What's the Difference Between Sea Salt and Table Salt

Medically Reviewed by Christine Mikstas, RD, LD on February 25, 2024
2 min read

People assume that sea salt is healthier than table salt, but they actually share the same basic nutritional value.

The key differences between sea salt and table salt are the source of the salt and the methods of extraction and processing.

Eating too much of either can lead to high blood pressure and heart disease.

As the name suggests, sea salt is made by evaporating seawater. The salt left over from evaporation is not processed, or processed very little, so it retains traces of minerals like calcium, potassium, and magnesium. The crystals are bigger than in table salt and add some crunch when sprinkled on food.

In contrast, table salt is mined from salt deposits. Table salt is processed to make it both purer and finer, thereby removing any natural minerals it may contain. Table salt is then fortified with additives to prevent it from clumping together. One important additive in table salt is the mineral iodine, which helps make thyroid hormones and thus contributes to thyroid health.

Sodium is a mineral your body needs to maintain the normal function of its muscles and nerves and to balance body fluids. Sodium is found in many foods, including salt, which is made up of sodium chloride. 

Both table salt and sea salt contain around 40% sodium by weight. Some kinds of sea salt have bigger crystals than table salt, so there's usually less sodium in a spoon of sea salt compared to a spoon of table salt due to their different-sized crystals. For example, a teaspoon of table salt contains around 2,360 mg of sodium compared to 2,000 mg in a teaspoon of sea salt.

Although 1,500 mg of sodium per day is enough for adults, most people have much more than this amount: The average American consumes more than 3,400 mg of sodium each day. A diet high in sodium can raise your blood pressure, leading to a higher risk of heart disease and stroke.

Table salt is fortified with iodine, an element needed to make thyroid hormone. Your body can’t make iodine by itself, so it has to come from your diet. If you don’t get enough iodine, your body won’t make enough thyroid hormone and your thyroid can become enlarged as a result, leading to a condition called goiter. Table salt, therefore, helps prevent goiter.

Sea salt benefits include helping calm skin irritation and flare-ups in people with eczema when used as part of a warm bath. Sea salts with high levels of magnesium can also help increase hydration and reduce the roughness of skin in people with dry skin.