If you’ve heard of Himalayan salt, you may be wondering why health enthusiasts recommend it, how it differs from other varieties of salt, and whether or not it’s actually good for you.
Himalayan salt, also known as pink rock salt, is found in the salt mines of Pakistan, approximately 186 miles (300 kilometers) from the Himalayas. It’s characterized by a pale pink color, which is caused by iron oxide (or rust) deposits in the mountains (1). Himalayan rock salt is believed to have many health benefits, and has even been referred to as the purest salt on the earth.
As with all varieties of salt, Himalayan rock salt is most commonly used for cooking. But in addition to boosting the flavor of your recipes, Himalayan salt is also said to help relieve migraines, increase energy and improve adrenal function.
But Wait… Isn’t Salt Bad for You?
Salt has come a long way from being a highly valued, precious element and form of currency to a controversial and somewhat demonized “anti-nutrient.” This is because excess sodium consumption is thought to cause high blood pressure, which can result in stroke and cardiovascular disease (2).
You see, when consumed in excess, it’s true that salt has been shown to bind to water in your bloodstream and raise blood pressure (3). But the way we consume salt in the Standard American Diet is in the form of highly processed table salt.
Table salt differs from naturally occurring salt because all of its minerals, including potassium (but except sodium and chloride), are stripped during the refining process (4). This is damaging to health because it interferes with your body’s natural sodium and potassium balance.
You see, sodium and potassium work together in a specific ratio to regulate blood pressure. But when your sodium levels are too high in relation to potassium, they can interfere with your body’s ability to properly keep blood pressure levels balanced—which is when hypertension results (5). As you can guess, this isn’t a concern with unrefined salt because it still contains potassium.
Another downside to table salt is that it’s chemically processed and bleached, and may contain added chemicals such as ammonia or aluminum (6). Aluminum is toxic to the body and has been linked to neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease (7).
As you can see, the negative effects of isolated sodium chloride in processed salt is why salt has a bad reputation. And it’s easy to overwhelm our bodies with processed salt by eating refined foods at every meal.
But when we remove processed foods from our diet and receive unrefined salt from natural sources such as fruit, vegetables, seaweed, salt water—and yes, salt from the Himalayan rock salt mines of Pakistan—salt is actually good for us. In fact, our bodies depend on it for survival.
Why We Need Unrefined Salt in Our Diets
As you now know, sodium is an element found in salt that works with potassium. Despite the negative association we have with sodium, our bodies depend on it to regulate muscular contractions and aid in nerve impulses and cardiac function. Sodium also helps maintain fluid balance in the body (8).
Chloride works with sodium to regulate nerve impulses, and it also plays a role in digestion. When chloride combines with hydrogen, it forms hydrochloric acid in the stomach, which allows us to digest protein (9). Since our bodies depend on protein to form hemoglobin—the part of red cells that carry oxygen through our bodies—chloride is an element that gives us life.
As mentioned above, unprocessed salt contains several other trace minerals that are needed for health, such as calcium, magnesium and iodine. Perhaps this is why new studies are suggesting that consuming too little salt is actually a greater risk to health (10).
Therefore, when you’re eating whole, unprocessed foods 90% of the time, adding small amounts of unrefined salt to your diet won’t threaten your health. Instead, natural salt will provide your body with several minerals that are vital to organ function.
The bottom line when it comes to dietary salt is that the source matters.
Table salt is a highly refined substance that’s been chemically produced and stripped of its minerals, which = not healthy. Salt from natural sources contains several trace elements that are necessary for our health, which = healthy.
Now that we’ve briefly touched on the never-ending salt debate, let’s take a closer look at the health benefits of Himalayan rock salt.
Health Benefits of Himalayan Salt
Himalayan salt is said to contain 84 trace minerals and electrolytes, including calcium, iodine, potassium, magnesium and iron (11). In fact, Himalayan salt is shown to contain triple the amount of potassium per serving than Maldon or Celtic sea salt (12).
