Sea salt vs table salt

"A chip is still a chip"

Sea salt in bowl

While sea salt is unprocessed and carries trace levels of minerals, it has as much sodium as table salt.

When you reach for that bag of chips labeled “sea salt,” you might be surprised to know it’s not a healthier choice than traditional salted chips, even though the discussion about sea salt vs table salt continues.

Sea salt, which comes from the evaporation of seawater, is unprocessed and carries trace levels of minerals such as magnesium, potassium and calcium. However, according to the American Heart Association (AHA), the minute amounts of trace minerals found in sea salt are easily obtained from other healthy foods. And, because particles of sea salt are coarser than table salt, less sea salt may be used.

Does sea salt contain less sodium?

Table salt, on the other hand, is mined from salt deposits and then processed to remove minerals and give it a fine texture. Additives are incorporated to prevent clumping or caking.

But that’s where the differences end. In terms of sodium content, sea salt contains just as much as regular table salt: nearly 40 percent.

If this is news to you, you’re not alone. In an April 2011 survey by the AHA, 61 percent of respondents said they believed sea salt is a low-sodium alternative to table salt.

According to Kathy Rhodes, Ph.D., R.D., manager of Nutrition Services with the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Medicine program, “Sea salt has the same effect as table salt on health concerns such as high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.” She recommends starting out consuming fewer than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day and gradually decreasing the amount. For those at risk for heart and kidney disease, aim for no more than 1,500 milligrams per day.

For chip lovers who prefer sea salt over table salt, Rhodes believes it’s simply a matter of taste, but warns: “A chip is still a chip. Chips are not a health food and should be eaten in moderation.”

More information for a healthier lifestyle

Download the Lifestyle Modifications to Manage High Blood Pressure PDF for more information on how lifestyle changes, including reducing sodium, can result in lower systolic blood pressure. For tasty low-sodium seasonings that you can toss together and store in a shaker jar, download our Shaker Herb Blends PDF.

University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center Logo - blueThe University of Michigan Samuel and Jean Frankel Cardiovascular Center is the top-ranked heart and heart surgery program among Michigan hospitals. To learn more, visit the Heart and Vascular page on UofMHealth.org.