Himalayan salt, favored for its vibrant color and distinctive taste, has surged in popularity in recent years. This trendy salt is thought to be superior to table salt because of its higher mineral content and presumed health benefits. While there's little research to support these health claims, this salt can be a fun and tasty addition to your spice rack. Like table salt, Himalayan salt is rich in sodium, so moderation is advised.
Himalayan salt is rock salt mined from the Khewra Salt Mine, Pakistan's oldest and largest mine. Situated at the foothills of the Salt Range, these colorful salt deposits were supposedly discovered by Alexander the Great in 326 B.C., after his army's horses began licking the area's salty rocks. The salt mined in this location is touted for its rich mineral content, formed when ancient ocean waters settled and slowly evaporated in geographical pockets.
In addition to its sodium content, Himalayan salt is claimed to be a source of 84 minerals in total, including calcium, magnesium and potassium and other trace elements such as iron and zinc. Unlike table salt, Himalayan salt is not processed or stripped of these minerals. However, an analysis of this pinkish salt found it contains a whopping 98 percent sodium chloride by weight -- suggesting the other minerals are present in quantities too minuscule to impact health. The high sodium content makes Himalayan salt similar to table salt, which if used in excess amounts, can worsen blood pressure, fluid retention or kidney disease.
One nutrient Himalayan salt is lacking, however, is iodine -- a mineral deliberately added to some types of table salt to counter and prevent the health consequences of iodine deficiency. While it's possible to get enough iodine in the diet without using iodized salt, talk to your doctor if you are concerned about you or your family getting enough of this nutrient.
Himalayan salt is claimed to help manage a variety of health conditions, including asthma, sinus conditions, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and sleep problems. Consuming the salt, soaking in Himalayan salt baths, and breathing in this salt via inhalers or diffusers are all recommended ways to attain these benefits. However, these claims are not yet backed up by quality, published research.
Himalayan salt is also not lower in sodium compared to table salt, at least when comparing sodium content by weight. But large rock salt will have more air space in between the crystals, thus when comparing sodium content per teaspoon, rock crystals will have a bit less sodium compared to a finely ground salt.
While there doesn't seem to be a health advantage to eating Himalayan salt, it's tasty, fun and vibrant spice to have in your kitchen. However, it's important to be mindful of this salt's sodium content, particularly if you have high blood pressure or other conditions that benefit from a restriction of dietary sodium.
Reviewed by Kay Peck, MPH RD