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Sea salt: tastier maybe, but not more nutritious.

Q. Is sea salt better than regular salt?

A. It's not more nutritious, but when you add it to your food at the table, it adds more texture and flavor than regular salt, which means you may end up using less salt--a good thing.

Sea salt is harvested from the evaporation of seawater; some say it has a subtle flavor that's fresher and cleaner than table salt. But when you shake it out, it's still about 97% sodium chloride--plain table salt. The remaining 3% or so comes from trace amounts of minerals like iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium, manganese, zinc and iodine, which are all found in seawater. The minerals may account for the difference in taste, but they're not enough to make a nutritional difference.

Sea Salt Caveats. There are many types of sea salt, including sel gris (grey salt), fleur de sel (flower of the salt) and Hawaiian sea salt, which can hail from France, Sicily and Ireland as well as Hawaii. They range in color from grey to red. All are pricey; a six-ounce packet of fleur de sel, for example, can run about $11. They vary little in sodium content, however.

Sometimes sea salt is sold in grinders or mills. But they aren't worth their salt. Unlike pepper and other spices, sea salt contains only inorganic minerals, so grinding salt at the table doesn't provide a fresher flavor. Salt never goes stale, though sea salt may clump because it rarely contains the anti-caking additives found in regular table salt.

Sea Salt Goes Mainstream. Some cooks say not to add sea salt during cooking because the minerals can impart a bitter taste to food. But Campbell Soup Company recently began using sea salt in its lower-sodium soups. The sea salt it uses is prepared with a special evaporation and crystallization process that results in a lower-sodium sea salt, unlike what you buy in the store.

EN's Bottom Line. If your palate can taste the subtle flavor difference sea salt promises and your pocketbook doesn't mind, feel free to give it a try. Just don't expect wonderful health benefits. And if you're watching sodium, the same limits apply--no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, on average--about a teaspoon.

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Title Annotation:Ask EN
Publication:Environmental Nutrition
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2006
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