Himalayan pink salt has gained a lot of popularity as well as skepticism in the past few years due to the fact that it is unrefined and has more than 80 trace minerals. While some of these claims are true, a large percentage of them are false.
When one gets down to it, all edible salts - no matter the color - are largely comprised of sodium chloride and have originated from the sea.
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Salt mines are the result of seas that dried up millions of years ago, leaving behind a deposit of sodium chloride and other minute amounts of minerals. This does not exclude the Salt Range or Khewra Mines where Himalayan pink salt is mined, 5,000 ft below the Himalayan Mountains.
Pink salt is made up of 97.41% sodium chloride, with 2.59% of it being made up of the 84 minerals that everyone is raving about.<
The content of each mineral is so small that they do not contribute to Himalayan pink salt side effects at all. For instance, 0.00389% or 38.9 parts per million of this salt is made of iron oxide, which is known to give the pink color.
In terms of "impurities", the Pakistanian government evaluates all of its salt scrupulously to ensure there are none. They harvest pink salt alongside 5 other types of salt with differing colors. Pink salt was shown to be the purest of all these salts, containing only minute amounts of beneficial minerals as the "impurities".
Therefore, Himalayan pink salt side effects apply to all salts in general, even ordinary table salt. We all need salt on a daily basis to be alive and well, but overdosing on salt can have severe consequences.
Sodium is essential for the proper functioning of our bodies. It is one of our primary electrolytes that help control nerve impulses, muscle contractions, hydration, and blood pressure, to name a few of its functions.
Except in situations where excessive sweating may occur, the recommended maximum consumption for adults is 2,300 mg of sodium or 1 teaspoon (3.8-5.8 g) of salt a day.1
Unfortunately, people consume an average of 3,400 mg of sodium daily, often unknowingly. Packaged and processed foods contain high amounts of sodium for flavor and preservation, so anyone who consumes moderate or higher amounts of such foods is likely getting too much sodium. In fact, 70% of our average sodium intake comes from such foods, while only 30% comes from the salt we add to food while cooking!1
According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control in the US), foods that are the main culprits of excessive sodium consumption include pizza, snack foods, breads, hot dogs, hamburgers, subs, processed meat, chicken, cheese, burritos/tacos, soups and egg dishes. In fact, these foods provide over 50% of our daily intake of sodium.1
Consuming excessive amounts of sodium, especially in the form of sodium chloride, has many adverse effects. The biggest concerns revolve around electrolyte imbalances. Sodium and potassium are our two main electrolytes that work opposite each other, and they must be properly balanced to function well. Eating too much of one will reduce the other. Many people experience symptoms of low potassium such as dehydration, cramps and high blood pressure due to consuming too much sodium, regardless of whether the source is iodized table salt, sea salt, Himalayan pink salt, or any other salt source.
One study found that those who consumed the most sodium had a 20% higher risk of all-cause mortality (dying from any cause) than those who consumed the least amount of sodium, and that those who had the highest ratio of sodium to potassium had a 50% higher risk of all-cause death and twice the risk of death in the event of a heart attack! Conversely, those who consumed the most potassium had a 20% reduced risk of all-cause mortality than those with the lowest potassium intakes.2
This goes to show how risky eating too much sodium is for our health, and how important it is to have an adequate potassium intake. In fact, if you’re going to eat too much of something, err on the side of potassium!
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Salt can be fatal if taken in a large enough dose, however it would be extremely difficult to achieve, and it is far more likely to invoke a "slow death" over a longer period of time from overdoing it. For instance, those who regularly consume too much salt are at a higher risk of heart attacks and other fatal occurrences than those who consume less.
In the most extreme cases of excessive sodium consumption, it can cause hypernatremia (high levels of sodium) as well as hypokalemia (life threateningly low levels of potassium). Symptoms of the latter include nausea, constipation, muscle spasms, weakness, abnormal heart rhythms, fatigue, and in the worst cases, muscle breakdown and paralysis.6
In an effort to reduce your sodium intake, try to limit the amount of salt you add to your cooking, baking, or at the table, no matter the type or source. To add extra flavor to your food without adding additional salt, you can also try using more herbs, spices and salt-free seasoning blends.
