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"Posh" salts, popularly known as rock salts, are used in many dishes and are quite popular among chefs as well. However, a research conducted by the Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) and Which? Magazine, reveals that gourmet rock and sea salts are as damaging to health as regular salt, despite the claims on packets that the products are "natural" and "contain minerals."
The sodium chloride content of "posh" salts was measured by a public analyst. Sodium and chloride combine to form salt (NaCl), and it is this combination of minerals which triggers hypertension, leading to strokes, heart failure and heart disease and is also linked to osteoporosis, stomach cancer and kidney disease.
The study shows the rock salts contain as much sodium chloride as each other, and are therefore just as damaging for health. However, according to a Which? member survey, those who buy rock or sea salt cite reasons such as believing they are healthier (24 percent) or more natural (39 percent) than table salt.
"It is disgraceful that chefs still encourage people to use so much sea and rock salt. This has the added danger that, as the crystal sizes are much larger and don't taste as salty, more salt is consumed. Reducing salt intake by just by 1 gram per day is predicted to prevent over 6,000 deaths from strokes and heart attacks a year," said Graham MacGregor, chairman of CASH.
The research suggests that a number of brands make spurious health claims on packets declaring that their product is "natural," contains "essential minerals," and is a "tastier and healthier alternative" to table salt. Salt is not a good source of minerals - eating a healthy, balanced diet will ensure you have enough minerals in your diet.
"Most of the salt we eat, about 75 percent, is hidden in the food we buy, and we are already eating more than our daily recommended maximum of 6g. If you have to use salt, try to limit the amount you use, there really is absolutely no need to add salt to your food," said Kay Dilley, a nutritionist at CASH.
Nearly half (46 percent) of Which? members buy rock and sea salts even though they are costlier than table salts, the study found. There is a 22-fold difference in price between the premium Halen Mon Pure White Sea Salt at £1.80 and Saxa Table Salt at £0.08 per 100g. Fleur de Sel from Zauber der Gewürze, a specialist salt, costs a staggering £9.29/100g, 116 times the cost per 100g of Saxa Table Salt at £0.08 per 100g. Despite these huge variations in cost, they are all just as damaging for health.
"Many of us are trying to reduce the amount of salt in our diet, but our research shows that people are needlessly spending more money on 'premium' salt as they often believe it's healthier than traditional table salt," said Which? chief policy adviser Sue Davies.
"Given that most of the salt we eat is already in the food we buy, the cheapest - and healthiest - option would be to stop adding extra salt to food altogether. Which? is calling on food manufacturers to reduce the amount of salt in their foods, and we'll be monitoring their progress over the coming months," Davies added.
The research points out that sodium chloride accounts for nearly 100 percent of all rock and sea salts surveyed and are, therefore, just a more pricey way of damaging our health.