bite my words

Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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Sea Salt vs Table Salt: The battle wages on

I know that I’ve ranted about the confusion surrounding sea salt before but I think it bears repeating.

Chatelaine magazine has all these little tips at the bottom of each page and in a recent issue one read: “Season with sea salt – it has way less sodium than table salt.” No wonder people are confused! There are advertisments for french fries stating that they’re seasoned with sea salt, implying that makes them healthier than other fries (of course, there are other health concerns with excessive fry consumption besides the sodium content). Then messages like the one in Chatelaine are appearing in the media.

To be clear, there is very little difference between the sodium content of table salt and the sodium content of sea salt. Table salt contains 593 mg of sodium in 1/4 teaspoon. Sea salt contains 510 mg of sodium in 1/4 teaspoon. Yes, it appears that there is slightly more sodium in the table salt. However, for the package of sea salt I was looking at 1/4 teaspoon was equivalent to 1.3 grams while the 1/4 teaspoon of table salt was equivalent to 1.5 grams. That means, gram for gram, table salt contains 395.33 mg and sea salt contains 392.31 mg. So, does table salt contain way more sodium than sea salt? Nope. They’re pretty similar. Keeping in mind that this is relying on labels and the Canadian Nutrient Data File, neither of which are renowned for accuracy. I think if you were going to make any sort of claim about sea salt and sodium, the correct scientific wording would be: sea salt may contain an itsy bitsy teeny weeny little bit less sodium than table salt.


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Don’t judge a food by its box

Was just reading this article about the CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency) ending their inspection program for products making nutritional claims. My initial reaction to this pronouncement is mixed. Obviously, it’s not to our benefit (as consumers) to have this information unregulated. From the sounds of it food manufacturers will now be able to put pretty much whatever they want on packaging, as far as nutritional claims go, unless someone files a complaint with the CFIA. At the same time, we shouldn’t be relying on packaging to provide us with our nutrition education. Nor should we be purchasing many packaged foods in the first place. I believe that it was Michael Pollan who recommended that we not purchase foods that make nutritional claims on their packages. It may be a little extreme to go this far, but he does have a valid point. Why on earth would we trust food packaging when it’s clearly designed to convince us to buy foods. It’s just another marketing tool for the food industry. There may be some truth in some of the claims. However, you need to look farther than the front of the package. I suggest purchasing foods in as minimally processed a state as possible. When you are buying packaged foods, read the nutrition facts panel, compare different brands. Also, look at the top and bottom shelves. Eye-level shelves are premium spots at grocery stores and manufacturers pay a premium price to have their products placed there. You may find a healthier version at a lower price on a lower shelf. Remember: it’s not what’s on the box that counts, it’s what’s inside the box.

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