Sea Salt vs. Table Salt: What’s the Difference?

by Ella

Salt is an essential ingredient in our daily diets, enhancing the flavors of various dishes and adding that much-needed seasoning to our meals. However, the type of salt we use can make a significant difference in terms of health implications. Sea salt and table salt are two common varieties found in kitchens worldwide, each with its own set of characteristics and purported health benefits. In this article, we delve into the differences between sea salt and table salt, explore their respective nutritional profiles, and uncover which option is the healthier choice for our overall well-being.

What Is Sea Salt?

As the name suggests, sea salt is derived from evaporating seawater. The process involves collecting seawater in shallow pools and allowing the sun and wind to naturally evaporate the water, leaving behind the salt crystals. The remaining sea salt may undergo minimal processing and is often less refined than table salt. It comes in various forms, including coarse, fine, and flake, and its appearance and flavor can be influenced by the minerals and impurities present in the water.


Sea salt is usually minimally processed, so it retains trace levels of nutrients like magnesium, iron, calcium, and potassium.


When Do You Use It?

There are many types of sea salt available and they shouldn’t be used interchangeably. For example, flaky sea salt (such as Maldon) is delicate and relatively expensive. It’s generally considered a finishing salt, so save it for times you know it’ll stand out. Sprinkle it over salads, steaks, or chocolate chip cookies to add texture and flavor.


Refined granular sea salt, which is a bit more budget-friendly, has a fine to medium grain that’s perfect throughout the cooking process. Nosrat suggests using this type of sea salt to “season foods from within” — toss it into pasta water, use it to season meats before cooking, or mix it into doughs or batters.


What Is Table Salt?

Table salt, also known as refined salt, is typically obtained from underground salt deposits. It undergoes a more rigorous refining process, where impurities and minerals are removed, resulting in a more uniform and finely ground product. Table salt often contains anti-caking agents to prevent clumping, and iodine is commonly added to address iodine deficiency, a prevalent global health concern.

Unless it’s otherwise noted, most table salt is iodized. Here’s why: Iodine deficiency (which causes goiters) used to be a widespread health problem, so Morton Salt started adding iodine to their products way back in the 1920s. This move certainly helped a lot of people, but you likely get all the iodine you need today from sources like seafood and dairy. If you’re using table salt, opt for a non-iodized version — it’ll keep your food from tasting metallic-y.

When Do You Use It?

If you’re baking something that calls for a small quantity of salt (a teaspoon or two), it’s fine to use budget-friendly table salt — it’ll dissolve quickly into your batter or dough and you won’t be able to taste any metal in the finished product. It’s also handy when you’re at a restaurant and you need to add a little salty flavor to your food. Generally, though, it’s best to stick to kosher or sea salt for cooking.

Nutritional Profile: Comparing Sea Salt and Table Salt

a) Minerals and Trace Elements:

One of the primary distinctions between sea salt and table salt lies in their mineral content. Sea salt retains some minerals and trace elements present in seawater, such as magnesium, potassium, calcium, and trace amounts of iodine. These minerals contribute to sea salt’s characteristic flavor and color variations. On the other hand, table salt undergoes extensive refining, which removes most of the minerals, leaving it with a higher concentration of sodium chloride.

b) Iodine Content:

Iodine is an essential micronutrient required for thyroid function and overall health. In many countries, iodine deficiency has been a historical health concern, leading to the addition of iodine to table salt. This practice has been successful in addressing iodine deficiencies and preventing related health issues. However, sea salt does not typically contain added iodine, making it a less reliable source of this essential nutrient.

c) Sodium Content:

Both sea salt and table salt primarily consist of sodium chloride, the essential component of salt. As such, their sodium content is similar. Consuming excessive sodium can contribute to high blood pressure and other health concerns, making moderation essential regardless of the type of salt used.

Flavor and Texture: Comparing Sea Salt and Table Salt

Sea salt is often preferred by chefs and culinary enthusiasts for its distinctive flavor and coarser texture. Its larger crystals and subtle mineral notes can enhance the taste of dishes, especially in recipes that call for a finishing touch of salt on top of the prepared meal. Table salt, being more finely ground and processed, tends to have a stronger salty taste, which can be suitable for baking and general seasoning.

What Are the Health Benefits of Table Salt and Sea Salt?

