Himalayan salt, what's in it?
My clients know that I always talk about Himalayan salt. The pink salt just has something magical. And although in my perception food is at least as much about magic as it is about science, it's good to do some fact checks, so now and then. So, what's the truth about Himalayan salt?
Salt: what's in it?
Salt is a mineral largely consisting of sodium and chloride and can be produced by evaporating water (sea salt or lake salt) or extracting solid salt from underground salt mines (rock salt such as Himalayan salt). We have been using salt to flavour and preserve foods for thousands of years.
Although salt is usually being depicted as something bad, it plays an important role in several biological functions, like fluid balance, nerve and muscle functioning (something you notice when having muscle cramps). Also, a decreased sleep quality has been associated with low-salt diets and suggests that an adequate salt intake may be necessary for a good night rest. But yes: too much salt can lead to high blood pressure and heart disease.
Proposed positive health benefits based on the dietary intake of Himalayan salt are: improvement of respiratory diseases, balancing body pH, reducing signs of ageing, improving sleep quality, regulating blood sugar and increasing libido
Himalayan salt is a rough, less refined pink-coloured hand-extracted salt from the Khewra Mines, located near the Himalayas in Pakistan. The salt is minimally processed and naturally harvested, which allows pink Himalayan salt to contain up to 84 different minerals and trace elements. These variety in minerals, iron in particular, give it its characteristic pink color. It may be clear that Himalayan salt, with about 28% sodium contains a wider variety of minerals than ‘normal’ refined table salt, for which the major constituent is sodium (38%) or even sea salt (33%). Current dietary guidelines recommend a maximum of 2,3 mg of sodium per day, which equals one teaspoon of refined salt (6 grams). It's not hard to see that this guideline allows using more of the Himalayan pink.
Usage of Himalayan salt
Besides the dietary function of Himalayan salt it is used as an ingredient of some bath salts and salt lamps, for instance. The proposed health benefits of non-dietary applications are insufficiently supported by academic research.
Proposed health benefits based on the dietary intake of Himalayan salt are: improvement of respiratory diseases, balancing body pH, reducing signs of ageing, improving sleep quality, regulating blood sugar and increasing libido. It has to be noted that most of these claims are not supported by research either and mainly relate to adequate salt and mineral intake. However it is a fact that Himalayan salt contains:
- less harmful sodium per gram, compared to rough sea salt and refined table salt (due to the fact it is less refined and as a result of the presence of other minerals)
- less microplastics, than salts from marine sources, due to contamination of ocean/ sea salt. Although thus far, little research has been performed in this field, microplastics might induce toxic effects to our system by interacting with our organs (e.g. liver) and immune system.
So in conclusion, pink Himalayan salt certainly does have some benefits compared to other salt sources. Although hard evidence is lacking for the full spectrum of claims, there are absolutely no contraindications for using it.