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Pink Himalayan Salt – Pretty Yes, Miraculous Alternative No

This post is written by my husband, he never takes what he reads or hears at face value but applies a scientific mind to the topic at hand.

I have heard numerous people making fuzzy claims about the health benefits of consuming pink Himalayan salt instead of regular table salt and perhaps also sea salt. I am often amazed by comments unsupported by any scientific backing (or perhaps pseudo-science) that lay people tend to spew forth on virtually any subject under the sun, but have come to expect such comments as almost a norm where people believe or misinterpret things they are told without questioning. (Funnily these are often the same people that do not believe in God through a completely antithetical logic; my blog post, however has nothing to do with my personal belief in God or otherwise). But when I start hearing doctors and dieticians on radio broadcasts touting pink Himalayan salt as a wonder alternative to table salt again without any valid reasoning or scientific backing I start to worry.

Let’s start off with what is salt. Whether it’s pink Himalayan salt, sea salt or table salt, the salt we consume as a food seasoning or preservative consists primarily of sodium chloride. Sodium is an essential dietary element that is plays a crucial role in nerve function and regulating blood pressure amongst other things. The maximum recommended daily allowance of sodium is between 2300 and 2400 mg per day (around 5.8 g sodium chloride), but when consumed in excess can lead to hypertension. Table salt is a more refined form of salt than salt in its natural form (either from its source as halite or sea water) and contains more than 99 % sodium chloride. It has added anti-caking and free-flow agents in order to make it more “consumer friendly” (although seemingly modern western consumers tend to think otherwise). Pink Himalayan salt contains between 96 and 98 % sodium chloride and obtains its pink colour from trace amounts of iron oxide (essentially rust). It contains small amounts of several other minerals. Sea water contains primarily dissolved sodium chloride along with relatively high levels of magnesium, sulfur, potassium and calcium as well as trace amounts of most elemental species.  Sea salt used for food preparation, however, is generally purified and like table salt would typically contain more than 99 % sodium chloride.  The reason for this is that the other salts dissolved in sea water have a bitter flavour.  Additionally culinary sea salt it is produced alongside salt for industrial purposes where high levels of purity are required.  All culinary salts thus consist primarily of sodium chloride and therefore in terms of sodium intake, none is markedly better than another. Pink Himalayan salt provides no miraculous benefits over any of the other salts and when consumed in the same quantities as say table salt will have the same negative effects on one’s health. It is perhaps a prettier alternative to table salt. Bearing in mind, however, that it is mined in northern Pakistan, it has a tremendous carbon footprint, and although only small quantities would be consumed on a daily basis, from that viewpoint alone it should be avoided. Furthermore, claims that Himalayan salt is mined by Sherpas using traditional methods is romanticised nonsense, and even if it was true, provides no sane reason to why a person should buy or consume pink Himalayan salt.

2 comments

  1. I love this post. We have used Oryx Dessert Salt from Namibia as an alternative to table salt, and it tastes lovely. I know it’s mostly sodium chloride, but at least the carbon footprint of this salt is smaller. Your husband may enjoy reading Bad Science by Ben Goldacre, it’s what I’m reading at the moment and it deals exactly with all the people that spout “science” and pseudo-science for their own monetary gain. it’s an interesting read.

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