Sea salt is an all-natural alternative to highly processed table salt. It is harvested from the ocean in a traditional manner that dates back thousands of years.
Unlike commercial table salt, sea salt retains a rich complement of minerals that provide an array of healthful benefits. In short, it is good for you in ways standard table salt can never be.
Sea salt is produced in many countries and each variety has its own pros and cons. After careful deliberation, we determined that the following are the 10 best sea salt of 2020.
1. La Baleine French Fine Sea Salt
The French have one of the oldest sea salt collecting traditions in Europe. La Baleine French Fine Sea Salt is gleaned from the Mediterranean along the coast in Camargue, France. The Aigues-Mortes saltworks that harvests the salt has been in continuous operation since 1856 and uses the traditional evaporative method to separate the salt from the sea water.
Unlike some sea salts, La Baleine is ground prior to packaging and comes ready to sprinkle on your favorite dish. La Baleine has been a favored food additive of sophisticated French chefs for more than 150 years. It’s a rock-solid option with broad-based appeal and will make a fine addition to any kitchen.
2. Selina Celtic Sea Salt
The Celtic Sea east of the British Isles is one of the most active sea salt harvesting areas in Europe. The Irish, Scottish, English, Welsh and French all collect salt from the Celtic Sea and have for centuries. Selina Celtic Sea Salt is harvested here and imported to the US by SelinaNaturally.
The company was founded in 1976 and is dedicated to introducing the American palate to the benefits and superior tastes of sea salt. Selina Celtic Sea Salt has a mild greyish tint, courtesy of a natural clay material found at the bottom of the traditional evaporation pools in this part of the world. Selina Celtic Sea Salt is provided in its whole crystal form, so you will need a salt grinder (much like a pepper grinder) to reduce the crystals to an edible size.
3. Maldon Sea Salt Flakes
Sea salt production and the British Isles go hand in hand. It’s difficult to determine exactly when the people of what is now the UK first started to harvest salt from the sea, but the seminal ‘Doomsday Book’ notes that sea salt production was already well established in the year 1086. Maldon Salt, the company that makes these Sea Salt Flakes, has been in operation for more than 135 years on the Essex coast.
This highly sought after, delicious, flaky-textured salt product is a staple of British homes and has also found favor on the continent and beyond. It is considered a must-have by gourmands who often use it as a finishing salt. Maldon Sea Salt Flakes will elevate even the most mundane dishes to legendary status and turn your ho-hum cocktails into the talk of the party.
4. Black Lava Hawaiian Sea Salt
Hawaiian Sea Salt is produced in limited quantities by hand and is prized both for its taste and for its medicinal qualities. The makers of Black Lava Hawaiian Sea Salt heavily promote those medicinal qualities, and they are real and many. But you’d be missing out if you did not also use this sea salt to flavor your favorite dishes or make margaritas that will have your friends beating a path to your door.
From the medicinal side, Black Lava dissolves well in water and makes for a skin rejuvenating bath that is hard to beat. Use it to soak your feet in after a hard day at work and you’ll never look at salt the same way again. The activated charcoal in the salt can be safely ingested and helps take some of the sting out of the salt, giving it its distinctive mild flavor.
5. Artisan Salt Co Mediterranean Sea Salt
Saltworks makes it their mission to find some of the best sea salts from around the world and make them available to their customers. In this case their Mediterra Premium Sea Salt is harvested from the shores of the Mediterranean Sea in the traditional evaporative method using nothing but solar energy and physical labor.
It’s a time consuming process but one that yields a salt of high quality and distinctive taste. This is a coarse ground, meaning you will need to have a salt grinder on the table next to the pepper grinder. Rich in valuable nutrients it will not only elevate the flavor of your favorite dishes but elevate your overall health in the process.
6. Wild Foods Kosher Fine Flake Sea Salt
Wild Kosher Flake Salt is harvested off the Korean coast using the time honored traditional methods. The resulting salt has a light, flaky character that makes it an ideal finishing salt that will slowly melt into your dishes. It also makes margaritas of distinction or it can be ground for use in the salt shaker.
The flavor is subtle, the salt is nutrient rich, and it is one of the more versatile sea salts you’ll find, as it can also be dissolved into warm water to create a relaxing and rejuvenating foot soak. Wild Kosher Fine Flake Sea Salt is an all-natural item whose production supports a traditional way of life on the Korean Peninsula.
7. The Spice Lab Himalayan Salt
Eons ago the area now known as the Himalayan Mountain Range laid at the bottom of the ocean between the landmass of Asia and the then-separate Indian subcontinent. As the subcontinent moved north and slammed into Asia, the bottom of that ocean was forced upward. It is now located many thousands of feet above sea level which is where the Himalayan sea salt mines of Pakistan and India can be found.
The salt that emerges from those mines has a characteristic pink color due to its unique mineral content. This particular Himalayan Salt from Spice Lab is quite coarse so you will need to have a salt mill on hand to transform it into a usable state. But don’t worry. It grinds easily and makes an ideal complement to your meat, fish or vegetable dishes.
