Nutrition 101: What’s the Shake on Sea Salt?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
I remember my mother buying something called rock salt when I was young. My brothers and I were always excited to see the large bag because that meant we were going to crank up (and I mean crank!) the homemade ice cream maker for Labor Day or another summer picnic. Rock salt is great for ice cream or decorating foods but because of its larger size, not so great for actual cooking.

Some recipes call for kosher, seasoned, or sea salt. The biggest difference between these different types of salt is usually taste and texture. For instance, kosher salts are known to have a more course grain and to give a cleaner taste to foods. Seasoned salt on the other hand is flavored with herbs and other ingredients and therefore contains less sodium than other types of salt. But sea salt seems to be everywhere lately, from canned soups to hair products. So what's so great about it? Should you be using sea salt instead of "regular" salt?

Sea salt can be fine or coarse. It has a slightly different taste than table salt since it contains other minerals besides just sodium. It's unrefined and a natural source of at least 21 essential minerals, including magnesium, potassium, calcium, sodium, sulfur, iron, copper and more. In contrast, regular table salt (iodized salt) is refined to remove other nutrients so it's made of 97.5% sodium chloride, but it's fortified with iodine.

So if sea salt is more natural and contains more minerals that are useful to the body, why do we use iodized salt instead? Well, iodine is the culprit and the reason that iodized table salt is recommended and used so frequently. Here's why.

A key mineral that supports thyroid function, a deficiency of iodine can cause goiters (abnormally large thyroid gland). In the early 1900's, iodine was lacking in people's diets and goiters were on the rise. Iodine is found in seafood and foods grown near coastal areas. Not surprisingly, goiter problems were rare in coastal areas but prevalent in the Great Lakes and Northwestern regions of the US. In 1920 the medical community discovered that adding iodine to people's diets could prevent and reduce goiters. So, from that realization, iodized salt was born.

Adults need 150 micrograms of iodine daily, and one-half teaspoon of iodized salt provides almost enough iodine to reach daily needs. Since many processed foods contain additional salt, most people have no trouble getting enough. Sea salt contains a minute amount of iodine, so it is not a safe alternative for people whose diets are otherwise low or deficient in iodine. It would be especially unsafe for women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant—they need even more (175 mcg) iodine.

But if iodine isn't an issue for you, sea salt can provide a different taste to foods and it contains less sodium than iodized table salt. However, table or iodized salt still has a place in our diets, especially for those that are pregnant or not fond of seafood.

No matter which you choose, all varieties of salt have two things in common: 1) They contain some amount of sodium and 2) they enhance the flavors of food. Using sea salt now and then for seasoning can provide a different flavor to your foods and may be worth giving a try. You might even enjoy trying the sea salt hairdo as well.

Weigh in on sea salt below. Have you used it in your cooking? Do you think it enhances flavor differently from other seasoning options?

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I avoid salt, but take a kelp pill daily for iodine Report
how about pink himilayan salt? what's up with that? I see that everywhere these days... (i just like it because its pink) Report
I have just started using sea salt in my cooking. We have a bulk-foods store nearby and they have at least a dozen different kinds of sea salts that are a rainbow of colors! I've been experimenting with smoked sea salt. I have plain, too, but have not seen iodized yet, but then I have not been looking for it. I use very little salt other than what is in recipes. It is nice to have a flavorful option with less sodium. Report
I stopped using iodized salt many years ago when I read of the dangers of over supplementation. I bought the non-iodized version for baking and the small amount I used for cooking. I rarely used it as a table salt until I met my husband who craves salt. (He actually has low blood levels of sodium.)
Recently I have bought some sea salts and enjoy the taste that the minerals and larger crystals provide.

Since my thyroiditis diagnosis, I've learned more and I am even more secure in my decision to not supplement with iodine in my salt. I eat a variety of dairy foods, eggs and meats that according to studies should have no problem giving me the 175 mcg a childbearing woman should have. Report
I also like the taste of sea salt, it's mellow and doesn't seem to make me thirsty, course I don't use it a lot. I prefer lots of garlic and other spices. Report
I enjoy the texture of coarse sea salt Report
I love sea salt as a finishing salt, not when I'm doing the cooking (kosher for that). I especially love a little bit of sea salt sprinkled on natural almond butter on whole wheat toast, when I can really taste it! Report
I love sea salt. It seams like I don't have to use as much to get a great flavor! Report
love it...I use that or Kosher Salt always:) Report
I don't much experience with sea salt. Also I have the ice cream maker that doesn't work with salt. I don't need it to make ice cream. Report
I have both types of salts in my kitchen, but really love the Sea Salt. Bought it because my husband has the HBP. Report
i love sea salt Report
Thanks for the insight into salt. I never really understood the differences before. Report
Thanks for another great article...who knew there was so much to know about salt! Report
I have been using iodized sea salt for ages. I like it because it seems more salty, and I don't have to use as much. And I definitely like the way it tastes a lot better. Wwhat I did not know was that sea salt has less sodium! We kind of like salt in our family( bad, I know), but now I feel a bit better about it. Report
I've recently found IODIZED sea salt! Yippee!! Report
I'm big on using kosher salt for grilling & roasting meats. I've tried sea salt, but can't decide if it's worth the extra expense. I don't eat a lot of salt anyway choosing herbs over salt.

