Is Sea Salt Better for You?

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A client’s elderly father who has high blood pressure wrote to me and said, “the woman who teaches an exercise class at my assisted living facility told me that I should eat sea salt because sea salt is healthier than regular salt and that I shouldn’t worry about reducing my sodium intake even though my doctor told me to reduce sodium. I looked it up on the internet and I see differing opinions. Is sea salt a healthy choice?

My answer to him:

Both pieces of advice are very incorrect and that advice can be very harmful for your health. She probably means well but she is obviously misinformed. She shouldn’t be giving any dietary advice to the residents. Only a Registered Dietitian is qualified to do so.  In fact, in some states it’s illegal for any persons other than a Licensed Dietitian/Nutritionist (LDN), Medical Doctor, Dentist, Osteopath, Registered Nurse, Pharmacist or Chiropractor to give out specific dietary instructions to treat an illness. In addition, be careful when researching nutrition on the internet to only stick with credible sources of information from reputable websites or professionals. In general you can trust an website that has a URL that ends in .gov or .edu and for nutrition advice, a Registered Dietitian (RD).

The statement that “sea salt is a healthier version of regular salt” is incorrect. Table salt comes from a mine and contains roughly 2,300 milligrams of sodium per teaspoon. Sea salt comes from evaporated seawater, and it also contains roughly 2,300 milligrams of sodium. That makes them roughly identical in sodium content.

Advocates of sea salt point to the fact that sea salt also contains other compounds like magnesium and iron, but in truth, these minerals exist in tiny, trace amounts. To obtain a meaningful dose, you’d have to take in extremely high and potentially dangerous levels of sodium.

What’s more, traditional table salt is regularly fortified with iodine, which plays an important role in regulating the hormones in your body. We do not get enough unless we eat iodized salt. Sea salt, on the other hand, gives you virtually zero iodine.

Most Americans consume too much salt, or sodium. Too much sodium in your system causes your body to retain (hold onto) water. This puts an extra burden on your heart and blood vessels. This is especially troublesome for the elderly. In some people, this may lead to or raise high blood pressure. Having less sodium in your diet may help you lower or avoid high blood pressure. People with high blood pressure are more likely to develop heart disease or have a stroke. So it is important to reduce sodium intake. The American Heart Association recommends a daily intake of less than 1500 mg.

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