8. Redmond Real Sea Salt
Much like the seabed of a now extinct ocean rose out of the water to become the Himalayas, so too was there once an inland sea in what is now the American Southwest. That area, like the Himalayas, was pushed upward through tectonic activity, and the sea bed dried out. Evidence of this can be seen in what we now call the Bonneville Salt Flats, and the Great Salt Lake.
Redmond Sea Salt is harvested from mines not far from the salt flats. This is true sea salt that has been locked in the rocks for millions of years. It is unprocessed, teeming with nutrients and possesses a mild, distinctive taste. Redmond Real Sea Salt is pre-ground for your convenience. But that is as far as the processing goes.
9. Olde Thompson Mediterranean Sea Salt Crystals
You can’t mention the Mediterranean region without mentioning Italy, the country that ruled the entire Mediterranean basin for more than a thousand years. The Romans were heavily involved in sea salt production and that tradition survives to this day in many parts of the Italian peninsula.
The name ‘Old Thompson’ does not conjure up images of Roman Imperial glory, but the owners of the company know a good thing when they see it and import this traditional Italian product to the US for you to enjoy. This is mineral rich sea salt that will not only elevate your culinary creations to the next level, but will enhance your overall health and wellbeing in the process.
10. Minera Natural Dead Sea Salt
Finally, because sea salt is not only about cooking, we’ve included Minera Natural Dead Sea Salt. The Dead Sea is world famous for its incredible salt content. Millions of people from around the world converge on the shores of the Dead Sea every year to float in its waters and enjoy their medicinal benefits.
Let’s be clear: Minera Natural Dead Sea Salt is NOT for consumption. It is intended to be mixed into your bath water and soaked in. Those with skin conditions, arthritis, or who have just had a long, stressful day will emerge from a bath with Dead Sea Salt feeling renewed and relaxed.
What Is Sea Salt?
There are two types of salt sold commercially. Common table salt is mined from the ground and put through a long involved process to make it more visually appealing. Along the way many of its valuable minerals are removed and what is left is a pretty, but caustic, product that often does more harm than good.
Sea salt, on the other hand, is typically produced by trapping water from the ocean in a shallow pond and letting that water evaporate. What is left is a layer of salt which is broken up and collected. It is then washed to remove impurities, packaged and sold.
Because it undergoes virtually no processing sea salt retains its complement of beneficial minerals, including potassium, calcium, sodium, magnesium and many more. As a result, it has a much higher nutritional value than over-processed table salt.
Also, many types of sea salt are sold in their harvested state. That is, they are packaged and sold in their original crystal form. These crystals can sometimes be (relatively) large compared to what you may be used to with regular table salt.
As such, you will need what is called a ‘salt mill’ or ‘salt grinder’ to grind the crystals before using the sea salt. A salt mill is the equivalent of a handheld pepper grinder you see in restaurants, or you may already have in your home.
Are There Different Kinds of Sea Salt?
Sea salt comes from different parts of the world, and the people in each location like to think their sea salt is the best. The following are some of the most popular types of sea salt on the market today.
Celtic sea salt – This type of salt is harvested from the Celtic Sea (1) which extends along the eastern side of the British Isles and touches on the northern coast of France, in Brittany. Celtic sea salt often has a grey tint to it and is prized for its high electrolyte content.
Fleur de sel – As you may have guessed from the name, this is another sea salt with French origins. The name means ‘flower of salt’ and is bestowed upon this product because of the thin, petal-like nature of the salt crystals. It is typically used as a finishing salt. You will sometimes see this sea salt sold under the name ‘flor de sal’ which also means ‘flower of salt’ but indicates it was harvested from the sea around the Iberian Peninsula.
Hawaiian sea salt – This type of sea salt is not produced on nearly the same scale as many other sea salts. It can have a black or reddish color that derives from adding volcanic clay to the evaporation ponds and letting it bind with the salt crystals. Because it is produced in modest quantities (2), Hawaiian sea salt is typically some of the most expensive.
Himalayan sea salt – Himalayan sea salt is often touted as the world’s purest type of sea salt. This sea salt is all that is left of an ancient sea bed that has been raised up into the mountains of northern Pakistan and India by millions of years of tectonic plate activity. As such, it is mined from the earth, not evaporated from ocean water (3). This type of sea salt often takes on a pinkish hue due to the mineral content and is much sought after for its many purported health benefits.
What are the Benefits of Using Sea Salt?
Sea salt is good for your skin – Unlike highly refined and processed table salt, sea salt retains its rich mineral content. These minerals include sodium, calcium, magnesium, sulfur, phosphorus, potassium, boron, zinc, iron, copper and silicon. Many of them are essential to maintaining the role your skin plays in your body’s immune response. Healthy skin is also less susceptible to eczema, psoriasis, acne and other conditions.
