The Scientist: Sharon Richter, a registered dietitian with a private nutrition practice in Manhattan.
The Answer: There’s a misconception that sea salt has less sodium than table salt and therefore is better for you. Well, it doesn’t and it isn’t.
Though they come from different sources, both sea salt and regular salt are about 40 percent sodium. Sea salt is obtained directly from evaporated seawater and has trace amounts of minerals such as magnesium, potassium and calcium, but not enough to make much of a difference (and nothing compared to what you get from food). Table salt is mined from underground salt deposits and processed, so it's not as pure, which is one of the common points of comparison. In the processing, natural minerals are removed, the salt is ground to be much finer and anti-clumping agents are added.
Table salt manufacturers also add iodine, an essential nutrient that helps the thyroid gland produce hormones. Our bodies can’t produce iodine on their own, and without enough, our thyroids can get enlarged from overwork (that’s what a goiter is). The National Institutes of Health recommend that adults get 150 micrograms per day. A quarter-teaspoon of regular salt provides almost half of that. It’s also in a number of foods, including seaweed, fish, shrimp, dairy, grains and eggs.
Although the ocean is full of iodine-packed foods, sea salt hardly has any iodine in it at all. So in that sense, table salt has the edge. And as for those other fancy salts—pink Himalayan, sel gris, fleur de sel, kosher salt—it’s simply a matter of texture and taste.
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