I do have a very nice smoked pink Himalayan salt that I use on fish - it's awesome! Report
I have used sea salt for a change of pace. Report
I use Himalayan crystal salt. It has tons of health benefits. Report
Yes I use it alot in my foods I find it better for the taste in foods Report
I do use sea salt, and I like it the best. I also think that it doesn't take as much sea salt in a recipe, compared to the regular salt. Therefore, I think it makes a better choice, by not using as much sodium in our diet. Report
I had a garlic sea salt grinder (McCormick, I think) that I just finished up, but they've changed their formula now to include a bunch of other spices, sugar, and preservatives, so I guess I'll grab up a regular sea salt grinder. The grinders give it a finer texture but it's still pretty chunky. I have sensitive teeth, so a big hunk of salt hurts like a grain of sand. I'll have to check my multi-vitamin for iodine. I'd like to know where I might be able to find the sea salt + kelp someone mentioned, though. Report
great info! for those of you wondering where else u can get the iodine, if u take a multivitamin, it is there. i know mine has the 150 mcg's we need. Report
Since my family has had a history of heart problems, we haven't used salt since I was a kid. I do use some sea salt at home and I enjoy the taste. I never knew the difference between the two. I try not to use much salt but occasionally I will. Great information. Report
I like to cook with sea salt, because i do like the other minerals. I have also heard that it was good as a skin scrub! My kids and husband do use table salt if they feel they need additional seasoning. Report
Iodized salt vs sea salt has been an ongoing debate between my husband and I since we got married. I prefer sea salt. I tend to be sensitive to sodium and I have a family history of heart problems. My husband prefers iodized and uses it liberally. I generally use sea salt for cooking. He almost always resalts his food with his salt once it gets to the table anyway. Report
Thanks for the info, I was wondered what was the big difference between salt and sea salt. Report
I prefer sea salt, I just like the taste better Report
I use table salt only in pasta water,sea salt on a couple of things and kosher in my baking.I stopped most salt use 30 yrs. ago.That being said,where do non salt users get this iodine in other sources??? I'm just guessing but doesn't fatty fish and shell fish have iodine???I'd like to see a further discussion from the SP nutritionalist on this matter.Are there any greens that contain this mineral???
I make flavored vinegars and use lemon as a salt flavor inhansment.Any other suggestions???
Happy Thanksgiving to all,have a blessed day. Report
I use iodized salt for some of my cooking, but I like to keep sea salt on hand to use as well. I'm probably getting enough iodine, but this was good information. I will keep the iodine issue in mind. Report
We eat a fair amount of salt water fish - at least one meal a week, sometimes two meals. So I've never been worried about iodine in our diet. I do use iodized table salt, sparingly - more from habit, I think. But growing up my parents used both. Guess it's time for me to check out the sea salt again as the iodine part (or the lack there of) is not an issue for me. Report
I grew up with sea salt and stil use it. I figure when I eat out and use canned veg I get enough iodine to get by. Report
I recently tried Sylvia's seasoned salt. It adds a different twist to over used recipes. I have been considering the sea salt vs kosher salt and after reading this I believe I'll have to try both.j Report
Salt has become a huge issue for me since I discovered I have an enlarged heart. I've had high blood pressure for some time, but only recently started taking the sodium thing seriously. Perhaps I will have to look into sea salt a little further.

Karen Syed (Living Large) Report
I use sea salt because I like the taste and because I have high blood pressure. Report
We've started using Sea Salt recently & it's gone over pretty well. We still try to use it sparingly. Report
Our gourmet grocery here sells 6 different kinds of "salts" -- different colors and textures. They're all very expensive, but I've always wanted to experiment with cooking with different ones to see what the fuss is all about. Maybe I will now. Thanks! Report
I started buying sea salt this year. I enjoy the"different" taste. Report
I only use Iodized Sea Salt, and have for a couple of years. I just feel it's healthier Report
good info--- glad I read it Report
I started using sea salt some time ago and I enjoy the different taste, I do occasionally still used iodized salt and combine them at times. Report
I love sea salt, but because my mother was one of those rare people that developed a goiter I also use iodine salt. By the way we lived in California when she developed the problem. Report
I haven't found that the taste is particularly different but i do prefer to add it to my edamame beans mostly because of the texture. Report
I love the better flavor of sea salt and am thrilled to find it has less sodium. We use very little salt on our foods owing to high blood pressure. Report
I use sea salt and kosher salt when needed in my cooking. I prefer using no-salt herb blends for most of my seasonings. And if you think that you really need iodine, they have iodized sea salts now. Report
I have always wondered about Sea salt, and now I know. I will use it now and then in the future. thanx for this article, it was very helpful to me. I learned a lot from it. Report
This article was perfectly timed for me. I just started using and really enjoying sea but was wondering the difference etc. I love the cleaner tastier sea salt but it doesn't seem to want to pour out of its container. It is almost as if it is damp although we live in a very dry climate.

I am wondering about the iodine kits...where to find them. Report
I replaced my shakers with sea salt 2 years ago. Since then, I sparingly use sea salt on everything but then there is Lawery's. I use the leftover 2 containers of regular salt to shake on my steps if we get a light freeze (My part of NC doesn't see snow anymore). I will never swich back to reg. salt. Just like spring water, the taste is what makes all the difference! Report
I've been using sea salt for about 2 years now and I've got my mom and my mother in law using it. (I liked it so much, that I gave my mom some for Christmas!) I don't seem to need as much to flavor my food and my family just loves it. Report
I use sea salt all the time now on my table. I cook with regular table salt and canning salt when I do my canning. My family does like the taste of sea salt and refuse to use table salt Report
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