Sea salt helps balance electrolytes – Electrolytes are critical in helping to balance the amount of water and minerals in your system (4). When electrolytes are low we often feel sluggish and experience muscle cramps and confusion; particularly on hot days or after workouts. Sea salt is loaded with electrolytes. It can help power your workouts and make sure you always feel your best.
Sea salt is good for your teeth – You may have noticed lately that in a lot of places you can buy toothpaste with salt in it. This might seem like an odd development but it is driven by the recent discoveries regarding the beneficial effects of sea salt on oral health. Sea salt actually contains fluoride. It is also useful in neutralizing damage from acidic foods and it bolsters the strength of tooth enamel.
Sea salt can help prevent muscle cramps – If you are into working out, or any type of physical activity for that matter, you know how nasty it feels when you start cramping up. Most (not all) cramps are due to an electrolyte shortage (5), which is why electrolyte drinks like Gatorade are so popular. But if sea salt is part of your regular diet, you may never need to buy an electrolyte drink ever again.
Sea salt treatment can reduce arthritis pain – Osteoarthritis (6) is most often the result of years of wear and tear on the joints of the hands and legs. Treatment typically consists of anti-inflammatory medicines and perhaps physical therapy. But a new study suggests soaking arthritic knees in sea salt can have a noticeably positive effect that lasts for months (7). The study took place at the Dead Sea, but there is no reason you can’t reproduce the effect in your bathtub.
Sea salt does not promote water retention – Most people have heard that one of the reasons salt is no good for you is because it causes the body to retain water. It’s true that highly processed table salt will do that to you. Sea salt, however, will not. In fact, sea salt typically produces the opposite effect. The potassium and sodium help release excess water from cells, ensuring your body retains a proper water balance.
Sea salt may help improve your mood – Who knew that a sodium deficiency could lead a person to feel depressed? But that’s what a recent study out of the University of Iowa concluded (8). Researchers there determined that both our bodies and our minds crave salt, and if they do not get enough it can affect our mood, producing symptoms of depression. This helps explain, at least in part, why people are so drawn to salty foods.
Sea salt aids in digestion – Digestion of food begins in the mouth where it is transformed into a state that can be easily swallowed. The principal vehicle of this initial step in the digestive process is an enzyme called ‘salivary amylase’. Salivary amylase activity is regulated by sodium (9). So if you are not getting enough sodium in your diet, digestion will suffer.
Sea salt may help stabilize blood sugar levels – It may be too early to draw definitive conclusions, but animal testing suggests that an increase in sodium consumption can have a beneficial effect on blood glucose levels (10). As we said, these results are preliminary, so it would be premature to start loading up your food with salt to stabilize your blood sugars. But it’s a development that’s worth keeping an eye on.
Sea salt helps promote effective nervous system function – Sodium is vital to the functioning of the nervous system. Not getting enough sodium can cause a condition known as hyponatremia (11). Symptoms of hyponatremia include confusion, headache, drowsiness, muscle spasms and more. Making sea salt part of your diet can fend off this dangerous condition.
Sea salt is useful for treating psoriasis – We have already seen how soaking in water rich in sea salt can benefit arthritic knees. But that is not the only benefit of this type of therapy, called ‘balneotherapy’. Researchers in Israel studied the effects of balneotherapy on psoriasis and determined that it produces real and lasting benefits (12).
Sea salt restores proper adrenal gland function – One of the jobs of the adrenal gland is to regulate our response to stress. But if a person is not getting adequate amounts of sodium in their diet adrenal gland function can suffer. Symptoms of adrenal insufficiency (13) include fatigue, weight loss, achy joints, extremely low blood pressure, irritability and more. Making sea salt part of your diet can help fend off this condition.
Are There Side Effects to Eating Sea Salt?
Most people will not experience any adverse side effects from modest sea salt consumption. After all, the body requires sodium. So, in spite of all the horror stories out there regarding salt, you need to get it from somewhere or your body will simply break down. The key to salt consumption is, and always has been, moderation. Because too much of any kind of salt (sea salt included) will increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Unlike highly processed table salt, sea salt is slightly lower in sodium by volume. It also retains most of its mineral content and therefore has a higher nutritional value. Many kinds of table salt also include additives used to prevent it from clumping so that it always looks good. Sea salt does not contain any of these artificial additives.
The Bottom Line
Sea salt is a smart, environmentally-friendly alternative to commercially produced, highly processed table salt. It is nutrient rich, unsullied by additives, often produced by hand using traditional methods, and tends to have a lower sodium content by volume than table salt.
Sea salt can be used for cooking, baking, finishing dishes and has numerous medicinal applications as well. It’s good for your skin, can help relieve arthritis pain, facilitates digestion, strengthens tooth enamel, and can prevent muscle cramps after a strenuous workout.
Sea salt is produced in many parts of the world and has been since ancient times. In our opinion, the 10 sea salts profiled above represent the best the market has to offer today.