Monday, March 24, 2014
Are Sea and Gourmet Salts Healthier?
There are all kinds of delicious salts on the market today. Pink, Green, Sea, Grey Sea, Black, and Kosher salts are all available at most higher-end supermarkets and specialty stores these days.
What’s with all of these colored salts? You might have heard they are healthier and keep you “more hydrated.” You may have heard that these newfangled salts have “trace minerals” that the body needs. Are any of these claims true? Why would anyone spend six dollars on salt when they can just get some Red Cross-brand salt for 99 cents?
Let’s looks at some evidence about the health claims of these salts and what to do with the many varieties of salt on the market today.
What are gourmet salts?
Sea salt is collected from the sea and made in drying beds in places that sound just delicious, like France.
Black and pinks salts are mined out of the ground from places like Tibet or Africa.
American table salt is mined and then put through a refining process, and iodine is added to it as well. There a big differences in the way table salts and gourmet salts are produced.
Gourmet salts are wonderful to cook with and use on food. They have a more subtle flavor and seem to beautifully bring out the flavors when used in cooking . I have to admit I am hooked on gourmet salts and have two on hand in my kitchen now: Pink Himalayan and French Grey Sea Salt.
The French Grey Sea salt is used purely for cooking due to the chunkiness of it. I use a little less of it when cooking than I would table salt. The Pink salt tastes earthy and I sprinkle it on my food — you only need a tiny amount to bring out the flavor. I spent about $6 on my French salt; that’s almost $8 a pound for salt. But I would say it is worth the money. The jar lasts me about six to seven months. That is about a dollar a month. Not as good as the three cents a month I would spend on table salt but the flavor and the fact that I use less gourmet salt in general when I eat at home make it money well spent to me.
The health claims:
First of all, you are not supposed to have too much salt; we all know this. Try and stick to about a teaspoon of salt a day. People with certain health issues may need to have even less salt then that.
The Pink and other colored salts claim to have trace minerals that are good for you. According to nutritionists there are not enough of the minerals in the salts to make a difference or to even be added to the nutrients in the label. I think it does make a difference in the taste of the salt and your cooking.
Now, I’ll address the claim that these fancy salts keep you “more hydrated.”
More hydrated than what is my question. The best way to stay hydrated to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and drink plenty of water. I am not sure how they test these claims of hydration or who is so amazingly “ hydrated” after consuming these salts. During special situations such as excessively hot days, or when I am training too much, I will put a few grains of sea salt in one glass of water. I do seem to notice that my thirst level is less when I use sea salt as opposed to table salt in my drinking water.
What these salts to not have is the addition of iodine. Iodine has been added to most table salts since the 1930s, when lack of iodine in the American diet was causing a health crisis country-wide. Table salt is a reliable source of iodine. It has the some amount of this nutrient every time you eat it, whereas the unrefined salts may not have the same amount of iodine every time. Rather, they may go up and down depending on the batch, or may not be there at all.
However it is not the 1930s anymore, and today we have much better access to iodine-rich foods such as cranberries, seafood, sea veggies and seaweed, dairy products and eggs.
My conclusion regarding gourmet and colored salts is that they are much better for your taste buds than they are for your health. I think they are worth the price and are the best for cooking purposes. The health benefits may include the small amount of trace minerals, and lack of processing. You may use a little less of gourmet salts than you would of regular table salts due to the extra flavor enhancement that comes with these salts.