Consuming too much table salt, pink salt or any other type of salt also usually means consuming too much chloride, also known as hyperchloremia. Chloride is also found in many vegetables. Foods with higher amounts of chloride include seaweed, rye, tomatoes, lettuce, celery, and olives. If you eat these vegetables regularly then you should be careful with consuming salt, as your chloride intake might be increasing.
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The main risk associated with this condition is high body acidity as well as dehydration and impaired kidney function, all of which are problematic.8,9
If our bodies are too acidic, the immune system and many other cellular processes do not operate as effectively. Weaker bones and metabolic concerns are also par for the course. Other problems caused by frequently consuming too much chloride include an increased risk of complications associated with diabetes, making diabetics more vulnerable to excessive salt consumption.
Adults should be consuming no more than 3,600 mg of chloride per day, with the adequate intake being at 2,300 mg per day, which is the same amount of salt as mentioned under sodium intake above: 3.8-5.8 g or 1 teaspoon.6
Adequate Chloride Dose Per Day
|Age||Adequate Chloride Intake|
|0 to 6 months||0.18 g/day|
|7 to 12 months||0.57 g/day|
|1 to 3 years||1.5 g/day|
|4 to 8 years||1.9 g/day|
|9 to 13 years||2.3 g/day|
|14 to 50 years*||2.3 g/day|
|51 to 70 years||2.0 g/day|
|71 years and over||1.8 g/day|
|*Pregnant and lactating women: 2.3 g/day|
Without this chloride in our diets, we would suffer from being too alkaline, as some of the essential nutrients in fruits and vegetables end up turning into bicarbonates in the body. Both bicarbonates and chloride are essential to maintaining a perfect acid-base balance.
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This only truly applies to Himalayan pink salt and other non-iodized salts. Most people get iodine from dairy products, eggs, seafood and fortified table salt.
Iodine deficiency is known to be a problem in those who switch from non-iodized salt or who do not consume enough dietary iodine. This is important as iodine is required by the thyroid to make many hormones in the body and regulate bodily functions.
Himalayan pink salt has an unreliable iodine content of less than 100 mcg (micrograms) per gram of salt. This means that it could be 1 mcg or 500 mcg if you ate 5 g of Himalayan salt per day, making it unreliable as an effective source of iodine.
In terms of ordinary salt, ±0.01% is iodized. This equates to about 500-600 mcg of iodine per adequate daily dose of salt. Many tests have been done on the differences between consuming inorganic and organic forms of iodine, and both have proven to be safe (unless in amounts over the tolerable daily limit of 1,100 mcg) and effective ways to get iodine with a high absorption rate. 7,8
If you wish to avoid eating normal iodized salt due to the additives (more on that below), then you need to make sure you eat sufficient iodine-rich foods, especially seafood.
'Sole' is a less common term used to describe brine or a mixture of salt and water. Some people firmly believe that it and other salt water flushes (drinking it) yield great health benefits, such as stimulating metabolism and for use as a natural laxative.
Unfortunately, there is no data to back this up whatsoever, and drinking this will just pile on your salt load, causing many awful problems down the line. Perhaps it works as a natural laxative if heavily diluted and when using magnesium-based or potassium-based salts, as both magnesium and potassium have potential laxative effects (especially when taken with vitamin C).15
In terms of Himalayan pink salt sole, you would experience the side effects of a sodium chloride imbalance and that is not a good idea. There are many better ways to boost your metabolism, such as drinking lemon water and eating a diet rich in leafy green vegetables and other forms of soluble fiber.
There are two main myths circulating the internet about Himalayan pink salt side effects, one of which promotes it as a mineral supplement and the other of which crucifies it for having radioactive particles. Both of these are myths. There are also claims that it is better for you than table salt and can heal various conditions. These are controversial and misleading claims. Let’s explore why:
First, Himalayan pink salt has a rich mineral variety, not a rich mineral content. Only 2.59% of it makes up the 84 minerals that some are proclaiming will help heal chronic conditions. It is true that minerals help, especially in our mineral-deficient world today, but using pink salt won't cure anyone of a deficiency.
Out of that 2.59% that is not sodium or chloride, the highest mineral contents in Himalayan pink salt are awarded to sulfur at 12.4 mg/g, calcium at 4.05 mg/g, and potassium at 3.5 mg/g respectively. Consuming 5 g of Himalayan pink salt per day would then amount to consuming 62 mg of sulfur, 20.25 mg of calcium and 17.5 mg of potassium.