Table salt is fortified with iodine, an element needed to make thyroid hormone. Your body can’t make iodine by itself, so it has to come from your diet. If you don’t get enough iodine, your body won’t make enough thyroid hormone and your thyroid can become enlarged as a result, leading to a condition called goiter. Table salt, therefore, helps prevent goiter.

Sea salt benefits include helping calm skin irritation and flare-ups in people with eczema when used as part of a warm bath. Sea salts with high levels of magnesium can also help increase hydration and reduce the roughness of skin in people with dry skin.

Health Implications and Considerations

a) Sodium Intake and Blood Pressure:

The most significant health concern associated with both sea salt and table salt is their sodium content. High sodium intake has been linked to hypertension (high blood pressure), which is a risk factor for heart disease, stroke, and kidney problems. Reducing sodium intake is essential for overall cardiovascular health.

b) Iodine Deficiency:

As mentioned earlier, table salt is commonly fortified with iodine to address iodine deficiency. This is particularly crucial in regions where iodine-rich foods are scarce. If sea salt is the primary source of salt in one’s diet and iodine intake is insufficient, there may be a risk of iodine deficiency. In such cases, using iodized table salt or consuming iodine-rich foods becomes essential.

c) Minerals and Nutrients:

While sea salt retains some minerals and trace elements, the amounts present are relatively small and may not significantly impact overall nutrient intake. Relying on sea salt as a primary source of these minerals is not a practical strategy for meeting dietary needs.

Making the Healthier Choice

a) Moderation is Key:

Regardless of the type of salt used, moderation is the key to maintaining a healthy sodium intake. The recommended daily sodium intake for adults is around 2,300 mg (approximately one teaspoon of salt). However, most health organizations suggest aiming for even lower levels, especially for individuals with high blood pressure or other cardiovascular risk factors.

b) Read Labels Carefully:

When choosing salt for your culinary needs, read labels carefully to understand the type and content of the salt. Look for terms like “sea salt,” “table salt,” and “iodized salt” to differentiate between options.

c) Diversify Your Diet:

Relying solely on salt for essential minerals and nutrients is not a sustainable dietary approach. To ensure a well-rounded intake of essential vitamins and minerals, incorporate a diverse range of whole foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and dairy products.

d) Choose Iodized Salt When Needed:

If you are at risk of iodine deficiency, consider using iodized table salt to ensure sufficient iodine intake. Consult with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian if you have specific concerns about your iodine levels.

e) Use Salt Sparingly:

Explore other methods to enhance the flavors of your dishes, such as using fresh herbs, spices, citrus juices, and vinegars. Limiting salt use can help train your taste buds to appreciate the natural flavors of foods.

Intake recommendations

A person should aim to consume less than 1,500 mg of salt per day. The AHA recommend that people should aim to reduce their salt intake to less than 1,500 mg per dayTrusted Source.

The Dietary Guidelines for people in the U.S., however, suggest limiting sodium in the diet to less than 2,300 mg per dayTrusted Source for adults and children over 14 years old.

The maximum amount of sodium children under 14 years old should have depends on their sex and age.

The crystal sizes of the salts determine their uses

But that isn’t the only reason sea salt is used as a finishing salt. The size of the crystals often determines how the different kinds of salt are used.

Table salt tends to be finer while sea salt tends to be coarser. Though there are finely ground sea salt that can be used as table salt, mined salt tends to be better for seasoning dishes as they cook because of its saltiness and pure flavor. The actual sodium level of both sea salt and table salt can be measured in the same quantities, but the larger crystals of sea salt mean that it would take more of it to get the same salinity of fine table salt. The smaller crystals of table salt are also easier for foods to absorb while cooking.


When it comes to sea salt vs. table salt, the health differences lie primarily in their mineral content and processing. While sea salt retains some minerals and offers a unique flavor and texture, table salt is fortified with iodine, addressing a global health concern. However, the most crucial factor in making the healthier choice is moderation. Reducing overall sodium intake and adopting a balanced diet that includes a variety of nutrient-rich foods are essential for supporting overall health and well-being.

Ultimately, whether you prefer the subtle nuances of sea salt or the uniform texture of table salt, using both types of salt sparingly and mindfully is the key to a healthier approach to seasoning your meals. As with any dietary considerations, consulting with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian can provide personalized guidance based on individual health needs and dietary preferences.



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