The great sea salt myth. Sorry, y’all, there’s no minerals in there.

Posted on Posted in Healthy Eating - properly fuel yourself for a long and vibrant life

The trace minerals in sea salts are just that… traces.

Sea Salt drying in AustraliaIf you go to google and look up “sea salt minerals”, you’ll find link after link of pages espousing the benefits of sea salt, how the mineral content of sea salt is greater than refined table salt and better healthy food choice. But is there any truth to it?

Without fail, sea salt tastes better than table salt.

And for that reason alone, it’s a fine choice to make. I only purchase sea salt, even though I don’t actually use much salt in my cooking. To me, table salt has a harsh, flat, too direct flavor.

As far as the nutritional content of table salt versus sea salt, sea salt does come out on top. But that doesn’t actually mean much to your health.

So let’s take a look at those minerals.

Americans consume too much sodium.I’ve chosen 5 common minerals which are all vital nutrients to examine: calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc. So how much is in sea salt relative to table salt and are the volumes enough for it to matter to your health?

As a base, I’ve listed the volumes of each nutrient you’d take in if you consumed the “tolerable upper intake level” of sodium per day, which is 2,300 mg/day, approximately the amount you’ll take in from one teaspoon of table salt per day.

Calcium Table Salt1 Sea Salt2 Men’s Daily Value3 Women’s Daily Value3
 1.4 mg  10 mg  1,000 mg  1,000 mg
Calcium contributes towards network building in organisms, which means this element has the ability to aid muscle movements and skeletal structures. Additionally, calcium works to help efficient nerve transmission, hormonal balances as well as vascular contractions. – The Food Pyramid

Yes, as you can see, sea salt contains more than 7 times the calcium as table salt. However, since the Daily Value is 1,000 mg a day, neither version of salt is going to be an effective way to ensure you’re taking in enough calcium.

Try these food sources instead4:

  • Yogurt, plain, low fat, 8 ounces – 415 mg
  • Sardines, canned in oil, w/bones, 3 oz – 325 mg
  • Cheddar cheese, 1.5 ounces – 307 mg
  • Milk, whole (3.25% milk fat), 8 ounces – 276 mg
Iron Table Salt1 Sea Salt2 Man’s Daily Value3 Woman’s Daily Value3
 0 mg  0.2 mg 8 mg 18 mg
As a trace mineral in the body, iron provides the necessary transport means for moving oxygen throughout bodily systems fluidly. Additionally, it can aide in the repair and replication and differentiation of cells. – The Food Pyramid

Again, considering that table salt contains essentially no iron at all, even the meager 0.2 mg you’ll get from sea salt is an impovement. But it’s still only 1/40 the Daily Recommended Intake.

I actually read a blog where the writer cautioned against switching to sea salt because the iron content was high and some people have to be cautious with their iron intake. Really?? 0.2 mg out of 18 mg gives you pause? Just proof that the writer didn’t do her homework.

Try these food sources instead (non-heme iron)4:

  • Edamame, 1 cup – 8.8 mg
  • Lentils, boiled, 1 cup – 6.6 mg
  • Tofu, raw, firm, ½ cup – 3.4 mg
  • Spinach, fresh, boiled, drained, ½ cup – 3.2 mg
Magnesium Table Salt1 Sea Salt2 Men’s Daily Value3 Women’s Daily Value3
 0.1 mg  26 mg  350 mg  265 mg
Balanced levels of magnesium help keep a heart rate steady, contribute to muscle relaxation and function and keep blood pressure at a balanced level. Magnesium is a mineral that helps other minerals function more efficiently as well. – The Food Pyramid

Here is a nutrient where there is a huge difference between sea and table salt. The value of magnesium in sea salt is actually statistically significant. But you still couldn’t use it as the only source of magnesium without taking in 10 times the recommended amount of sodium… which would be bad.

Try these food sources instead4:

  • Wheat Bran, crude, ¼ cup – 89 mg
  • Almonds, dry roasted, 1 ounce – 80 mg
  • Spinach, frozen, cooked, ½ cup – 78 mg
  • Edamame, ½ cup – 74 mg


Potassium Table Salt1 Sea Salt2 Men’s Daily Value3 Women’s Daily Value3
0.5 mg 6.8 mg 4,700 mg 4,700 mg
Potassium plays an essential role in providing nutrients to cells, however, this mineral’s responsibility extends far beyond nutrient transport. In addition, potassium works to maintain balanced fluid levels in and around each cell that exists within the human body. Potassium has the added job of helping to maintain the heart’s regular beat and make sure blood pressure levels remain even. – The Food Pyramid

Pretty simple here. Relative to other minerals, we require very large quantities of potassium and neither sea nor table salt have the ability to provide meaningful levels of this important nutrient.

Try these food sources instead4:

  • Winter squash, cubed, 1 cup, cooked – 896 mg
  • Sweet potato, medium, baked with skin – 694 mg
  • White beans, canned, drained, half cup – 595 mg
  • Yogurt, fat-free, 1 cup – 579 mg
Zinc Table Salt1 Sea Salt2 Men’s Daily Value3 Women’s Daily Value3
0.0 mg 0.01 mg 11 mg 8 mg
Zinc works with upwards of 200 different types of enzymes in the body in an effort to maintain normal growth and development patterns, direct the functions of the immune system and the creation of male testosterone just to name a few. Additionally, zinc plays a major role in producing healthy and viable sperm in males. – The Food Pyramid

There is essentially no zinc to be found in either form of salt.

