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Sea Salt vs Rock Salt – Which Is Better?

unrefined salts

Sea Salt is in our opinion the best salt to buy due to the mineral content available in the ocean compared to what is now available from our depleted soils. Here we delve into a little more about the different types of salt available and how processing can make a difference!

Basically, there are three types of food grade salt available and within these groups, a number of variations are available:

  1. Sea Salt
  2. Standard Table Salt
  3. Rock salt.

What is Salt?

Salt is a crystalline mineral that’s made from sodium and chlorine (NaCl). These two elements are essential for life. We cannot live without them because they contribute to numerous critical biological processes, including:

  • Regulating the amount of water that’s in and around our cells
  • Carrying nutrients into and out of our cells
  • Helping the brain to function
  • Helping the nerves send out electrical impulses
  • Aiding digestion and metabolism
  • Supporting adrenal function
  • Maintaining and regulating blood pressure

If the elements that make up salt are so important for our health then why does salt have such a bad reputation?  There is actually a significant difference between natural salt and the processed salt we buy as a food flavouring.

Unprocessed Salts vs Refined Table Salt

It can be helpful to think of salt in the same way you think of sugar.
Refined sugar has very low levels of essential and non-essential minerals and cofactors which are useful in helping the body metabolise sugar better.  Without them, sugar is just calories.

Processed salt is similar. Processed (or refined), industrial grade table salt has had all of these trace elements removed. It is pure sodium chloride, with an anti-caking agent and, in some cases, iodine added.

Unrefined salts, whether mined from the earth or harvested from the sea, contain a broad spectrum of trace elements, often in the same balance as are available in human blood.   For the most part, the various grades of refined salt are all the same; chemically most are greater than 99% sodium chloride, but the structure varies widely.

Sea Salt vs Rock Salt

Salt is everywhere on earth, in the air, soil and water.  Some salt is on the surface of the earth, the dried-up residue of ancient seas like the famed Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. Ancient sea beds can also be found underground where salt can be mined, or occurs naturally in mineral deposits, where it is known as rock salt. In New Zealand we produce salt from seawater through evaporation because we don’t have salt deposits.  Both mined and sea salt are 99% Sodium Chloride.

Rock salt occurs in crystalline form and is usually gray in color, although  there are rock salts available in other colors, depending upon the type and amount of impurities present in them.  Rock salt is iodized industrially and often bleached and mixed with anti-caking agents. This is what is used to make table salt and then used in food production. Unrefined salts contain a broad spectrum of trace elements, but in minute quantities. These include magnesium and potassium, necessary for health, and which help the body metabolize the sodium better. The more sodium we eat, the more potassium and magnesium we need to maintain balance, which can’t be maintained exclusively by what’s in the salt. Dutch researchers have determined that a low potassium intake has the same impact on your blood pressure as high salt consumption does. Striving for a diet richer in magnesium & potassium may help balance sodium intake.

Sea salt, on the other hand, is created by evaporating sea water. It is white in color and, in our opinion, much better quality because it naturally contains iron, sulfur, magnesium and many other minerals such as iodine.

It’s been claimed that Himalayan Pink salt is healthier because it contains more minerals than regular unrefined salts. Although Himalayan salt contains key minerals like phosphorus, bromine, boron, and zinc, among others, some nutritionists claim the quantity of the minerals is so low it can’t make a significant difference to human health. Like all other unrefined salts, Himalayan Pink salt is 99% sodium chloride!

Why Do We Crave Salt?

Nutritionists claim that a craving for salt actually camouflages the real need – for a diet which is minerally richer. They are more likely to recommend a diet rich in vegetables and plants (the main source of minerals for our bodies) than suggesting increased salt intake!

Vegetables from the sea (a.k.a seaweeds!)  offer a very concentrated source of minerals, in some cases, up to 20 times the amount found in land vegetables for the same weight. Seaweeds  can also have a salty flavour (depending on how they are prepared) which satisfies the salt craving, yet provides a richer mineral offering.  A little seaweed everyday goes a long way.

Sea Salt Options to Consider

To increase your nutrient intake, simply swap processed table salts or rock salts with a sea salt.  Pacific Harvest offers a kelp salt or seaweed salt which provides a range of nutrients and minerals you simply won’t find in processed table salt. Plus the iodine is naturally occurring in our salt range, so you don’t need to look for salt which has been iodised artificially!  Sea Salts provide the added nutrients our bodies craves, and when combined with a little extra seaweed, also offer umami flavour, which adds depth and texture to a meal.

Keen to read more? Check out:


Food myths about salt and high blood pressure
Institute for Medicine (IOM) sodium intake in population

Disclaimer: This material is provided for educational purposes only and IS NOT intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This information is generic and should be verified by a qualified health practitioner for specific & individual needs & requirements.

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