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Scale Back on Sodium Without Sacrificing Flavor? Yes! What Experts Want You To Know About Green Salt

The marsh seasoning has 76% less sodium than regular table salt

Trying to reduce your sodium intake? Going cold turkey can be a tall order. Processed foods and restaurant meals contain salt in high quantities, and cooking without salt at home presents a challenge for those of us who enjoy the taste. Fortunately, there’s a “new” option that can help: green salt.

Unlike the fine white crystals of table salt, green salt is powdery (similar to matcha) and sold in a brown paper bag instead of a grinder or salt tub. It also comes with a few extra nutrients, including magnesium, potassium, chlorophyll (hence the green color) and vitamin B3. The hitch: A bag of green salt costs upwards of $20 for less than 9 oz. (Buy from Green Salt, $22). Iodized table salt, on the other hand, costs much less. In fact, you buy a 26 oz. bottle for just 72 cents! (Buy from Walmart, $0.72). So why should you consider adding green salt to your culinary repertoire, and is it worth the price? Here’s what our experts had to say.

What is green salt?

“Green salt, also known as salicornia or ‘sea asparagus,’ is a unique form of sea vegetable derived from a specific type of edible seaweed,” explains Kelsey Costa, MS, RDN, a registered dietitian and nutrition consultant for the National Coalition on Healthcare. “This nutrient-rich sea plant, which thrives in salty marshes and coastal areas, is harvested, dried and ground into a fine, green-hued salt substitute. Its distinctive flavor and vibrant color have made it increasingly popular in culinary circles, often appearing on ingredient lists under its other names, such as samphire, glasswort or pickleweed.”

Long used in Europe and Asia, particularly Korea, green salt is a low-sodium alternative to table salt. It contains roughly 280 mg of sodium per 1/2 tsp. compared to the 1,150 mg found in the same amount of table salt, Costa says.

Salicornia, or green salt plant, growing in a sandy shore by water
Getty

Related: “I Healed My Slow Thyroid With Sea Kelp — Now I Feel Better Than Ever!”

What green salt tastes like

“It has a more subtle taste compared to regular table salt, with a powdered texture like a ground herb,” explains Costa. “It’s mildly salty with an umami flavor, but also brings an unmistakable hint of seaweed.”

And although green salt doesn’t contain monosodium glutamate (MSG), nutrition expert and food scientist Taylor C. Wallace, PhD, CFS, FACN, calls it a natural form of MSG, a flavor enhancer that adds umami to savory foods thanks to its high levels of glutamate. As with MSG, Dr. Wallace says use of green salt is best with savory foods. “If you’re making an Asian dish or something where you might want to add a seaweed flavor, that’s the time to use green salt.” In addition, chefs are increasingly choosing it as a finishing salt for fish, seafood or roasted vegetables.

Related: Your Dried Herbs & Spices *Do* Expire — Here’s How To Tell When To Toss Them

Green salt contains a variety of nutrients

Companies that produce green salt suggest that it’s rich in vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, copper and vitamin B3, Costa says. She notes, however, that to be considered “high” in a nutrient, the food should contain at least 20% of the recommended daily value. Green salt contains just 4% of the daily value of magnesium and copper and 15% of the daily value of vitamin B3. “Still, these nutrients play crucial roles in numerous bodily functions, including metabolism, nerve function and immune health.”

Green salt also contains trace amounts of iodine, potassium, protein and fiber, but Costa says the amounts aren’t enough to bring health perks. She does say that green salt is a safe alternative to salt substitutes, which contain potassium, for people with health conditions (such as kidney disease) who need to watch their potassium intake. (Click through to see the best potassium-rich foods.)

How green salt can improve your health

While much of the research on green salt has studied its effect on animals or what it does in a Petrie dish in the lab, salicornia does show promise in few areas of health. Green salt is rich in bioactive phytochemicals that have confirmed medicinal properties, including anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anticancer, antihypertensive, antimicrobial and antidiabetic, Costa says. And some compounds isolated from salicornia have shown significant protective effects for the brain, heart and liver, and even against the side effects of chemotherapy. “While these findings are promising, research in humans is lacking and more comprehensive studies are needed to confirm these benefits,” Costa adds.

One of these studies in the Journal of Medicinal Food found that salicornia extract had antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties in the lab. And a separate study in Antioxidants found that an antioxidant in the seaweed (13-KODE) reduced inflammation in certain white blood cells. “Anything with a plant component is going to have antioxidant capacity,” adds Dr. Wallace.

