Though there’s no actual evidence that the coarse, chunky flecks of sea salt found in grocery aisles are any better for you than regular table salt, some salt aficionados say it tastes better because it’s taken from evaporated seawater instead of being mined in underground salt deposits. Less processing means more nutrients, right?
Maybe. But that’s only if your container of sea salt actually comes from seawater. And while you’d think the Food and Drug Administration would make sure of that, they don’t. According to author Robert L. Wolke in his book What Einstein Told His Cook: Kitchen Science Explained, sea salt doesn’t actually need to come from the sea to be called that, so long as it meets the FDA’s requirements for purity. A manufacturer might mine two bins of salt from the same deposit source, labeling one table salt and the other “sea salt.” The FDA is not going to demand proof that the latter came from evaporated seawater at the time the supplier retrieved it.
To best understand it, it's better to think of sea salt in less literal terms. Wolke writes that table salt is typically infused with anti-caking agents and other additives. By buying sea salt, you’re avoiding ingredients that would normally be found in a salt shaker. Sea salt also tends to be favored by chefs for some recipes because the larger crystals provide a more potent burst of flavor if sprinkled. (Dissolved in water, it won’t matter much.)
So go ahead and opt for sea salt if you’d like—just don’t assume it’s sourced differently. And keep in mind that may not be a bad thing. Recent studies have found that many genuine sea salts were contaminated with micro-plastics, likely as a result of waste pollution in waters.