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Since You Asked: Sea salt contributes to global seasoning

Hello SYA ... There is so much talk today about the benefits of using sea salt in our foods due to lower sodium. What is the downside in using sea salt? Is this considered natural or organic? Does sea salt offer iodide? And ... are the sources offered in the U.S. considered pure or contaminated with pollutants (we saw one package of sea salt originating from the San Francisco Bay ... oh my gosh!!??)

Please educate us!

— Sophia C., via e-mail

Sea salt, Sophia, sea salt?!?? Come on! That's, like, so 2007!

Succumbing to a new doublespeak marketing niche, we've moved on to Himalayan crystal salt, which is 250 million years old! Of course since it's an antique, it's priced accordingly, but you're also paying for claims (products.mercola.com/himalayan-salt) that it will prevent muscle cramps, aid in absorption of food particles through your intestinal tract, assist in the generation of hydroelectric energy in cells in your body (!), support your libido (ask your spouse about this), and perhaps even eliminate internal strife and create world peace (the FDA has not evaluated these claims).

You don't want that nasty table salt ... did you know it contains the harsh chemical elements sodium and chlorine??? And manufacturers even add toxins like iodine! Oy! Your body needs natural Himalayan salt, Sophia, with crystals of a special, gentle shape that your body can more easily "metabolize." Did we mention it's also got a high vibrational energy? There's no nutritional value with that, but trust us, it's a good thing.

OK, back down to Earth. We're practical, cynical folk here at Since You Asked's GloboChem Conglomerate Apologists Faction. We're content to get our sodium chloride on the cheap as table salt with iodine (we don't find goiters aesthetically appealing, thanks), occasionally springing for that sea salt in the handy inexpensive grinders at Costco and other places, or kosher salt. The basic difference to chefs? Texture.

Lower sodium in sea salt? That's a new one on us. Because of course salt is loaded with sodium, seeing how it's called "sodium chloride," no matter what form it comes in, what it's called or how lovingly it is extracted. If you want lower sodium, cook your own food and salt it when it's done. The key is in understanding what else is in there (some sea salt does contain naturally occurring iodine; table salt usually has calcium silicate to prevent it from clumping).

Sea salt and that Himalayan stuff (iodine free! pro-goiter!) contains trace elements (some your body can use, some it can't) and whatever else is found in the salt where it is extracted. That could mean stuff found in runoff from the watershed upstream of the salt beds or bits of the shoe from the fellow who shoveled it into collection bins — maybe that accounts for the little black specks we find in sea salt? Heck, a little shoe never hurt anybody, right? But we'll stay away from San Francisco Bay salt all the same, thanks.

Organic sea salt? Since salt can't be "grown," it can't be called organic, per se. You need to look for a certification that claims it comes from an unpolluted area.

As for those wild claims made by the Himalayan crystal salt folks (aids absorption of food? wow!), that's up to you. Thanks to the placebo effect, if you think it does all the stuff they claim, hey, your brain just might make it happen. So, to each his own, but for us we'll avoid being taken in by yet another fear-mongering, snake-oil marketing ploy to part us from our hard-earned money.