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HealthWatch: Consumers Licking Their Lips Over Gourmet Salt

UNION CITY (CBS SF) - Salt is no longer boring little white specks of sodium chloride. The table shaker has been replaced by a bevy of designer options to season your food.

Dan Elmer showed CBS 5 HealthWatch his bounty of multi-hued exotic salts. Elmer is president of the San Francisco Salt Company.

"Red Alaea salt, Blue Hawaii salt, Mediterranean salt, Fleur de Sel, Celtic sea salt," Elmer murmured as he showed us bottle after bottle.

The Union City-based company sells artisanal salts from around the world. And people are licking' it up.

"Business is fantastic," said Elmer.

Good old fashion table salt is processed to remove minerals and usually contains additives to prevent clumping.

As for these artisanal salts, the least refined versions are unprocessed, and contain trace amounts of naturally occurring minerals, But does that mean it's ok to shake away with gourmet salt and lavish it on your meals?

Most health experts say "no."

In fact, swanky salt or not, federal experts say even if you're healthy, you should have no more than a teaspoon of sodium chloride a day - even less if you're older or have certain health problems.

"The major concern is cardiovascular health," said Jo Ann Hattner, a registered dietician.

Hattner said even major food companies are jumping on the bandwagon, adding fancy salts to their products, because they know consumers want it. Even so, with processed foods, you have got to read labels and understand portion sizes.

Her advice is to stick with real foods and try a gourmet salt. These different salts do indeed have different tastes and a pinch can go a long way.

And to make that pinch count, add your salt at the end of cooking for a flavor burst and leave the shaker off the table. The actual sodium content in salt varies.

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