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

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.

CalciumTable Salt1Sea Salt2Men’s Daily Value3Women’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
IronTable Salt1Sea Salt2Man’s Daily Value3Woman’s Daily Value3
 0 mg 0.2 mg8 mg18 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
MagnesiumTable Salt1Sea Salt2Men’s Daily Value3Women’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
PotassiumTable Salt1Sea Salt2Men’s Daily Value3Women’s Daily Value3
0.5 mg6.8 mg4,700 mg4,700 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
ZincTable Salt1Sea Salt2Men’s Daily Value3Women’s Daily Value3
0.0 mg0.01 mg11 mg8 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

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