Himalayan Pink Salt Benefits — Why It’s Better Than Table Salt
By: Courtney Sperlazza, MPH
October 17, 2018
- Even though the mainstream has been demonizing salt in the name of heart health, you can consider salt, especially Himalayan pink salt, a health food
- When scientists research the health effects of salt, they most commonly research table salt, which behaves differently in the body than other salts
- You body doesn’t know what to do with table salt, which has way more sodium than other salts, plus it doesn’t have other balancing minerals like potassium, calcium, and magnesium that counteract the negative effects of sodium
- Natural salts, like Himalayan pink salt and sea salt, have loads of minerals, but there are things to know about each one before deciding which is the best salt for you
- Find out the pros and cons of table salt, Himalayan pink salt, and sea salt
Along with fat, the mainstream has been demonizing salt for decades in the name of heart health. Truth is, you can consider salt, especially Himalayan pink salt, a health food. You’ll die without sodium, and several studies found restricting your sodium actually increases risk of heart disease.
So why is salt so confusing? When scientists research the health effects of salt, they most commonly research table salt, which behaves differently in the body than other salts, like Himalayan salt and sea salt. You body doesn’t know what to do with table salt, which has way more sodium than other salts, plus it doesn’t have other balancing minerals like potassium, calcium, and magnesium that counteract the negative effects of sodium.
RELATED: Instantly download the Bulletproof Guide to Seasonings and Spices
Benefits of Himalayan pink salt
Himalayan pink salt in particular has loads of benefits, like:
- Boosts your mineral intake with regular use
- Contains minerals like potassium and magnesium that help you get the most out of the sodium your body needs, while countering the negative effects of sodium
- Reduces mild to moderate respiratory problems like asthma, congestion, and inflammation-related lung problems, when inhaled as salty air
- Improves insulin sensitivity, helping you get energy out of the food you eat. (On the flipside, researchers found that a low-salt diet triggers a 15-20% increase in insulin resistance in healthy volunteers, which causes weight gain and metabolic syndrome)
- Improves vascular health and circulation
- A pinch of salt in water in the morning slightly raises blood pressure, giving you energy to start the day
Main differences between types of salts
One salt isn’t better than the other just because it’s natural or not. Here’s what to look for when choosing an everyday salt.
Himalayan pink salt
Himalayan pink salt is mined from ancient sea beds in the Himalayas, that have been compressed over centuries to form dense, dry salt rock layers. Mining is done mechanically, which can mean a range of techniques from hand-mining to machine-mining. The important thing is that Himalayan salt miners do not use explosives. Typically, the final product gets tested for contamination of heavy metals and other things you don’t want in your food.
There’s conflicting information on how many different minerals Himalayan salt has. Some sources say 60, some say over 80. No matter whom you believe, Himalayan pink salt has dozens of trace minerals, and certainly more than table salt, which contains only sodium chloride. Its pink color comes from its iron content.
Good salt isn’t enough to replace a good diet and targeted supplements, but a mineral boost, and especially an electrolyte boost, a few times a day when you salt your food is a wonderful thing. Since a good portion of your cells run on electricity, you want plenty of electrolytes like sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium dissolved in your cellular water. Electrolytes help your cells carry an electrical charge, and electricity allows your cells to do their daily jobs and communicate with one another.
Unlike table salt, which is pretty much NaCl and not much else, your body knows what to do with Himalayan pink salt because of its mineral profile. Here’s the biochemical reason why.
Most cells have a higher concentration of sodium outside the cell, and a higher concentration of potassium inside the cell. When you have too much sodium and not enough potassium, the cell takes in too much sodium and it doesn’t do its job properly.
Potassium and sodium work closely together. When you get plenty of potassium in your diet, sodium stops raising blood pressure. In fact, getting enough potassium lowers your blood pressure more than cutting out sodium does.
Brain, nerve, and muscle cells depend on a proper balance of sodium, potassium, and calcium to “talk” to each other. When your dietary salt brings the full range of minerals, you don’t have to worry about too much salt throwing things off-kilter. When doctors recommend electrolytes like potassium, calcium, and magnesium for twitches and cramping (especially with pregnant women), this is why.
If you’ve ever flown into the SFO airport, you may have noticed red beds near the bay. Those are little ponds that salt producers use to evaporate sea water to make sea salt. They turn red because certain algaes thrive in a super salty medium. The algae dies off once it has evaporated to the point that it becomes salt.
Like Himalayan salt, sea salt comes from sea beds. The main difference is that Himalayan salt is a dry salt mined from rock salt in one region, whereas sea salt comes from saltwater sources from all over the world. Manufacturers package sea salt on the wet side, similar to the texture of good castle-building sand.
Being a natural salt, the mineral profile is similar to Himalayan. With sea salt, though, source matters — a lot. When you harvest sea water from contaminated ocean areas, the salt you get from evaporation ends up contaminated as well. Researchers have found plastics and chemicals in certain sea salts that you don’t want to sprinkle on your food.
High-quality sea salt from clean sources is great for you, though, and people who experience headaches from table salt and Himalayan salt generally do well on well-sourced sea salt. You might also opt for sea salt if your doc told you to cut back on sodium, because it contains less sodium than Himalayan salt does, and far less sodium than table salt has. You have to be willing to do your research on production to make sure it comes from clean sources.
Table salt is as close to 100% NaCl as you can get, although it is far from pure. Table salt is commonly:
- Mined using explosives, which is an uber-cheap method, but you can’t blow something up without leaving unwanted compounds behind
- Chemically bleached to make it unnaturally white
- Mixed with anti-caking agents to keep it from clumping together
Some anti-caking agents in foods are safer than others — some are relatively inert like calcium carbonate, while other anti-caking agents contain aluminum or cyanide compounds.
Then, you sometimes find ingredients you don’t expect. One of the more common brands contains dextrose, a corn-derived sugar. People don’t realize they’re not only salting their food, they’re sugaring it too.
Table salt has been stripped of the minerals like potassium and magnesium that balance its effects on blood pressure.
Iodized salt is just table salt with potassium iodide added to it. Government initiatives in the 1920s introduced potassium iodide into salt to reduce goiter, which is enlarged thyroid from iodine deficiency.
Iodine can aggravate conditions such as hashimoto’s thyroiditis if you don’t balance your iodine with selenium. So, if you have an autoimmune thyroid condition and you don’t know you’re getting extra iodine, you’re not likely to take selenium as a protective measure.
How much salt should I eat?
For a detailed guide on how much salt to eat, read this article. Generally, you’re getting the right amount of salt when:
- You eat real food
- You’re eating minimal amounts of prepackaged foods or foods with preservatives
- You salt your food to taste
When you’re eating real food and a ton of vegetables, your body will self-regulate your salt intake. That’s not the case with packaged foods. Food manufacturers engineer the taste of snacks and packaged foods to keep it shelf-stable and also to make you want more of it, so you’re getting more salt than your taste buds detect.
There are a lot of changes you might want to make in your lifestyle to improve the way you feel. Salt is an easy one. Once you find one that’s right for you, you never have to think about it again. Just reach into your cupboard and sprinkle.
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