Concerns about health and salt use have fueled sale of sea salts, but are they really different?

Healthy Salt? Debating the Benefits of Sea Salts

CONCERNS ABOUT HEALTH AND SALT USE HAVE FUELED SALE OF SEA SALTS, BUT ARE THEY REALLY DIFFERENT?

This blog was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated in July 2013, but you can read the original post here.

It’s hard to talk about health and salt in the same sentence, but every once in a while something comes along that forces the issue. This time it’s sea salts. The pitch being made by promoters is that sea salt contains all of the other minerals found in sea water, while regular table salt is processed to remove them. They claim those minerals are what make sea salt a healthy salt.

This is the point where I say, “Show me the evidence.”

What Makes Sea Salts Different?

All salt comes from the sea, so technically, it’s all sea salt. Some is evaporated from today’s oceans and salt water lakes, some is mined from deposits left from evaporated sea beds that are thousands of years old. When first collected the salt contains a variety of minerals, such as sulfate, magnesium, calcium and potassium.

Table salt is processed to remove the trace minerals and environmental impurities to create a product that has a consistent composition, size and taste.  Anti-clumping agents are added to many commercial brands so the salt flows freely. Iodine may also be added to provide a needed source of this essential mineral.

The first thing you’ll notice about see sea salt is that is isn’t always snow white. The color comes from the impurities that remain in it, like clay and volcanic ash, and the trace minerals. The next visual difference is the size of the crystals. They’re much larger than table salt, more like kosher salt, so don’t expect them to come out of a standard salt shaker.

If you put a few crystals on the tip of your tongue, you’ll find they don’t dissolve instantly. When they do, the taste may be milder or stronger than table salt, depending on the variety you’re sampling. Professional chefs say sea salts provide a fresher flavor to the foods they are added to, but you may not notice the difference.

Now for the big difference: Price. Sea salts cost anywhere from 2 to 10 times more that common table salt!

 Do Trace Minerals Make Sea Salt a Healthy Salt?

All of the other minerals found in sea salt are necessary for good health, but there are not enough of them in a teaspoon of sea salt to make it a useful source. And there are plenty of other ways to get those minerals, specifically from vegetables, fruits, whole grains and low fat dairy products — all foods we need to eat more of.

The most abundant mineral in sea salt is sodium. In fact, sea salt has the same amount of sodium as table salt, and that’s the problem. Dietary guidelines recommend reducing sodium consumption to lower blood pressure and risk for stroke. Sea salt offers no advantage over table salt when it comes to lowering sodium intake.

To see whether people might use less sea salt than table salt due to the texture and taste differences, researchers at the University of Guelph in Canada designed a study to measure that.  They published their findings in Food Research International and reported subjects did not use any less. Their conclusion was sea salt was not a viable option for reducing sodium in the diet.

What this means for anyone looking for a way to enjoy good health and salt is this: Use less salt no matter how much you pay for it!

Pumpkin deserves a place on the menu all year long for its high nutritional value.

What’s So Great About Pumpkins? Everything!

Pumpkins are a nutritious addition to the diet all year round

The capital O in October is just one of several reminders that it is the month that celebrates pumpkins! Of course, there is no reason to wait until the 10th month of the year (there’s another big circle) to enjoy this nutritious vegetable, but for most Americans, this is the season when they’re sure to have their fill.

Little Known Facts About Pumpkins

Pumpkins are believed to be native to North America, with the oldest pumpkin-related seeds found in Mexico and dated between 7000-5500 BC. Today they are grown on every continent except Antarctica. The U.S., Mexico, India and China are the biggest producers of pumpkin, with 95% of the U.S. crop grown in Illinois.

Pumpkin is included in cuisines around the world and used by veterinarians as a digestive aid for dogs and cats. It is also used raw as poultry feed and added to other animal food.

The current world record for the largest pumpkin weighed in at 1,810 pounds. There are also pumpkin chucking contests where various mechanical devices are used to see how far a pumpkin can be hurled. The world record was placed on September 9, 2010 using a pneumatic air cannon that fired a pumpkin 5,545.43 feet.

Pumpkins enjoy a special place in folklore where witches turn people into pumpkins and jack-o-lanterns ward off demons. In fiction pumpkins have run the gamut from being turned into a carriage for Cinderella and consumed as a favored drink by the students of the Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft in Harry Potter novels.

Important Nutrition Information About Pumpkins

Like most fruits and vegetables, fresh pumpkins are 90% water. And just like every other plant, they contain no cholesterol. One cup of boiled, drained and mashed pumpkin flesh contains these nutrients:

Macronutrients: Calories 49 , Fat 0g, Carbohydrate 12g of which naturally occurring sugar makes up 2g, Fiber 3g, Protein 2g.

Minerals: Potassium 565mg/16%*, Copper 0.2mg/11%, Manganese 0.2mg/11%, Iron 1.4mg/8%, Phosphorus 73.5mg/7%, Magnesium 22mg/6%, Calcium 36.7mg/4%, Zinc 0.6mg/4%, Sodium 2.5mg/0%.•

Vitamins: A 12231 IU/245%*, C 11.5mg/19%, B2 0.2mg/11%, E 2.0 mg/10%, Folate 22.0mg/6%, B1 0.1 mg/5%, B6 0.1mg/5%, Pantothenic Acid 0.5mg/5%, K 2.0mcg/2%

*Percentage of the Daily Value based on a 2000 calorie per day diet

Phytonutrients (plant nutrients that are neither vitamins nor minerals): Alpha and Beta carotenes, which can be converted into Vitamin A once consumed, and both Lutein and Zeaxanthin, which help protect the eyes from macular degeneration.

Uses Beyond Your Holiday Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkins are members of the winter squash family of vegetables and can be prepared in many of the same ways as members of that group, like butternut, Hubbard and turban squash. Whether you carve and cook your own or buy a canned pumpkin, it deserves a place on your menu all year long.

Here is a sampling of some of the many recipes you can find that include pumpkin:

Biscuits • Bread • Brownies • Brulee • Burgers • Cheesecake • Chili • Cookies • Crackers • Cream Cheese • Curry • Custard • Flan • Hash • Fudge • Muffins • Oatmeal • Pancakes • Pudding • Ravioli • Risotto • Salad • Scones • Smoothies • Soufflé • Soup • Stew • Waffles • Yogurt