It's good to consume more minerals in trace amounts where one can, but these amounts are not significant enough to make a large difference considering one needs to consume at least 1,000 mg of calcium and 3,500 mg of potassium per day (sulfur is consumed in the form of amino acids and thus no intake has been set for it).9
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Food is a much better source of plant-based nutrients. For example, one cup (30 g) of spinach contains ±167 mg of potassium.
The rest of the minerals in Himalayan pink salt are denoted in parts per million (ppm), not surpassing 4 ppm and generally under 1 ppm, such as chromium. This is a mineral found in pink salt that is known for enhancing glucose metabolism, but not at the amounts you would obtain from salt, namely 0.05 ppm (0.25 mcg/5 g salt).
Some are concerned about radioactive compounds found in Himalayan salt such as uranium, radium and plutonium and that they are a health hazard.
Firstly, the amounts are so small that they are negligible and are typically less than what we find naturally occurring in soil.
For example, uranium found naturally in the Earth's crust as well as in common dust blowing around the planet amounts to 0.0004%. If you apply this percentage to parts per million, you land up with there being an average of 4 ppm of this in the earth as well as in the dust that we breathe, which is far more than the less than 0.001 ppm (less than 0.0000001%) found in pink Himalayan salt.
This is not enough to cause problems in the amounts we consume them in, otherwise we would all already be diagnosed with some kind of radiation poisoning.
The same logic can be applied to the other minerals people are worried about in pink sea salt. You would probably get more of them (along with an abundance of good immune-boosting minerals) from eating wholesome vegetables.
Is “natural” salt healthier than table salt? This is indeed a controversial issue, and there are cases to be made for either side. On one hand, all salt is sodium chloride. On the other hand, “natural” salts that have been less processed do contain 2-3% minerals, but this is not really enough to offer additional nutritional benefits. Let’s look at the various types of salt.
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Mined from underground salt deposits, table salt is chemically processed to remove impurities. These impurities include other minerals present. It is then ground very fine, bleached, blended with an anticaking agent such as calcium silicate, and fortified with iodine. Table salt has been fortified with iodine since 1924 to prevent iodine deficiencies, which can lead to hypothyroidism and goiter.
Sea salt is produced by evaporating sea water, leaving mostly sodium chloride as well as small amounts of other minerals such as potassium, iron and zinc. Since it is less processed than table salt, it retains many of its impurities, which unfortunately can also include heavy metal pollutants found in the ocean such as lead. Because it is not bleached and because of the other minerals and impurities present, sea salt is often uneven in color or greyish. No flow agents are added and it is often not ground as fine, although it can vary from coarse to fine.
Himalayan Pink Salt
Mined in Pakistan, Himalayan pink salt gets its hue from its iron oxide content. Himalayan pink salt is often ground coarser, leaving it with larger crystals. It is also less processed than table salt, and so it retains its natural color, texture, and its mineral content such as magnesium, potassium, calcium and iron. An additional benefit of Himalayan pink salt is that it is mined from ancient deposits, meaning it has not been exposed to modern pollutants like most sea salt is.
Unless you have an allergy, there should be no side effects to bathing with Himalayan pink salt. However, if you experience any skin irritation, just rinse off and don’t use it again.
There are in fact two things that make Himalayan pink salt superior to normal salt!
Himalayan pink sea salt is pristine because it undergoes very little refinement. Before it is ready to be shipped off, it is rinsed clean, dried and stone ground.
Ordinary salt, by comparison, goes through multiple processes, such as:
by Quang Nguyen Vinh / Pexels
Therefore each time you consume processed salt, you are ingesting small portions of bleach, other chemicals and toxic additives.
The most common salt additives used are:
When you understand how much artificial stuff is added to ordinary salt, it's hardly surprising that many chefs swear by the flavor of Himalayan pink salt and other natural salts, such as Celtic sea salt. The larger crystals of such salts add bursts of flavor in just the right places when used in plated dishes.Many people also prefer the flavor, and some find it saltier than normal salt, which encourages one to use less of it too!
Eating a healthy portion of Himalayan pink salt per day is not going to solve all your mineral deficiencies in a flash. Rather, use pink salt because you like the taste and want to avoid possibly toxic additives.
