Trace minerals in gourmet salt

Are the amounts of trace minerals in gourmet salts significant?

Pawel Malczewski
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Short summary

Contrary to what many nutritionists have stated and what the marketing messages of gourmet salt manufacturers claim, the amount of trace minerals in gourmet salt is insignificant. For a quick answer click here.

Explanation

Prices and popularity of gourmet salts, including various types of sea salt, vary widely depending on rarity, distinct flavors and colors, but also because of many (mostly incorrect) health claims.

These health claims relate to the supposedly high mineral contents of these types of salts, are conflicting and are not backed by scientific data.

To determine the relevance to our health of the amount of minerals in salt, we need to consider a few questions:

  1. How much salt do we consume per day and what is the percentage of gourmet salt?
  2. What quantities of trace minerals does a gourmet portion of the salt contain and how do they compare to the recommended dietary requirements of these minerals?
  3. How much of these minerals are we actually consuming from our foods?

The following are the answers to these questions, using the conclusions of some laboratory analysis, the recommendations of the daily intake of theses minerals and some calculations.

  1. How much salt do we consume per day and what is the percentage of gourmet salt?
    The average amount of salt consumption in the developed countries, such as the U.S., Canada, some European countries and Australia, is around 8,500mg (8.5g).
    Out of this amount, only 13% is taken at the table or for cooking. For the purpose of this article, this 13% is assumed to be gourmet salt. This results in about 1.1g of gourmet salt per day. (read more..)
  2. What quantities of trace minerals does a gourmet portion of the salt contain and how do they compare to the recommended dietary requirements of these minerals?
    Even the most mineral abundant salts such as most popular Himalayan pink salt or Celtic salt contain insignificant amounts of the trace elements when comparing to their recommended daily intakes.
    See table below.

  3. How much of these minerals are we actually consuming from our foods?
    Foods consumed throughout the day contain a wide variety minerals. The amount of these minerals from all the foods combined makes the contribution from salt negligible.
    See table below for comparison of salt and a number of random foods.

The following table shows the test results of the analysis done by various labs (SPEX CertiPrep (1)Atkins P. Analysis of Gourmet Salts for the Presence of Heavy Metals. SPEX CertiPrep, Metuchen, NJ. 2012. Available here., Selina Naturally (2)Celtic Sea Salt Unrefined Sea Salt Analysis). Available here. (3)Selina Naturally. Celtic salt mineral analysis. 2013. Available here. on several types of salt, ranging from table salt to the most nutrient rich gourmet salt and from various regions of the world.

The table shows the maximum amount of essential minerals found in these salts and compares it with the recommended daily intake and some common foods in our daily diet. The objective is to see if these amounts are a significant addition to our diet.

MineralCalciumCopperIronPotassiumMagnesiumManganesePhosphorusSeleniumZinc
RDI for men1,0000.984,7004205.57000.05511
RDI for women1,0000.9184,70032057000.0558
Maximum amount found is any salt (mg/g)1.40.00120.51298.60.0220.380.0030.0035
% of RDI for men0.14%0.13%6.38%0.62%2.05%0.4%0.05%5.46%0.03%
% RDI for Women0.14%0.13%2.83%0.62%2.69%0.44%0.05%5.45%0.04%
More common gourmet "Celtic Sea Salt" (mg/g)2.1600.222.26.060.011.5300.01
% of RDI for men0.22%0%2.75%0.05%1.44%0.18%0.22%0%0.09%
% RDI for Women0.22%0%1.22%0.05%1.89%0.2%0.22%0%0.13%
1 portion of Romaine lettuce (94g)310123213.20.228.20.00040.2
% of RDI for men3.1%0%12.5%4.94%3.14%3.64%4.03%0.73%1.82%
% RDI for Women3.1%0%5.56%4.94%4.13%4%4.03%0.73%2.5%
1 serving of almonds (1 ounce -28g)70.30.31187.671.40.6128.80.00070.8
% of RDI for men7.03%33.33%12.5%3.99%17%10.91%18.4%1.27%7.27%
% RDI for Women7.03%33.33%5.56%3.99%22.31%12%18.4%1.27%10%
1 portion of pumpkin seeds (1 ounce - 28g)120.44.22261500.83290.00162.1
% of RDI for men1.2%44.44%52.5%4.81%35.71%14.55%47%2.91%19.09%
% RDI for Women1.2%44.44%23.33%4.81%46.88%16%47%2.91%26.25%
1 portion of beef (6oz - 170g)340.23.466844.20414.80.0619.6
% of RDI for men3.4%22.22%42.5%14.21%10.52%0%59.26%110.91%87.27%
% RDI for Women3.4%22.22%18.89%14.21%13.81%0%59.26%110.91%120%
The salts tested include a wide range of popular salts from different regions of the world, such as: Reagent Grade NaCl, Cyprus Black, Mediterranean Sea Salt, Sel Gris De Guerande, Alaea Hawaiian Sea Salt, Hawai Kai Black Salt, Murray River Pink Flake Salt, Primordial Himalayan Salt, Sel De Mer, Kala Namak Black Mineral Salt, Fumee de Sel Chardonnay Oak Smoked Salt, Himalayan Pink Fine Mineral Salt, Celtic Sea Salt Light Grey Celtic, Celtic Sea Salt Fine Ground, Celtic Sea Salt Flower of the Ocean, Makai Pure Deep Sea Salt and Table Salt Non-iodized.

The main conclusion from the table above is that even if we only use the most mineral abundant salts (which are quite rare and expensive such as the Kala Namak Black Mineral Salt or the Fumee de Sel Chardonnay Oak Smokes Salt), only 3 minerals, iron selenium and magnesium, appear in reasonably high quantities compared to the other trace minerals.

However, even these quantities do not reach 10% of the Recommend Dietary Intake for these minerals.

If we take into consideration the most common and advertised gourmet salt, the amount of minerals is clearly negligible in comparison with the standard servings of a selected group of foods.

Please note that there are many servings of the various foods consumed during the day, so the amount of minerals ingested would be much higher, making the contribution from these gourmet salts even more insignificant by comparison.

Another common myth based partially on the high trace mineral claims is that popular gourmet salts are healthier than table salt. Click here to find out more about the differences of gourmet salts and table salts.

Conclusion

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The amount of trace minerals does not contribute significantly to our daily requirements, even from the richest gourmet salts.

Sodium and chloride form the major part of the volume of any type of salt and this is how it should be treated – as a source of these two minerals.

Other minerals are only in trace amounts in salt and are insignificant in comparison with what we receive from a wide variety of foods in our diet.

For better health, it makes more sense to select nutrient dense foods rather than worrying about the amount of trace minerals in salt.

References   [ + ]

1. Atkins P. Analysis of Gourmet Salts for the Presence of Heavy Metals. SPEX CertiPrep, Metuchen, NJ. 2012. Available here.
2. Celtic Sea Salt Unrefined Sea Salt Analysis). Available here.
3. Selina Naturally. Celtic salt mineral analysis. 2013. Available here.