Another animal study in the journal Food & Function found that those given salicornia did not develop high blood pressure. But common table salt induced hypertension in a second group, despite the fact that both groups were given the same amount of sodium. Costa says this finding is largely credited to salicornia’s trans-ferulic acid, which seems to have a vasoprotective effect. The takeaway? “Green salt could be a viable alternative to regular salt in managing and preventing hypertension.” (Click through for more blood pressure hacks to lower your numbers naturally.)

The benefits of limiting sodium consumption

Swapping in green salt for regular table salt in certain savory dishes can help dial back your sodium intake. And that’s key when it comes to bolstering your health. “We know there’s a certain threshold to where the amount of sodium you get starts to matter,” says Dr. Wallace. “But the problem with nutrition is that it’s a very personalized thing.”

For instance, someone who is healthy and eats a varied diet with lots of fruits and vegetables may not need to worry as much as about sodium intake. That’s especially true if their blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar are all normal. “But if you’re hypertensive or prehypertensive, or you have other cardiovascular disease risk factors like diabetes or high blood cholesterol levels, then sodium intake matters more for you,” Dr. Wallace notes. In general, he says, healthy people only see a small change in blood pressure by lowering sodium intake.

Also, someone who gets enough potassium in their diet will limit negative effects of sodium intake. “The two balance each other out. So people with high sodium intake who also have high potassium intake don’t generally have a problem,” Dr. Wallace explains. (Click through for more potassium-rich foods.)

That said, researchers at Tulane University have suggested a link between high salt consumption and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, Costa adds. In fact, regular salt users were found to have a 39% higher risk of developing the disease than people who rarely use salt. “Elevated salt intake can disrupt gut bacteria balance, potentially contributing to insulin resistance through intestinal inflammation,” she says. “Furthermore, high salt intake, especially in overweight individuals, may increase calorie consumption (and subsequent sodium consumption), contributing to obesity, a major risk factor for diabetes.”

More easy ways to lower sodium intake

Aside from sprinkling lower-sodium green salt in place of table salt when possible, there are other ways you can slash your intake without sacrificing flavor. People are often advised to eliminate table salt and limit its use in cooking except where necessary, says Costa. But limiting salt doesn’t mean you have to limit taste. “Healthy, flavorful alternatives can be used for seasoning, such as herbs, spices, citrus juices like lemon or lime, and aromatic vegetables like garlic and onion. Other ingredients to consider include nutritional yeast, with its savory taste and essential nutrients, and salt-free seasoning blends, which offer a variety of flavors without adding sodium.” Also important: Checking labels for added salt.

What’s more, Dr. Wallace says using spices like basil, parsley, curries, cumin, turmeric, paprika and black and red pepper not only brings great flavor, but a host of powerful bioactive compounds that contribute to better health. “I also use lots of garlic in my kitchen,” he says. “Garlic powder or regular minced or chopped garlic has allicin, an anticancer agent.” (Click through to learn how to store garlic so it lasts longer.)

Gloves of garlic in a wooden spoon beside fresh, whole garlic
Getty

Costa says focusing on incorporating these naturally low-sodium options to flavor food are more advantageous than using low-sodium salts. Why? Low-sodium options are more expensive and not suitable for those with kidney disease and other conditions that call for restrictions on potassium. “Substitutes for regular salt, marketed as ‘salt substitute,’ ‘low-sodium salt,’ ‘potassium salt,’ ‘mineral salt,’ and ‘sodium-reduced salt,’ often replace sodium chloride with potassium chloride,” she says, which can be problematic for those limiting their potassium intake.

Help from the food industry

Dr. Wallace says the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) is in the midst of a voluntary sodium reduction initiative. “In the next two years, they have a goal of getting sodium intake down to 3,000 mg per day,” he says. The average intake right now is 3,600 mg daily. Currently, dietary guidelines advised by the American Heart Association call for limiting sodium intake to no more than 2,300 mg. And the ideal limit is 1,500 mg for those with hypertension, type 2 diabetes, or those who are at risk for these conditions, adds Costa.

The goal is to get sodium intake down to this 2,300 mg level over 10 years, Dr. Wallace says. “Most of the big food companies are trying to find novel ways to get sodium out of their products. But it’s also about safety, and sodium is one of the most effective means we have of controlling microbes,” he says, adding that some companies are very gradually reducing sodium content without calling attention to it on their labeling. “Sodium has good taste and people like it, so you have to take them down incrementally.”


For more seasonings and spices that improve your health:

The Astonishing Health Benefits of Saigon Cinnamon

Turmeric Milk for Weight Loss: How to Reap the Benefits of This Delicious Fat-Burner

Experts: This Honey Can Help Women Ease Hot Flashes, Boost Libido + More

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

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