Try these food sources instead4:

  • Oysters, cooked, breaded/fried, 3 oz – 74 mg
  • Crab, Alaska king, cooked, 3 ounces – 6.5 mg
  • Beef patty, broiled, 3 ounces – 5.3 mg
  • Yogurt, fruit, low fat, 8 ounces – 1.7 mg

In conclusion, yes sea salt tastes better but it is not a useful source of nutrients.

So next time you’re on another website and they tout the benefits of getting your minerals from sea salt, you’ll know that they aren’t dong their homework and providing you with genuinely useful information for your health. You might have to look at the rest of the information on that site with a grain of salt.

And yes, I’m slightly sorry for that bad play on words.

1. Table Salt – Self Nutrition Data

2. Celtic Sea Salt Analysis – Dowsers.com

3. Nutrition Summary DRIs –National Academies of Science, Engineering & Medicine

4. Food Sources of Selected Nutrients – Health.gov

HomeHealthy EatingThe great sea salt myth
  • all salt is sea salt. Salt from mines comes from deposits left from prehistoric seas.

    • http://healthy-lifestyle-trainer.com

      Yes, but mined salt is treated differently than evaporated sea salt. Plus, mining is no sustainable whereas evaporating sea salt is.

  • Mike, no one I know uses sea salt as a source of nutrients. Here in Brazil we recommend replacing table salt with sea salt for hypertensive people, for example. The idea is to remove refined table salt from the kitchen, which is extremely harmful to the body, as well as causing high pressure, contains sand and glass, different from sea salt. In fact it contains traces of minerals, which is better than any refined salt.

    • http://healthy-lifestyle-trainer.com

      Hi Andre. I agree with the fact that sea salt does contain more minerals than refined table salt. This post is more geared toward people who spread unscientific information through, well, other blogs. The point is that if you’re concerned about getting proper mineral levels, sea salt isn’t gonna get the job done.

  • I’m not a doctor, scientist or an engineer, I’m just a 67 year old retired secretary, who’s body was ravaged by polio at the age of four. For the last 30 years, I have been searching the internet, consulting my homeopathic doctor and reading everything I can “understand,” struggling to stay healthy. I have been eating Super Blue Green Algae from Klamath Falls, CA (unprocessed except for washing and capsulated) as my only vitamin for 20 years. The RDA amount of the many whole vitamins, minerals and amino acids in SBGA is far below the official requirements. However, since I have been taking them, my memory is good, I never have colds or flu, I am healthy. So how can this be? I have learned this… the human body was not created to assimilate man-made or man-tampered ANYTHING!!! So if you take a processed Vit C, besides not having the” complete” Vit C that is provided in unprocessed food, the body only assimilates a small portion of the vitamin. With blue green algae, because it is a natural food, the body uses every milligram of the vitamins, etc. it provides. This is why I question your well researched and informative article regarding sea salt vs table salt. The NUMBERS may be there to support your statement, but, natural, unprocessed sea salt is one of the most natural nutrients (specifically minerals) our body can consume. Even tho’ sea salt may appear to have a small amount of nutrients… each and every one of them assimilates into the human body with a super punch. I appreciate your extensive research and willingness to share it for free… but, I’m thinking that there is a missing component in your studies. That is…the ability of the body to assimilate unprocessed natural foods vs processed or man-tampered foods/vitamins. 😉 Have a blessed day.

    • http://old.healthy-lifestyle-trainer.com

      I agree that natural sources of micronutrients are far more usable for the body. But sea salt has essentially no nutritional value. That’s why I list whole food sources of all the minerals sea salt contains in such tiny quantities.

      • There must be something to sea salt since we take about a year to empty a one-pound bag of sea salt. That’s two people both all cooking and table use. This in comparison to a one-pound “box” of Morton’s a month before we started to study what we ate. Morton found out people used more salt if it only had sodium chloride in it. That was good business regardless of consequences. Morton starts with sea water in San Diego, for example, where they separate the sodium chloride from the other elements, like platinum, silver and such by evaporation to start. NaCl is just a voluminous and cheap by-product. The real money is in the precious and semi-precious metals. Morton settling ponds are in south San Diego bay where there is very little tidal circulation and higher salinity than normal sea water. Morton also mines natural salt deposits and remove the money-stuff and sells us their NaCl. Sea salt may have only traces of minerals in it but it is what the “spice wars” were all about. Bloody battles over an island in the Carribbean were waged because of the natural salt that was NECESSARY FOR HEALTHY LIFE. So you can bad-mouth sea salt all you want you are just misleading people with your attitude.

      • http://old.healthy-lifestyle-trainer.com

        Um… I don’t bad mouth sea salt at all. In fact, it’s all I use. However, people should understand the truth about the volumes of these minerals that are available through sea salt. That’s why I list whole food sources of all those nutrients.

  • http://old.healthy-lifestyle-trainer.com

    Yup. As one of my good friends who is also a trainer tell his people “Um, it’s still just salt!”

  • http://gigieatscelebrities.com

    Sardines and poached oysters on a bed of spinach with a side of edamame and roasted butternut squash please! 🙂 My favorite!

    • http://old.healthy-lifestyle-trainer.com

      No doubt that would not only be a mineral filled dish but it would be a crazy taste experience!