Credit: Flickr user bgottsab
Salt. Wars were fought over the life-giving mineral. Before modern refrigeration it was used as a food preserver, which allowed civilizations to travel long distances and survive. Long ago, due to its scarcity, it had great economical, religious, and military significance. Today, it is in abundant supply thanks to the Industrial Revolution and significant to the manufacturing of goods. Its greatest significance is to the survival of the body. Salt plays a crucial role in the functioning of the heart, adrenals, and digestive system.
All salt either comes from the ocean or from ancient underground sea beds. According to The Salt Institute, refined salt is evaporated salt (table salt), which is mechanically evaporated and the purest grade meaning it has the highest percentage of sodium chloride in the fine crystal. Sea salt is a good-for-you alternative to highly refined (minerals removed), highly processed (chemically treated, moisture reduced, etc.), additive-added table salt.
Quality or gourmet sea salt is harvested in a way that preserves its most natural state (color, chemical makeup, ingredients). It is a culinary staple used by fine chefs and foodies alike to enhance the taste and texture of gourmet foods. Like all coveted natural foods, such as fine wine and cheese, natural sea salt is produced using minimal processing and refining.
Sea Salt in Food Products: A Trend
Food brands like Lays market the phrase ‘sea salt’ on their packages of natural chips to appeal to a growing health conscious population. Sea salt as an ingredient in food products can be refined or unrefined and may contain additives depending on the brand. Wendy’s recently (2010) jumped in on the hot food trend offering natural-cut fries with sea salt.
Unrefined, Natural Sea Salt
Unrefined, unprocessed natural salt is not pure white like table salt; it has a nonuniform color of light pink, white, red, black, or grey. Further, it is not as dry, contains trace minerals, and is naturally sweeter. It is healthier than table salt based on the idea that natural, whole foods are better for you than refined foods just as whole wheat flour is better for you than white flour. For those concerned about sodium levels, sea salt is not healthier than table salt when measuring by weight according to Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. of the Mayo Clinic.
Popular, unrefined salt brands include Redmond RealSalt, which comes from an ancient sea bed in Utah, Celtic Sea Salt, which is hand harvested from the ocean, and Fleur De Sel, which is hand harvested from Mediterranean marshes in France. Popular brands of refined sea salt include Hain Celestial and Morton.
Most food grade table salt used or sold in the United States is extracted from deep underground using solution mining and produced using vacuum pan evaporation. The brine is usually treated with chemicals to remove minerals before being taken to a plant for processing where it is mechanically evaporated, dried, and mixed with additives, such as iodine, calcium silicate-an anti-caking agent, and dextrose for a sweet flavor.
Sea Salt vs Table Salt: Natural Sea Salt Wins
Siding with the current natural food trend, sea salt wins the ‘sea salt vs table salt' debate. The quality of food ingredients is gaining ground as being just as important as the quantity of food ingredients (ex. amount of sodium in the diet). Comparing regular table salt to a fine gourmet salt is like comparing a Doge Neon to a Rolls Royce. If quality, whole food ingrendients support good health better than cheap, refined ingredients, then natural sea salt most definitely wins.
'Salt of The Earth, Uh, Sea' by Linda East Brady, Standard.net
Flickr username: bgottsab