Another kind of salt has made its way to social media, and possibly your tongue. Celtic Sea salt is being celebrated as a healthier alternative, but is there any evidence to the TikTok claims?
While there may be small differences between varieties of salt, all types are high in sodium. And that’s certainly not something most Americans need more of. Sodium does, however, have its place in the body and food system.
What is Celtic Sea salt?
Celtic Sea salt also is called “sel gris” which is French for “gray salt,” due to its gray coloring from minerals. These minerals can influence taste, so you may enjoy having it in your kitchen as a finishing salt or when you’d prefer that distinct flavor. The texture is noteworthy, too, with larger crystals than what are likely in your typical saltshaker.
Does Celtic Sea salt have health benefits?
Sodium is a vital nutrient for the body, acting as an electrolyte. But does it really need to be from France?
Celtic Sea salt is less processed than other salts, allowing for higher moisture and trace minerals like magnesium, calcium and potassium. Exciting as that sounds, these minerals are present only in very small amounts, and the differences are not significant enough to support associated health claims. Sea salts are mainly sodium chloride with trace amounts of minerals and other elements. That’s not enough for sea salts to be considered good sources of minerals.
If you’re interested in increasing your intake of nutrients, great! They are easily obtained from foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grains. From what we know on a population basis, most Americans could benefit from decreasing their overall salt intake and picking up more whole foods.
Outside of enthusiasm around mineral content, you may have read claims about this salt and its link to improved hydration. Some people find that consuming Celtic Sea salt with a glass of water has helped them improve their overall water intake. It’s true that adding salt to water can be beneficial, but this applies mainly to those who experience sodium loss through heavy sweating or long durations of exercise. This is part of the science around sports drinks. For the common exerciser, water and regular eating habits can usually suffice. If simple increased hydration is your overarching goal, there’s generally no need to add salt to the mix.
What’s the difference between different types of salt?
As previously mentioned, different salts contain different amounts of sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium. But there isn’t enough evidence to support the health claims around these differences in mineral matter. Consumers may prefer one type of salt over another, simply due to its taste, texture or processing. Table salt is often mined from underground deposits and processed to remove some minerals, and is commonly fortified with iodine. Sea salt is produced via evaporation of water from the ocean or saltwater lakes.
Are there any cons to consuming Celtic Sea salt?
The downsides to consuming Celtic Sea salt, for most, are going to boil down to the same concepts as consuming too much sodium in general. Average intake across the U.S. is 3,400 milligrams (mg) of sodium a day, with some people consuming as much as 5,000 mg. Though it varied based on sex and age categories, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 72% to 97% of Americans were found to be exceeding the recommended amounts of sodium. Excess sodium can increase high blood pressure, which heightens risk of heart disease and stroke — two leading causes of death in the United States.
America is already dealing with major salt overconsumption. Adding salt to foods at the table or in cooking is generally not the culprit that leads to excess intake. Overly processed foods and restaurant meals are usually to blame for that.
With all these topics in mind, there’s much to consider. Sodium does have a place in the food system. It can help control microbial growth in processed foods, add flavor and texture, and can be required in some aspects of food science. It’s the amount within the food environment that’s most concerning. Limited evidence exists on the specificities of Celtic Sea salt, though strong evidence supports decreasing overall intake of sodium.
As with most conflicting nutrition information out there, think personalization. If you happen to enjoy the taste, a crystal or two of salt is not likely going to hurt. Sea salt from a cooking standpoint certainly may be desirable due to its different texture. Perhaps sea salt even helps you to use less added sodium, due to its larger crystal size. Pick whichever version you prefer, but at the end of the day, sea salt is not likely to have a different impact on the body.
If you’re curious about consuming Celtic Sea salt regularly, talk with your healthcare professional or a dietitian (just ideally not an influencer on TikTok).
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