(note to the reader: what follows is collection of my thoughts. I find that I learn best when I write a summary of my reasoning. They are in no way intended to be authoritative and may contain errors or typos. If you feel that a mistake has been made, please reach out)
Sano (Adj) – Healthy
Saludable (Adj) – Healthy
When talking to people in Spanish, they seem to use both words in the same context. They both translate to healthy in English, but it seems to me that there is a small difference between the two. The difference is not big enough that it would cause any confusion, but it is still good to know.
According to the Real Academia Española there are seven ways that the word sano can be defined.
Sano (adj) –
- Que goza de perfecta salud.
- Que es bueno para la salud.
- Dicho de un vegetal o de una parte de él: Qué no está dañado, podrido o en mal estado.
- Libre de error o vicio, recto, saludable moral o psicológicamente.
- Seguro, sin riesgo.
- Sincero, de buena intención
- Entero, no roto ni estropeado.
Definitions 1, 3, 4, and 5 share similar meanings, but the context does require their own bullet point. It seems that sano deals more with the state of something. Definition 1 states that something enjoys good health such as a person or animal. Definition 3 talks about the state of something such as a fruit or vegetable. That is to say that it is (nearly) perfect or ripe. A pristine apple. Definition 4 talks about the overall condition of the person who is free of vice and is in good mental health and definition 5 talks about a situation being safe or without risk. Perhaps one is traveling and wants to try a food that is foreign to them. She asks if it is safe to eat (está sano para comer). In this example, she is not asking whether it will benefit her overall health but whether it will ruin her vacation.
However, it seems that it is a little more complicated than just being the condition of something. Definition 2 states that it is something that is good for your overall health. La manzana es sana. This means that the meaning of sano changes ever so slightly depending on the situation that you are in. Therefore, one can use the word sano with respect to being a benefit to your body or being free from danger if it is consumed.
Saludable, on the other had seems a little easier to grasp according to Real Academia.
Saludable (adj.)- del momento, al momento
- Que sirve para conservar o restablecer la salud corporal.
- De buena salud, de aspecto sano.
- Provechoso para un fin, particularmente para el bien del alma.
The real Academia only gives this 3 bullet points. Numbers 1 and 2 share a similiar meaning. They both imply that that saludable is used with a purpose. The thing that is going to be consumed has a net benefit to be healthy for the individual. Therefore, one can say that la manzana es saludable therefore you should eat at least one a day. That is to say that when you want to show that the item is going to benefit or restore you in some way, saludable would be the better choice of the two adjectives.
Saludable, according to definition 2, can also mean sano directly in that it is of good health or its state appears healthy such as the previous example with the apple. It is ripe, it is (nearly) perfect, and pleasing to eat. What the definitions do not share in common is the state of the person (see definition 4 sano).
I found this post in a forum, and I agree with the user’s conclusion:
Even though they are very similar, I think one way to clarify the two would be to say:
Sano: In good health
All of the examples presented are adjectives. What about adverbs? Here is where I think that Spanish can be a little more confusing as there are a number of ways to use the word safe as an adverb. In this context, you cannot use the words sano or saludable as they only modify nouns. Here is a list of adjectival phrases that express that an action is safe or unsafe.
- Sin peligro – La estabilidad química de biodiésel determina el tiempo que puede almacenarse sin peligro.
- Sin ningún problema – Valarie puede cuidar sin ningún problema a su hermanito por un par de días.
- Con cuidado – Voy a manejar e Chiapas a Guatemala mañana. -Maneja con cuidado.
- Con prudencia – Todo automovilista debe conducir con prudencia.
- Sin riesgos – Creo que se puede invertir sin riesgos en los bonos de la ciudad.
- Sano y salvo – Los refugiados llegaron sanos y salvos a la isla.