News Flash: Table Salt Is Also Sea Salt

If you’ve been wrinkling your nose at ho-hum salt shakers containing everyday table salt in favor of so-called sea salt, it’s time to get real with yourself: all the salt we use on food is sea salt.

Yes, even if it’s not pink or purple or slightly gray and even if doesn’t come in a special container, table salt is technically sea salt, scientist and all-around super smart guy Neil deGrasse Tyson point out on Twitter yesterday:

Some chefs or home cooks might prefer using Himalayan pink salt instead of table salt because of the texture, but the chemical composition of the two is essentially the same — sodium and chlorine being the main ingredients, with some trace minerals lending certain salts a tinge of color.

It’s all in how the stuff is processed, TechInsider points out: Sea salt is harvested directly from evaporated evaporated ocean water and salt lakes. Machines and humans then clean it and refine it, but it’s not processed as much as table salt, making it coarser and flakier.

To make table salt, companies mine salt from dried up seabeds deep in the earth. Machines either blast into the salt deposits to crush or pull the salt out in rock form, or dissolve it in water and pump out the solution to be dried later. Table salt manufacturers often add anti-clumping agents and iodine.

Though some think what we call sea salt is healthier than regular table salt, The American Heart Association says there isn’t much difference in the benefits of one over the other. In fact, you need to make sure you do eat enough table salt.

“Sea salt also generally contains less iodine than table salt,” Rachel K. Johnson, an AHA spokeswoman and researcher at the University of Vermont, writes on the AHA website. “Iodine has been added to table salt since the 1920s to prevent the iodine-deficiency disease goiter.”

What about those extra minerals in sea salt?

“The minute amounts of trace minerals found in sea salt are easily obtained from other healthy foods,” Johnson said, like green veggies, fish and nuts.

The Mayo Clinic backs up the assertion that the two are pretty much the same thing as well, noting:

“Sea salt and table salt have the same basic nutritional value, despite the fact that sea salt is often promoted as being healthier. Sea salt and table salt contain comparable amounts of sodium by weight.”

Chemical composition aside, the next time you go to sprinkle salt on a fresh batch of chocolate cookies, you’re likely going to reach for the pink sea salt over the shaker of fine table salt. It’s all in the texture.