Yesterday I was at the local supermarket shopping for groceries when I saw packs of Himalayan pink salt on the shelves. I have heard of the many health benefits that the proponents of this salt claim, so I picked up a pack and looked at the price. It cost 5 times as much as a regular table salt. I promptly put it back.
Though I did not buy it, the question had been raised in my mind. Is it really worth the price. To find out, I dived into the interwebs and this is what I found.
What is Himalayan Salt?
It is a rock salt that is mined in the foothills of the Himalayas. As a rock salt, it contains many minerals as impurities. It is these impurities that give this salt its characteristic pin colour.
Genuine Himalayan salt is produced in the salt mines of Pakistan’s Punjab province. Its produces salt in the form of large slabs which are crushed down into smaller crystals for sale. Sometimes salt crystals are used for making lamps or even sold as slabs.
As demand for this salt is quite high, it commands a similarly high price. However, the most you will find in the supermarket is regular refined salt that has some minerals mixed in to impart it a pink colour. In other words, most of the Himalayan salt in the market is not genuine.
What Are The Claims?
Proponents of this cooking ingredient claim that the salt has a number of health benefits. They claim that
- it promotes respiratory health
- it balances the body’s pH
- it reduces signs of aging
- it improves sleep quality
- it regulates blood sugar
- it improves libido
Salt crystal lamps are also popular among people who believe that it helps remove air pollutants. Pink salt is also present in several brands of bath salts that claim to help relax muscle strain and improve skin conditions.
Are the Claims True?
There have been many studies done on this ingredient in the past years. However, the correlation between the salt and the health benefits are very weak. Many of supposed benefits are regular functions of sodium chloride in the body so any kind of salt would do.
The best example of this is sleep. Deterioration is sleep quality has been linked to reduced salt in the diet. So table salt is actually better that Himalayan salt for this as the latter only has 84% sodium chloride compared to the former’s higher than 97%.
As for pH balance, the trace minerals in the Himalayan salt are actually too little to affect the body’s pH. It is actually controlled by the kidneys and liver.
Blood sugar levels, aging and libido are controlled by a whole host of factors and there are no studies that say that Himalayan salt grants these kind of health benefits.
Now, non dietary use of Himalayan salts, i.e. salt lamps and bath salts have shown some results in studies but to be honest, the evidence is pretty weak.
Should We Buy It?
No. Not at these kind of prices. The purported health benefits of Himalayan salts do not actually have any kind of evidence behind it. It is okay if you buy a small packet as a novelty. Many people have said that it taste different compared to regular salt but I have not been able to taste anything different myself.
As cooking with this is no different from regular table salt, we can actually substitute it in regular cooking. Do keep in mind that the actual sodium content is this is bit less than in table salt, so adjust your daily dietary intake accordingly.
Overall, Himalayan salt is a gimmick and a costly one at that.