Here are some ways you can boost your mineral intake alongside a sensible use of Himalayan pink salt:
Instead of relying on junk food and snacks, eat more mineral-rich foods in your diet. Typically, the more variety you have in your diet, the better your nutrition will be. A colorful diet is generally a good indicator of optimal nutrition. Raw food tends to yield a higher mineral content than cooked food does and so eating more raw food is recommended.
Fruits and especially vegetables typically have some of the best mineral content, including:14
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Superfoods are foods that are exceptionally high in minerals, vitamins and antioxidants, which would also make valuable contributions to your diet. Maca root, acai berry and raw pure cacao are a few good ones.
Healthy oils such as olive oil, coconut oil and avocado oil help to absorb nutrients. To promote the best possible outcomes, avoid processed food which tends to promote nutritional deficiencies and metabolic problems.
Deep sea algae and kelp are known to be rich in minerals and many healthful nutrients which act to promote immune system and a good intake of iodine.
The mineral content is due to the fact that these sea organisms concentrate minerals from the sea. Especially mineral-rich varieties include ecklonia cava and chlorella, both of which are sold as natural supplements. One of the best reasons to add more of these foods to your diet is their rich iodine content, which is required for optimal thyroid function.
Fulvic acid is an amazing compound that is created by bacteria in the soil. It binds to multiple trace minerals and converts them into organic ionic forms which plants (and us) can absorb easily.
When we ingest fulvic acid in small amounts, it promotes better gut health and absorption of trace minerals. If bound to trace minerals, as found in ionic fulvic mineral supplements, it has the unique ability to by-pass cellular membranes, delivering these nutrients precisely to the parts of our cells that need them. This is a truly efficient way to boost one's nutrition!
Last, but not least, fulvic acid promotes the effects applies to the body as a whole by default!
Shilajit is arguably the best form of an ionic fulvic mineral supplement. It is a black resin made from millions of years of decomposing plant matter which is harvested from high altitudes in the Himalayas and at various other sites around the world.16 Shilajit benefits are useful for all living beings. Read more about how to take shilajit.
Like Himalayan pink salt, it contains trace minerals, however, the amounts in shilajit are more to make a difference.
Shilajit may be presented in different forms: shilajit powder or resin, solid or liquid, tablets or capsules.
Shilajit is also a great source of fulvic acid!
Drinking enough water is also important for getting an adequate amount of minerals. Mineral water tends to have decent levels of calcium and magnesium, as well as a few other trace minerals too. Water also helps with digestion immensely, allowing for more nutrients to be absorbed.
Dead Sea bath salts are incredibly high in magnesium (±40%) and potassium (±25%), while only containing ±5% sodium chloride.
This means it will work better than a nourishing Epsom salt bath in terms of relaxing the muscles, nourishing the skin and providing wellness.
Not All Dead Sea Salts Are the Same
Balneotherapy spa treatments using Dead Sea bath salts have been scientifically shown to improve the quality of life.17, 18
This is possibly due to the high magnesium content, which enhances skin barrier function, promotes balanced immune function and rehydrates the skin. Magnesium is also vital for many biological processes, such as mineral absorption and optimal cellular performance, and most people are deficient in it.
NOTE: Do not consume Dead Sea bath salts. Rather, stick to bathing in them.
The majority of Dead Sea salt goes to Jordan or Israel and gets purified, removing all these minerals to form 99% sodium chloride. It's important to request lab test results from the company you wish to purchase Dead Sea bath salts from to ensure it is of a good quality.
So is Himalayan salt all that? Is it really much better for you than table salt? In the end, salt is salt, mostly sodium chloride. Himalayan pink salt and other natural salts retain some of their natural minerals, but the amounts of these are not enough to make a great difference in your wellness. It is unwise to ingest large amounts of these salts as mineral supplements; there are other better ways to obtain more of the most important minerals you may need. Natural salts are also less refined and processed than table salt, so they do not contain bleach, residues of toxic chemicals, and various flow agents. Coarse salts like sea salt and Himalayan pink salt seem saltier to some, allowing them to use less salt, which is a good thing. In the end, it is the total amount of salt from our diet that should be our main concern, aiming to reduce our salt intake and balance it with our potassium intake.
If you’re looking for a good bath salt, Himalayan pink salt is indeed one of the purest salts. It may help with skin wellness, as do other forms of salt, but the best results will come from also using purified water.
Himalayan pink salt is therefore more natural, pure than table salt, although be sure to use it wisely, and get an adequate amount of iodine in your diet if you choose a more natural salt.
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