Benefits of Sea Salt: Fact or Fiction?

10 November, 2020
The many benefits attributed to sea salt have not been proven by science. Contrary to what many people think, it's not healthier than table salt. What should you know about it?

Until recently, sea salt was seen by many consumers as a healthy alternative to traditional table salt. In fact, it was credited with more than 10 health benefits.

However, in the spirit of caring for everyone’s health, nutrition experts have disproved many of the claims being made about its consumption. Next, we’ll review the effects of sea salt and the recommendations regarding its consumption.

What is sea salt?

Sea salt is obtained from the evaporation of seawater or saltwater lakes. Due to its thick and crispy texture, it’s often used in gastronomy to prepare various types of recipes. Also, for this same reason, it’s added to body scrubs and other products.

Due to the boom that it had thanks to many advertisements, this type of salt became popular as an alternative to traditional table salt, whose ingestion is associated with various health problems. In fact, many came to claim that sea salt had less sodium and that it was full of beneficial nutrients.

However, as a publication in the American Heart Association points out, both table salt and sea salt contain approximately 40% sodium by weight, and therefore consumption recommendations don’t differ from one version to another.

A spilled salt shaker.
Sea salt contains high levels of sodium. Therefore, the recommendations for consumption are the same as those for traditional table salt.

The benefits of sea salt: Are they greater than those of table salt?

The specific answer is no. Although many have labeled it as a superfood, the truth of the matter is that the nutritional composition of sea salt doesn’t vary much in comparison to table salt. Its big difference, according to the Mayo Clinic, is in its taste, texture, and processing.

Thus, while sea salt is obtained from the evaporation of ocean water with minimal processing, table salt is usually extracted from underground salt deposits. What’s more, it goes through a series of treatments involving the removal of minerals and adding of additives.

However, according to information in the Journal of Sensory Studies, it’s true that, depending on the water source, sea salt is left with certain trace elements and elements, including potassium, iron, and calcium.

However, their quantities are minimal and one would have to eat large portions to approach the amount provided by other foods with these same minerals.

Read also: 6 Truths About Consuming Too Much Salt

What are the 10 benefits attributed to sea salt?

Perhaps because of the confusion generated by advertising about sea salt, many people assumed that it had great health benefits. However, at this point, we know that this is an exaggeration, as the nutritional composition is almost the same as table salt.

The truth of the matter is that sodium, regardless of the source, is a necessary mineral for maintaining health. According to information published in Advances in Nutrition, in adequate doses, that is, no more than 5 grams a day, it can help the following functions:

  • Balancing the body’s fluids and electrolytes
  • Regulating blood pressure
  • Contributes to nerve and muscle function
A spoonful of coarse salt.
Sodium, in moderate doses, is a determinant for health and disease prevention. However, many tend to eat it in excess.

Do you want to know more? Read: Treat Oily Hair with Sea Salt

Unverified benefits of sea salt

Because of its mineral content, which differs from table salt, many health benefits have been attributed to sea salt. However, many of these properties were exaggerated at the time and most are now denied. The alleged benefits are as follows:

  • Strengthens defenses
  • Helps alkalize the body and regulates the pH of the blood
  • Combats asthma
  • Decreases cholesterol and blood pressure levels
  • Combats depression
  • Regulates digestion
  • Improves quality of sleep
  • Prevents premature aging
  • Helps reduce the need for insulin
  • Relieves skin diseases

To date, there is no evidence that eating sea salt actually provides these health benefits. Therefore, like other types of salt, you should eat it in moderation. And, under no circumstances should you consider it a cure or alternative treatment for any disease.

World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations

The WHO warns that excessive sodium intake is associated with hypertension and an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. For this reason, it recommends taking into account the following:

  • Adults should consume less than 5 g (less than a teaspoon) of salt per day.
  • Whenever possible, you should use salt fortified with iodine, as it’s essential for healthy brain development in the fetus and for thyroid function.
  • Stop believing that sea salt is better than table salt just because it is “natural”.
  • Check food labels, as many are high in sodium.
  • Don’t add salt during food preparation.

What should be clear about this salt?

Those multiple benefits attributed to sea salt are not true. In fact, this type of salt is quite similar to traditional table salt, except that it hasn’t been processed and isn’t fortified with iodine.

So, just because it’s natural doesn’t mean that it’s better for your health. Like other sources of sodium, excessive consumption can have negative consequences – keep that in mind!

  • Farquhar WB, Edwards DG, Jurkovitz CT, Weintraub WS. Dietary sodium and health: more than just blood pressure. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2015;65(10):1042–1050. doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2014.12.039
  • Lee BH, Yang AR, Kim MY, McCurdy S, Boisvert WA. Natural sea salt consumption confers protection against hypertension and kidney damage in Dahl salt-sensitive rats [published correction appears in Food Nutr Res. 2017 Mar 20;61(1):1300375]. Food Nutr Res. 2016;61(1):1264713. Published 2016 Dec 20. doi:10.1080/16546628.2017.1264713
  • O’Dowd, C. D., Smith, M. H., Consterdine, I. E., & Lowe, J. A. (1997). Marine aerosol, sea-salt, and the marine sulphur cycle: A short review. Atmospheric Environment. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1352-2310(96)00106-9
  • DRAKE, S.L. & DRAKE, M.A.. (2010). Comparison of salty taste and time intensity of sea and land salts from around the world. Journal of Sensory Studies. 26. 25 – 34. 10.1111/j.1745-459X.2010.00317.x.
  • 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines. Accessed Aug. 29, 2019.
  • Duyff RL. Sodium and potassium: A salty subject. In: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Complete Food and Nutrition Guide. 5th ed. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 2017.