Health Benefits of Natural Sea Salt
Copyright 2012 - Kris Heeter, Ph.D.
To salt or not salt?
For those who are worried about their blood pressure or other health issues, this can be a tough question.
Unfortunately, the table salt we all typically use on a daily basis and that is found in many processed foods is highly refined and unnatural.
Table salt is created by kiln-drying sodium chloride and anti-caking agents are added. During this process, trace minerals like calcium, magnesium and potassium salts are all removed. This process creates something that is not only unnatural but, also hard on the body. In short, as many already know, the sodium chloride in refined table salt contributes to high blood pressure as well as heart and kidney problems.
However, sea salt is a whole other matter. It is a slightly healthier alternative for those that like a little salt. While it still contains sodium chloride, it also contains a number of trace minerals.
Sea salt is typically made through the solar evaporation of sea water. The resulting unprocessed salt contains a variety of minerals - minerals that play a vital role in keeping the body's electrolytes in a healthy balance.
Until recently, sea salt was pretty much considered just a basic alternative to iodized table salt and has started to be embraced more by the Western world. However, sea salt has a long, rich history and is starting to become a hot commodity.
Gourmet chefs around the world have taken the use of natural sea salts to a whole new level!
Natural sea salts from around the world
These have distinctive qualities and tastes due to the varying mineral content. The minerals present vary due to geographic location.
There are now a number of sea salt varieties that have come to market.
Here are just a few examples:
Pacific Ocean Sea Salt (origin USA)
This is an all white salt made through the natural process of slowly evaporating Pacific Sea water.
French Grey Sea Salt
This is an unrefined and unprocessed mineral-rich salt that comes from the Guerande Region in Brittany, France.
Hawaiian Black Sea Salt
This course sea salt is black in color and silky in texture. It comes from the Pacific Ocean (Hawaii) and is bathed in all natural activated coconut shell charcoal which gives it a black color and an earthy salt flavor.
Hawaiian Red Sea Salt
This salt is rich in trace minerals. The color comes from the reddish Hawaiian clay (‘Alaea) that is enriched with iron oxide.
Himalayan Pink™ Salt
This is a hand-mined salt found deep inside the Himalayan Mountains. These course crystals contain a high mineral content including iron.
Kala Namak Sea Salt (a.k.an Indian Black Salt)
This has an egg flavor due to the sulfur being one of the trace minerals in this salt. It is this "egg" flavor that makes it a common spice used in vegan cooking (as an egg flavor substitute - eggs are never used in vegan cooking). The salt crystals are actually light pink, not black, with a grayish tinge.
New Zealand Sea Salt
This comes from the deep waters of the Pacific ocean around New Zealand.
Mediterranean Sea Salt
This comes directly from the pristine waters of the Mediterranean Sea in a region that is free of pollution. Solar evaporation is used to rapidly create this salt.
Redmond Real Salt®
This comes from a prehistoric salt deposit close to the small town of Redmond, Utah (located over 150 miles away from the Great Salt Lake). It contains over 60 trace minerals.
Fleur de Sell
This gourmet salt as a violet-like aroma and is hand-harvested from the salt marshes in Brittany, France.
Natural Smoked Gourmet Salts
In addition to the sea salts above, naturally smoked gourmet salts are available to add a deeper flavor to foods. Here are two examples:
Alder Smoked Salt
This salt gets its authentic flavor from being slowly smoked over true alderwood.
Yakima™ Applewood Smoked Sea Salt
This is a flaky sea salt that is naturally smoked over Eastern Washington aged Applewood at low temperatures.
Purchasing Healthy Sea Salts
I first noticed the availability of a variety of natural sea salts at my local food co-op. Our local co-op carries a variety of spices and salts from a company called Frontier® (they are dedicated to providing organic and free trade products).
If sea salts are new to you, I encourage you to experiment and perhaps give up using refined table salt and treat your body with a little (not a lot) of sea salt from time to time. Natural unrefined salt can be good for the body in moderation!
Disclaimer: Those with health issues should always consult with their doctor before making dietary changes. Keep in mind that sea salts still do contain a substantial amount of sodium chloride and it should be used in moderation.