Just the facts: Sea Salt
Sea salt has become commonplace over the last few years. Maybe you’ve even switched over to it yourself. But for many people, it’s a little mysterious, especially when confronted with the hundreds of different kinds. Do you really know what it is, where it comes from, and what makes it so different from traditional table salt?
If you are like most people, the answer is NO.
Since Your Spice of Life sells lots of different sea salts, I wanted to put together a nice little “fact sheet” to answer the most common questions I get. If you have others, let me know!
Sea Salt: What you need to know
What is sea salt?
Sea salt is produced through evaporation of seawater, usually with little processing, which leaves behind some trace minerals and elements depending on its water source. These minerals add flavor and color to sea salt, which also comes in a variety of coarseness levels.
Table salt is mined from underground salt deposits. Table salt is more heavily processed to eliminate trace minerals and usually contains an additive to prevent clumping. Most table salt also has added iodine, an essential nutrient that appears naturally in minute amounts in sea salt. [a] [b] One of the caking agents used in table salt is sodium aluminosilicate. This same agent is added to some paints, dry laundry detergents. powdered carpet and room deodorizers. [c]
Why do I need salt?
Salt is vital to good health, and it is required by the human body in order to function properly. Sodium functions as an electrolyte, and assists with regulating the electrical charges within our cells. Chloride supports potassium absorption, enhances carbon dioxide transportation, regulates body fluid levels, and is an essential component of digestive acids. Salt is a necessary element, and life itself would be impossible without it. [d]
It is the sodium (ions) present in salt that the body requires in order to perform a variety of essential functions. Salt helps maintain the fluid in our blood cells and is used to transmit information in our nerves and muscles. It is also used in the uptake of certain nutrients from our small intestines. The body cannot make salt and so we are reliant on food to ensure that we get the required intake. [e]
How much sodium do I need?
According to the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans:
- Don’t exceed 2,300 mg of sodium a day if you’re a healthy adult.
- Don’t exceed 1,500 mg of sodium a day if you have high blood pressure, kidney disease or diabetes; you are black; or you’re middle-aged or older.
Keep in mind that these are upper limits, and less is usually best, especially if you’re sensitive to the effects of sodium. If you aren’t sure how much sodium your diet should include, talk to your doctor. [f]
Sodium charts that show the amounts found in everyday foods are available online, for example, at http://oto2.wustl.edu/men/sodium.htm
One teaspoon of salt flakes contains about 2,400, approximately your maximum daily allowance. [g] Table salt and sea salt have about the same amount of sodium. [h]
Keeping your salt intake balanced
The balance is very important to your health. You don’t want too little or too much:
Not enough salt: Symptoms of moderate hyponatremia include tiredness, disorientation, headache, muscle cramps, and nausea. Severe hyponatremia can lead to seizures and coma. These neurological symptoms are thought to result from the movement of water into brain cells, causing them to swell and disrupt their functioning. [i]
Too much salt: A high blood sodium level means you have hypernatremia and is almost always due to dehydration without enough water intake. Symptoms include dry mucous membranes, thirst, agitation, restlessness, acting irrationally, and coma or convulsions if levels rise extremely high. [j]
This fact sheet is for educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
I’ve compiled this informational sheet using the following references and information sources noted in the text:
[b] contact Your Spice of Life for a fact sheet on iodine