Shoppers mistakenly believe sea salt contains less sodium

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Sodium chloride

Sea salt contains trace levels of several important minerals
Sea salt contains trace levels of several important minerals
Many consumers still mistakenly believe that sea salt contains less sodium than table salt, although its primary allure remains its all-natural, unprocessed image, according to one leading supplier.

While Cargill always made it clear to customers that sea salt did not contain less sodium than table salt, gram for gram, many consumers were still laboring under the misconception that it did, the firm’s marketing manager for salt, John Franklin told FoodNavigator-USA.com.

“I think consumers do have that perception, although we try and be clear that sea salt does not have less sodium. It’s still sodium chloride, just like table salt."

61 percent of consumers think sea salt is lower in sodium,

His comments follow a recent survey by the American Heart Association revealing that 61 percent of US consumers agreed that sea salt represented a “low-sodium alternative"​ to table salt (​which is mined from underground salt deposits, processed to eliminate minerals and usually contains anti-caking agents).

While some suppliers argued that the intense flavor of sea salt meant manufacturers could use a little less – thereby reducing sodium – this was not necessarily the case, said Franklin.

“It’s very subjective, and you’d have to look at this on an application-specific basis, while you will also get different results in topical applications versus in soup for example. But generally, you can’t really use ​less [sea salt vs table salt].”

The wholegrain of salts?

Sea salt naturally contained beneficial minerals that were stripped out of table salt such as magnesium, calcium and potassium, but its biggest USP was its unprocessed image, said Franklin.

“Consumers perceive it as healthier, more natural, more premium and better tasting because it’s less refined. It’s just evaporated by the sun and the wind. It’s seen as the wholegrain of salts.”

He added: “We don’t break down sales segment by segment, but our sea salt sales are up strongly. More than 5,000 new products have been introduced to the US in the past five years according to the Innova New Product Database

“Chips are the biggest market, but we’re also supplying it to firms making soups, crackers, pretzels, breakfast cereals, pasta and breads, and seasoning blends.”

Consumer education

Dr Rachel Johnson, professor of nutrition at the University of Vermont in Burlington, said: “Sea salt and regular table salt contain about the same amount of sodium chloride. Regardless of which you prefer, high intakes of sodium increase your risk of high blood pressure.”

She added: “Although there are minerals in sea salt, there are other sources of foods that can provide a great deal more calcium, magnesium and potassium that don’t also contain high levels of sodium.”

Where are the studies into sea salt?

But Linda Szymanski, president of Ohio-based Salt of the 7 Seas, which supplies sea salt to high-end retailers, expressed frustration that firms had not invested more into researching the health benefits of sea salt.

“The salt studies never address the value of an unrefined natural salt and the minerals it offers that work in synergy with the sodium to help maintain a healthy heart function. This is a critical point and needs to be addressed.”

While these nutrients were at trace levels, the cumulative effect would be meaningful if sea salt were more widely used in processed foods, she argued.

I would love to see things like butter seasoned with sea salt, not just gourmet chips. However, it is good to see firms as big as Wendy’s ​[which introduced new ‘natural cut’ fries seasoned with sea salt last November] raising awareness.”

Flake Select reduced sodium range

While particle size and shape did affect salt perception, this applied equally to all kinds of salt, said Cargill’s Franklin, who was speaking to FoodNavigator-USA.com at the IFT show in New Orleans last month where the firm was promoting its new Flake Select sodium reduction lines.

“That’s what we have been looking at with our Flake Select range, where we have combined potassium chloride ​[a salt replacer] and sodium chloride ​[either from sea salt or table salt] and homogenized them into flakes, which have a bigger surface area to volume ratio so deliver a more intense, salty taste with less sodium.

“We also supply flakes of just potassium chloride or just sea salt as well. The compacted flake means you get greater solubility, low bulk density and superior adherence for topical applications​ [it ‘sticks’ to chips and snacks].”

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3 comments

Blame the food network

Posted by Gloria Duy,

As an RD I have patients tell me all the time that the cooking shows told them sea salt was low sodium.

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Wonder why consumers think that???

Posted by chris,

"Ordinary salt is sodium chloride and is made of one molecule sodium and one molecule chloride. The crystals of the sodium chloride that form can be of any size. Think of a grain of salt from the familiar round blue box of Morton salt in your cupboard vs. a large salt lick placed out in the field for horses. Sea salt is usually a coarser salt than your friendly Morton salt.

Now, think of a bag of small pebbles that are smooth, round and about 1/8 inch in size. Compare this to gravel from your driveway at about 1 inch in size and are more irregularly shaped. If you fill a bucket with the pebbles and another bucket with the gravel there will be a lot of space between the irregular gravel and they will weigh less because of the extra air. This is what happens with table salt vs. sea salt. There's simply more air in a teaspoon of the sea salt and therefore there's less sodium chloride (read that less sodium)."
http://www.drgourmet.com/askdrgourmet/seasalt.shtml
==except nutritional labelling is one mass not volume==

"Unrefined sea salt contain 98.0% NaCl (sodium-chloride)and up to 2.0% other minerals (salts) : Epsom salts and other Magnesium salts, Calcium salts, Potassium (Kalium) salts, Manganese salts, Phosphorus salts, Iodine salts, .. all together over 100 minerals composed of 80 chemical elements... Composition of crystal of ocean salt is so complicated that no laboratory in the world can produce it from its basic 80 chemical elements. Nature is still better chemist than people.

Refined salt (Table Salt) is 99.9% NaCl (sodium-chloride), (chemical as clean as Heroin or White Sugar). It almost always contain additives, like 0.01% of Potassium-Iodide (added to the salt to avoid Iodine deficiency disease of thyroid gland), Sugar (added to stabilize Iodine and as anti-caking chemical), Aluminum silicate."
http://curezone.com/foods/saltcure.asp
==nice, I particularly like bringing heroin into the discussion==

"Kona Sea Salt provides excellent mineral content and boasts up to 33% less sodium than table salt."
http://www.konaseasalt.com/
==huh?, oh it's got 7% moisture==

"As an example: our 28 oz. Diced Tomatoes contains 270mg of sodium per serving when made with regular table salt. Sodium is reduced to 125mg when made with lower sodium sea salt."
http://www.furmanos.com/sodium.asp
==because of the lower sodium sea salt or less salt in the product?==

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Food Grade Salt Does Not Specify Source

Posted by Morton Satin,

The Codex Standard for Food Grade Salt requires a minimum of 97% sodium chloride, regardless of where it comes from (lake, sea, rock or evaporated). There should indeed be more peer-reviewed clinical studies on sea salt to confirm or eliminate all myths regarding its nutritional properties.

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