Not all Sea Salts are Created Equal

by Eliza Ward

Most natural sea salts are a product of the earth’s oceans. The Earth’s oceans are composed primarily of eight elements: Oxygen, hydrogen, chlorine, and sodium, with smaller amounts of magnesium, sulfur, calcium and potassium. But there is a long list of about 75 other elements, mostly minerals, which are also present. Our bodies contain many of the same elements, and in surprisingly similar proportions – with the exception that the ocean has a lot more water and we are not as salty.

But not all natural sea salts are created equal. The two main conditions that impact the amount of non-sodium chloride in the sea salt (location) are where and how the salt is made (artistry). The process of making sea salt, although fundamentally simple, is actually very complex, depending on what you are trying to achieve. Artisan salt makers adjust their salt making processes in an effort to achieve their unique desired mix of minerals in their salt. With the exception of Dead Sea Salt, sodium chloride is going to be the main mineral in sea salt. However, the percent of sodium chloride can vary from as little as 83%, to as much as 99.9%, depending on where and how the salt is made.

The Thing About French Gray Salt is...

The best example is the salt works in western France. They produce an amazingly delicious salt called sel gris (or gray salt). Gray salts are some of the highest levels of non-sodium chloride natural sea salts on the market today. The reason gray salt is so high in trace minerals is two-fold. First, the salt dehydrating and crystalizing pans of Brittany and neighboring regions of western France are made of a fine, gray silt. As the gray salt forms in those pans, it picks up small amount of the gray silt, both turning the salt gray, and adding trace elements and natural impurities to the salt – elements that not only add to the flavor, but are good for our bodies.

Second, as the world was moving towards producing pure sodium chloride salt for the worldwide market, the French salt makers held steadfastly onto their traditional salt-making ways, and worked to maintain their unique method of producing what they considered the most delicious salt in the world - which includes retaining as many of the non-sodium chloride elements present in sea water as possible, and thus maintaining the unique and important mineral balance found most consistently in the world’s oceans.* Although this may sound easier than pulling all the “impurities” out, it actually isn’t. The art of retaining all the good, while eliminating the bad is actually very complex, and requires more work, thought and engineering than producing pure, or almost pure, sodium chloride. So, if you are looking for a salt with the highest levels of non-sodium chloride, gray salt may be your best choice. If you are looking for a deliciously balanced sea salt, gray salt may also be your best choice, depending on your palate.

* The world’s oceans contain the following mineral balance – plus or minus: 83-84% sodium chloride, 8.5-9.5% magnesium chloride, 3-3.5% potassium chloride, 3% sulfur, 1% calcium carbonate, 1% all the other trace minerals. French gray salt comes the closest, compared to all other sea salts, to mimicking the mineral balance of the world’s oceans – and to the mineral balance in our bodies. That makes gray salt one of the healthiest salts you can consume – after all, where did man come from?

See next article: The Way of Salt

See prior article: The Nutritional Death of Sea Salt


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