Are Specialty or Gourmet Salts Important Nutritional Supplements?
There are many varieties of salt that provide extra flavour and texture to our meals. Many promote this as a strong selling point and that gourmet salts have more health benefit than table salt. Is this true?
Several practitioners of Integrative Medicine advocate the use of gourmet salts over table salt. The reason for this is that table salt is mainly sodium chloride. Salt is required for body metabolism as it sustains the hydration levels of the body by maintaining the electrolyte balance for the smooth functioning of the human organ systems.It is essential for proper brain, muscle and nervous system function. The advantage of table salt is that it is iodized and is the most common sources of dietary iodine.
Integrative Medicine practitioners argue that consumption of too much salt is detrimental to our health as it increases blood pressure and increases the risk of oedema and other disorders. Furthermore, table salt has been chemically cleaned and processed it is difficult to digest. In addition, furthermore the important trace minerals are removed, henceforth it cannot be recommended as a dietary/nutritional supplement.
Himalayan salt, Hawaiian, Mediterranean, French sea salts, and Australian river salts have become popular — due to their flavour and suggested health benefits. They do have higher concentrations of calcium, chromium, iron, potassium and magnesium than table salt. As these salts are more flavoursome we can, therefore, consume less salt and thus reduce our sodium intake, which has a huge health benefit.
A number of essential minerals (nutritional supplements) found in gourmet salts are as follows:
- Calcium – 70% less calcium was found in table salts in contrast to gourmet salts such as Cyprus Black (from the Mediterranean) and Sel Gris De Guerande.
- Iron and Potassium – highest is found in Kala Namak Black Mineral Salt but all salts contain very low iron concentrations.
- Magnesium – found in the oak smoked salt Fumee de Sel Chardonnay, a sea salt from France, and 1600 times more than found in table salt.
- Chromium – Alaea Hawaiian Sea Salt and Mediterranean Sea Salt similar to table salt. Other salts contained less.
The above shows that gourmet salts provide higher amounts of most essential minerals but they are all much less that the required daily amounts. If these are the main source of the aforementioned minerals then nutrition supplements is a compulsory requirement.
Of some concern are the small amounts of toxic elements found in gourmet salts.
- Lead – 0.5 mcg per gram found in many salts which are not a risk for adults but highest lead levels are in French sea salt Sal Gris De Guerande and black or grey salt.
- Arsenic, cadmium, and mercury were negligible in all samples.
- Thallium–low in all salts except in some black and grey salts
- Vanadium – found only in Kala Namak Black Mineral Salt.
Take home message
Gourmet/speciality salts do have greater amounts of essential minerals (nutritional supplements) than ordinary table salt, but the amounts found in gourmet salts are minimal. Table salt does contain iodine which is necessary for optimal functioning of the thyroid gland and essential during pregnancy for neural development. Thus, if you do only use speciality salts then it is in your interest to obtain your iodine from natural sources such as seafood and dairy. You may also want to consider reducing/avoiding black or grey salts due to the lead content; the pink lighter salts are fine. It is important that you consult with your integrative medicine practitioner if you are unsure.