooking are:
A natural preservative used for millennia, salt was key in keeping vegetables, meat, fish and dairy products edible in the time before refrigerationSalt deprives bacteria of the conditions they need to grow, meaning food is safer for longer.13
Today, most people don’t need to preserve their food using salt thanks to refrigerators. However, salted meats, salt-preserved herbs and preserved lemons, as well as olives, vegetables and fish in brine are all common in diets worldwide.
To get started fermenting your own vegetables, you just need a lidded mason jar, salt, water and the vegetable of your choice (cabbage is a great one for beginners).
Last updated: 20 November 2020