While there’s a lack of scientific research on the Internet, the high mineral content of Himalayan rock salt is what many attribute its health benefits to. Himalayan rock salt is believed to help with:
Himalayan salt contains all 6 of the electrolytes we require for health: sodium, potassium, chloride, magnesium, phosphorus and calcium. Therefore, adding Himalayan rock salt to your diet can help replenish your body’s natural supply of electrolytes. This is especially helpful on hot days or after an intense workout when electrolytes are lost through sweat.
You can make a natural “gatorade” with Himalayan rock salt by adding ¼ teaspoon of Himalayan rock salt to 1 quart (1 liter) of water, with the juice of half a lemon and some raw honey or green leaf stevia.
Since Himalayan rock salt contains iodine—the element your body needs to synthesize thyroid hormones—it may help promote and maintain healthy thyroid function.
Iodine deficiency is linked to hypothyroidism, which is a common condition (especially in countries such as India, Asia and Africa) (13). As a preventative measure against iodine deficiency, synthetic iodine has been added back into table salt (also known as iodized salt).
Now, to state the obvious: unrefined salt already contains iodine. So, why not get iodine from a natural source, such as Himalayan rock salt?
Your adrenals are two little glands that sit on top of your kidneys. They’re responsible for regulating your body’s stress response by producing the hormones cortisol and adrenaline (14).
The proper functioning of your adrenal glands depends on minerals, especially sodium and potassium, which can be found in Himalayan rock salt. An ideal sodium and potassium balance is essential to adrenal health because it prevents your adrenals from over functioning (which results from excess sodium) or under functioning (excess potassium) (15).
Promoting adrenal health is important to prevent chronic fatigue, burnout and other hormone imbalances, such as hypothyroidism.
A primary cause of migraines and headaches is thought to be magnesium deficiency.
Since Himalayan rock salt contains magnesium, it’s often used as a natural remedy for migraine relief. Himalayan rock salt also contains calcium, which can help relax constricted blood vessels (16).
Himalayan Salt Lamps
While Himalayan salt lamps aren’t something you eat, they’ve become so popular that they deserve an honorable mention.
Himalayan salt lamps are simply just large Himalayan salt rocks with lightbulbs inside them. Although some consider them a new-age hippie trend, it’s believed that the soft, pink glow of Himalayan salt lamps emit negative ions that cleanse the air, remove negative energy, improve blood flow, promote restful sleep, and boost serotonin levels in the brain.
While these health benefits are certainly appealing, there’s a lack of supporting evidence to back up the claims. But even if they are a flower child trend, you’ve got nothing to lose by trying out a Himalayan salt lamp (except maybe some “negative” vibes).
Himalayan Salt vs. Other Varieties of Salt
The mineral content of Himalayan rock salt is what makes it so appealing, but is it any better than other varieties of natural salt—such as Celtic or Maldon sea salt?
In terms of nutritional content, Celtic sea salt has less sodium than Maldon and Himalayan sea salt, and is shown to be slightly higher in calcium, magnesium and iron. However, Himalayan rock salt contains nearly double the amount of potassium than Celtic sea salt (17). Since Himalayan rock salt still contains moderate levels of all minerals, both Celtic and Himalayan rock salt are ideal to include in your diet.
Maldon sea salt is higher in sodium than both Celtic and Himalayan salt, and is low in potassium, magnesium and iron, making it the less favorable choice.
Where to Buy Himalayan Salt
Himalayan rock salt can be purchased at any health food or ethnic food store. In terms of quality, it’s said that a darker pink salt indicates a higher mineral content.
There are different varieties and brands of Himalayan rock salt. Himalayan rock salt can be purchased halal or kosher certified for religious reasons, and in coarse grind or fine grind. Some brands claim their Himalayan rock salt has been hand-mined in the far reaches of the Himalayan Mountains, which is said to indicate higher quality and greater mineral content.
As you can see, there’s no harm in adding Himalayan rock salt to your diet in small amounts. In fact, replacing table salt with Himalayan rock salt is an effortless way to add more trace minerals to your diet and improve your overall health.
(Read This Next: The Easy Salt Guide)