What Is Himalayan Salt?
Himalayan salt is a pink-hued variety of salt that is sourced in the Punjab region of Pakistan, near the Himalayan foothills. These days, the pink salt is everywhere. Not only can you find it in grocery and specialty food stores, but its charming color has also made it a literal fixture in home goods like table lamps.
The origins of the mineral date back hundreds of millions of years, when the salt was deposited in a prehistoric lagoon. Until recently, the Himalayan salt market was fairly small. Now, exports of the popular salt have grown to 400,000 tons of salt each year.
Folks have made many health claims regarding Himalayan salt over the years. Some say salt lamps help purify the air, or that Himalayan salt can detoxify the body of heavy minerals, or even increase libido. What do scientists have to say about these claims? Are there any tangible Himalayan salt health benefits? Or is it possible that this mineral may cause harm instead of good?
Pink salt vs. sea salt
Sea salt is made from evaporated seawater. Like Himalayan salt, the trace minerals in it add to its look and flavor. Sea salt is also thought to have health benefits. Sea salt's taste and texture differ depending on where it's harvested and how it's processed. Minerals found in sea salt can include calcium, potassium, magnesium, and occasionally zinc and iron.
Himalayan salt also contains many of these same minerals but it's iron oxide that provides its distinctive pink hue.
Himalayan salt vs. table salt
All salts consist of sodium chloride, including Himalayan salt. A teaspoon of regular table salt contains about 2,300 milligrams of sodium, the daily recommended amount. A teaspoon of Himalayan salt contains about 2,200 milligrams.
Why Does the Body Need Salt?
Salt is an important component of blood and other body fluids including tears, sweat, semen, and urine. Your body uses salt to help retain water and prevent dehydration, which lowers blood pressure and can lead to death. Remarkably, your body can do all this with a relatively small amount of sodium.
Your kidneys do much of the work of retaining or getting rid of excess sodium. Your brain signals thirst so that you will drink the fluid that keeps the body's sodium in balance.
Minerals in Himalayan Salt
As a mineral, Himalayan salt has no:
What you do get from it is sodium.
Supposedly, there are traces of 84 minerals in Himalayan pink salt. These minerals are mainly:
Himalayan Salt Benefits
Sodium is an essential nutrient. Eating a healthy diet can help limit salt and reduce disease risks. All salts, including Himalayan salt, count toward healthy sodium limits.
In the U.S., most people get a high level of sodium; there’s no shortfall of it. Many people get too much sodium, mostly from processed foods and restaurant fare rather than from salt you add to your food.
Himalayan salt may be good for skin conditions like eczema, although this has not been proven and may also depend on where it's sourced. The National Eczema Association recommends adding a cup of salt to bathwater as a relief for eczema flare-ups. While the association's recommendation refers to table salt, pink Himalayan salt could also work.
Himalayan salt myths
Himalayan salt has lower sodium levels. The levels of sodium in table salt and Himalayan pink salt are roughly the same.
Himalayan salt is better for you. Research has not shown that Himalayan salt has any unique health benefits compared to other dietary salt. Its uniqueness comes from its color and flavor.
Minerals make Himalayan salt healthier. The mineral impurities that give it a pink color, often promoted as healthful, are far too low in concentration to help with your nutrition. You would have to eat a lethal amount of sodium to achieve helpful quantities of the other minerals.
Himalayan salt hydrates the body. Claims such as this are based on the health benefits of certain minerals found in pink salt, which appear in amounts too small to be beneficial. In reality, consuming too much sodium contributes to an increase in blood volume, which makes your heart work harder.
Himalayan salt improves air quality. Claims have been made that pink salt lamps distribute negative ions that improve air quality, assist in reducing asthma and allergy symptoms, raise energy levels, and alleviate depression. All these claims are unproven.
Himalayan Pink Salt Side Effects
Himalayan salt carries the same risks as any other type of dietary sodium. Getting too much sodium, from any source, can lead to high blood pressure (hypertension). Nearly half of U.S. adults have high blood pressure, so getting a lot of sodium of any kind isn't a good idea. Pink Himalayan salt isn't an exception to that.
Heart disease: High blood pressure is the leading cause of cardiovascular disease. Over time, this can lead to stroke, heart attack, or heart failure.
Kidney concerns: Too much sodium can also raise the risk of chronic kidney disease (CKD). If you have CKD, your doctor will give you guidelines about how much sodium (from all sources) is OK.
Osteoporosis complications: The more salt you eat or drink, the more calcium your body flushes out via your urine. For this reason, people with osteoporosis should stick to a low-sodium diet to prevent losing calcium this way.
Cancer: There is research showing that consuming too much sodium may increase your risk of stomach cancer.
In the early 20th century, manufacturers began adding iodine to table salt to prevent low thyroid levels (hypothyroidism) and goiter, a growth in or enlargement of the thyroid gland. Himalayan salt doesn't contain high enough levels of iodine to prevent these and other complications. Iodine is an important dietary component for those planning a pregnancy or who are pregnant or breastfeeding. A lack of iodine can impact fetal development and lead to neurological issues in newborn babies.
How to Use Himalayan Salt
Use Himalayan salt in cooking just as you would use table, sea, or kosher salt if the grains are of similar size. Hard to dissolve in cooking, large grains of salt work well as a "finishing" flavor. When salts are finely ground, they tend to have more sodium content. Check nutrition labels for sodium amounts.
Non-dietary uses of pink salt
Although it's a pricier alternative, you can use Himalayan salt in multiple ways:
Bath soak. If you have atopic eczema, you might find that bathing in salt water (about a cup per gallon of water) may benefit your skin.
Toothpaste. Salt-containing toothpaste has been proven to inhibit inflammation and bacteria in the mouth. It's believed to strengthen tooth enamel, whiten teeth, decrease plaque, and stave off gum disease.
Gargling. In a twist on an age-old remedy, replace table salt with a quarter to half teaspoon of finely ground Himalayan pink salt in from one-half to a cup of water and gargle to ease the pain of a sore throat.
You can take Himalayan pink salt's many touted health benefits with, well, a grain of salt. It contains roughly the same amount of sodium per teaspoon as ordinary table salt and fine sea salt, so don't overuse it. Most Americans include too much salt in their daily diets, mostly by eating prepared and processed foods.
Himalayan Salt FAQs
What is so special about Himalayan salt?
Containing similar amounts of sodium to ordinary table salt, the uniqueness of Himalayan salt comes from its pink hue, the result of its mineral content. It is harvested in Pakistan's Punjab region.
Who should not use Himalayan salt?
Too much of any kind of salt is not good for you. Salt raises your blood pressure, which over the long term can lead to cardiovascular disease and the risk of stroke.
Is it OK to eat Himalayan salt every day?
Yes, but don't overdo it. Keep to the 2,300 milligrams of daily sodium intake recommended by the American Heart Association--about a teaspoon.
Is Himalayan salt better than sea salt?
It's not medically proven thatHimalayan salt has more nutritional benefits than other types of salt. Usually, people prefer various salts for their flavor and properties in cooking.