By Dr. Keith Pearson, PhD, RD
Pink Himalayan salt is a type of salt that’s naturally pink in color and mined near the Himalayas in Pakistan. Many people claim that it’s loaded with minerals and provides incredible health benefits.
For these reasons, pink Himalayan salt is often thought to be much healthier than regular table salt.
However, little research on pink Himalayan salt exists, and other people insist that these extravagant health claims are nothing more than speculation.
This article looks at the key differences between pink Himalayan salt and regular salt and evaluates the evidence to decide which type of salt is healthier.
What Is Salt?
Salt is a mineral largely consisting of the compound sodium chloride.
Salt contains so much sodium chloride — around 98% by weight — that most people use the words “salt” and “sodium” interchangeably. Salt can be produced by evaporating salt water or extracting solid salt from underground salt mines.
Before it reaches your grocery store, table salt also goes through a refining process to remove impurities and any other minerals besides sodium chloride. Anticaking agents are sometimes added to help absorb moisture, and iodine is often included to help consumers prevent iodine deficiency.
Humans have used salt to flavor and preserve foods for thousands of years.
Interestingly, sodium also plays an important role in several biological functions, including fluid balance, nerve conduction and muscle contraction (1, 2, 3).
For this reason, it’s absolutely necessary to have salt, or sodium, in your diet.
However, many health professionals claim that too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure and heart disease, although recent research has called this long-held belief into question (4).
Because of the potential dangers of consuming too much table salt, many people have turned to using pink Himalayan salt, believing it to be a healthier alternative.
Summary: Salt consists mostly of sodium chloride and helps regulate important processes in the body. The potentially harmful effects of too much salt have caused many people to start using pink Himalayan salt instead.
What Is Pink Himalayan Salt?
Pink Himalayan salt is a pink-colored salt extracted from the Khewra Salt Mine, which is located near the Himalayas in Pakistan.
The Khewra Salt Mine is one of the oldest and largest salt mines in the world.
The pink Himalayan salt harvested from this mine is believed to have been formed millions of years ago from the evaporation of ancient bodies of water.
The salt is hand-extracted and minimally processed to yield an unrefined product that’s free of additives and thought to be much more natural than table salt.
Like table salt, pink Himalayan salt is mostly comprised of sodium chloride.
However, the natural harvesting process allows pink Himalayan salt to possess many other minerals and trace elements that are not found in regular table salt.
Some people estimate it may contain up to 84 different minerals and trace elements. In fact, it’s these very minerals, especially iron, that give it its characteristic pink color.
Summary: Pink Himalayan salt is harvested by hand from the Khewra Salt Mine in Pakistan. It’s minimally processed to provide a natural alternative to regular table salt.
How Is Pink Himalayan Salt Used?
Pink Himalayan salt has several dietary and non-dietary uses.
You Can Eat It or Cook on It
In general, you can cook with pink Himalayan salt just like you would with regular table salt. Put it in sauces and marinades or add it to your food at the dinner table. Some people even use pink Himalayan salt as a cooking surface. Large blocks of the salt can be purchased and used to grill, sear and impart a salty flavor to meats and other foods. Pink Himalayan salt can be purchased finely ground just like regular table salt, but it is not uncommon to also find coarse varieties sold in larger crystal sizes.
Considerations for Cooking
Whenever you’re measuring any kind of salt by volume, it’s important to consider how finely it’s ground. You may need to use larger quantities of coarse salt to match the saltiness of finely ground salt. This is because finely ground salt is packed closer together than coarse salt, so there’s more of it in a particular volume. For example, 1 teaspoon of any type of finely ground salt may contain around 2,300 mg of sodium, while 1 teaspoon of coarse salt will vary based on crystal size but could contain less than 2,000 mg of sodium.
Furthermore, pink Himalayan salt contains slightly less sodium chloride than regular table salt, which you may need to account for when cooking. Current dietary guidelines in the US recommend that most adults consume no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. This is equal to around 1 teaspoon (6 grams) of finely ground salt (5).
However, when you’re using pink Himalayan salt, it’s best to check the nutrition label, as sodium content can vary widely, depending on the brand.
While pink Himalayan salt has several dietary uses, there are also a number of popular non-dietary uses. Pink Himalayan salt is used in some bath salts, which claim to improve skin conditions and soothe sore muscles.
Salt lamps are also often made out of pink Himalayan salt and claimed to remove air pollutants. These lamps consist of large blocks of salt with an inner light source that heats the salt.
Additionally, spending time in man-made salt caves formed out of pink Himalayan salt is popular among people seeking to improve skin and respiratory problems.
But the research supporting these three non-dietary uses of pink Himalayan salt is relatively weak. More studies are needed to confirm these claims.
Summary: You can use pink Himalayan salt just like regular salt when you’re cooking. Bath salts, salt lamps and salt caves are popular non-dietary uses of pink Himalayan salt.
Pink Himalayan Salt Contains More Minerals
Both table salt and pink Himalayan salt consist mostly of sodium chloride, but pink Himalayan salt has up to 84 other minerals and trace elements.
These include common minerals like potassium and calcium, as well as lesser-known minerals like strontium and molybdenum. One study analyzed the mineral contents of various types of salts, including pink Himalayan salt and regular table salt (6).
Are the Health Claims True?
Despite the fact that pink Himalayan salt only contains tiny amounts of additional minerals, many people still claim that it can provide a number of health benefits.
The truth is, most of these claims do not have any research to support them.
Some of pink Himalayan salt’s commonly promoted health claims include that it can:
Some of the claims related to the non-dietary uses of pink Himalayan salt may be loosely based on research.
The use of salt caves as a treatment for various lung diseases has been evaluated in a few studies. The results suggest that there could be some benefit, but overall, more rigorous research is needed to investigate their effectiveness (7, 8, 9).
On the other hand, some of these health claims are actually just normal functions of sodium chloride in the body, so you’ll get these benefits from any kind of salt. For example, researchers have found that very low-salt diets may contribute to sleeping problems (10).This suggests that an adequate amount of salt may be necessary for quality sleep. However, this was not studied in pink Himalayan salt and is likely a function of the sodium chloride in any salt. Also, the minerals in pink Himalayan salt are not present in large enough quantities to have any effect on balancing the body’s pH. Your lungs and kidneys tightly regulate your body’s pH without the help of pink Himalayan salt.
Furthermore, blood sugar levels, aging and libido are all primarily controlled by factors other than the salt in your diet, and there are simply no scientific studies to suggest eating pink Himalayan salt can benefit any of these aspects of your health.
Similarly, there is no research comparing the health effects of pink Himalayan salt and regular table salt. If research did exist, it is unlikely that it would find any differences in their health effects.
Summary: Many health claims are often attached to pink Himalayan salt. However, most of these claims do not have research to support them.
The Bottom Line
Given all of the misguided health claims, it’s easy to see why some people are confused about which type of salt to use. But no studies have compared the health effects of pink Himalayan salt and regular table salt. If they were to, it’s unlikely that they’d report any differences.
Nonetheless, if you’d like to avoid the additives in regular table salt, pink Himalayan salt is a great natural alternative. But don’t expect to see the major health benefits that you might read about online.
And remember that table salt is a major dietary source of iodine, so if you’re using pink Himalayan salt, you will need to get iodine from other foods like seaweed, dairy products and fish to help avoid iodine deficiency (11).
Finally, pink Himalayan salt is often much more expensive than regular salt. So if you don’t mind the additives, using regular table salt should be just fine.
ORIGINAL ARTICLE HERE: https://authoritynutrition.com/pink-himalayan-salt/