The cyber world is riddled with ostentatious claims about Himalayan pink salt, some going far enough to suggest that the pretty, pink crystals are as close to ambrosia as we will ever get and calling it the panacea that the human civilization has been searching for. Of course, for every proponent, the humble Himalayan pink salt has also garnered a naysayer.
Unfortunately, for buyers, the opposing schools of thought coupled with popular science’s insistence of low sodium diets pose quite a conundrum. So, here is a look at what these pink salt crystals are all about and an unbiased examination of the Himalayan pink salt benefits that everybody keeps harping over.
Is a salt by any other name and of any other color still just salt?
It goes by a myriad of names; rock salt, Himalayan crystal salt, pink salt, Himalayan sea salt and more. The scientific name for this distinctly pink crystalline substance is halite. It is a mineral rich form of sodium chloride and is mined from the second largest salt mine in the world, which is in Pakistan, about 300 km from the Himalayan Range.
Hailed as real salt and the most organic and natural form of NaCl, the salt crystals were formed in the saline water bodies around Tibet while the land mass was close to the equator around 105 million years ago. A shift in the tectonic plates led to the formation of the Himalayas and the upward movement of Tibet towards the mountain range.
Over time, volcanic layers covered the ancient salt beds, trapping the crystalline salt underneath and protecting it from pollution and hazardous effluents which were the hallmarks of industrialization. Apart from purity, what makes Himalayan pink salt one of the most nutritious naturally available substances in the world is its content of essential minerals.
Is this pink salt really all that pure?
Himalayan salt is hand mined without the use of commercial explosives. Also, the salt is not processed in any way; it is not subjected to heat, bleaching agents or preservatives. The pink salt is sold in its natural crystalline and powder forms. For the latter, they only use stone grinding which means that even this process does not add heavy metals or other pollutants to it. The crystals come in an array of colors; from off white to pink and even red. The darker shades can be attributed to the traces of iron in the salt.
You could be compromising your health by not using this organic Himalayan Pink Salt!
What nutrients does pink Himalayan salt contain?
Trace minerals in balanced and optimal amounts are critical to several vital functions in the body. There was a time when people could get all of these nutrients from their daily dietary intake. Unfortunately, the persistent use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers has leeched these elements from the soil. This essentially means that food simply is not as nutritious as it used to be. In fact, this was confirmed in a senate hearing where it was found that a whopping 90% of Americans suffer from mineral deficiencies and imbalance.
Himalayan pink salt has 84 minerals of the 92 trace minerals found in nature. Although available in small quantities, the regular intake of this salt can help to gradually build the levels of these nutrients in the body. The minerals found in pink salt which have a direct bearing on health are:
- Boron: An ultra trace mineral, this substance has been tied to the calcium content in the vertebrae. The right amount of boron decreases the urinary excretion of magnesium and calcium, which are crucial for healthy bones. So, the deficiency of this mineral has also been linked to osteoporosis.
- Calcium: Essential for the development and health of the skeletal system and teeth, this mineral is also vital for nerve transmission, muscle contraction and blood clotting.
- Chromium: Regulates blood sugar level and enhances glucose metabolism.
- Cobalt: Important for the formation of red blood cells.
- Copper: Helps in the formation of connective tissues and red blood cells. It also contributes to nervous functions and is a catalyst that releases and stores iron as needed, which is crucial for the production of hemoglobin.
- Iodine: Regulates the function of the thyroid glands and supports metabolic activity in the body.
- Iron: Vital for cognitive functions and for the formation of red blood cells.
- Magnesium: Helps in nervous and muscular functions and activates over 100 vital enzymes in the body.
- Molybdenum: Is a contributor to the normal growth and development of the body.
- Phosphorous: Works synergistically with calcium for bone and dental health and enhances the processing of other nutrients.
- Potassium: Regulates cardiac rhythm, helps in muscle contraction and maintains the fluid balance in the body.
- Selenium: This mineral is an essential component in the production of an antioxidant enzyme that is naturally secreted in the body and spurs normal growth and development of the tissue.
- Sulfur: Essential for muscle and hair protein.
- Zinc: This mineral helps in the secretion of over 200 enzymes which are employed for various vital physiological functions in the body, including metabolism, digestion, healing and reproduction.
- Sodium: Helps to maintain fluid balance and acid base balance in the body. It is also essential for nerve and muscle contractions.
- Hydrogen: It is needed for maintaining acid-base balance and is a component of digestive acids.
- Chloride: Also a component of gastric acid (hydrochloric acid), chloride helps to maintain water and acid base balance.
- Phosphate: Helps in energy and protein metabolism and in protecting the structure of cellular membranes.
Of course, you also get 66 other trace elements in various quantities when you use Himalayan pink salt. It is imperative to understand that these trace minerals exist in relationship with one another. This means that their synergistic effect on the body can be compromised if you are getting too much of one trace element and not enough of another. This imbalance is bound to lead to health concerns. In Himalayan pink salt, these minerals not only exist in their natural, unpolluted form but also in natural quantities.
What about the heavy metals in the pink salt?
Naysayers are quick to point out that the crystalline pink salt also contains heavy metals including lead and mercury, which can have detrimental effects. However, what they fail to explain is that the quantity of these metals is so minute, usually less than 0.001 g, that it is too miniscule to cause any harm.
Another crucial factor to consider is that even if you have built heavy metal toxicity due to constant exposure to these elements (they are commonly found in very high quantities in sea food and many other natural products), Himalayan sea salt has the minerals that can combat these toxins and neutralize them. For instance, magnesium is the only known substance that can treat aluminum toxicity and the pink salt has ample of this nutrient.
Similarly, arsenic poisoning can be neutralized by selenium, iodine, calcium, sulfur and zinc. Nutrients such as calcium sulfur, zinc, iron are also known to be extremely effective against lead and mercury toxicity. Since Himalayan pink salt has all of these, it is easy to imagine the benefits of consuming pink salt over regular table salt and even sea salt.
Why not give up salt entirely?
Saline water is often used as an electrolyte in medical settings to offset the harmful effects of blood loss and other critical health issues. This is done because if the hemoglobin from the blood (this is the substance that gives blood its red color and us made of iron) is removed, the life giving fluid coursing through the veins in the body would closely resemble saline water.
So, removing salt entirely is nothing but a recipe for trouble. Although salt has been viciously and needlessly shot down by the medical community, which often considers it to be the root cause of all ailments, the fact remains that sodium and chloride are essential minerals. However as explained above, the over intake of any one mineral leads to imbalance and the onset of health concerns.
Keeping with this principle, it can be postulated that neither the over consumption nor the under consumption of salt will help the human body. Furthermore, most studies in which salt emerged as the villain were conducted using regular table salt. However, researchers failed to take into account the chemical substances which lace commercial salt granules and their harmful impact on the body.
Salt is essential for a plethora of biological processes in the body such as:
- It is a vital component of blood plasma
- It also forms a part of lymphatic, amniotic and extra cellular fluids
- It is crucial for the regulation of blood pressure
- It helps to carry nutrients to the cells
- It draws out toxins from the cells
- It increases the mass of glial cells in the brain; these are essential for creative thinking and planning
It offers the nutrients needed for the sodium-potassium ion exchange at the cellular level, which allows the brain to communicate with the muscles in the body.
So, if there is such a thing as too much salt; the exact opposite condition of too less salt can also prevail. Termed as hyponatremia, this is the deficiency of sodium in the body. As the levels of this vital mineral begin to plunge, the cells start swelling rapidly and this condition can be life threatening at its severest.
People who are bent on following a low sodium diet as part of their healthy living initiative may experience more subtle symptoms of the condition such as occasional headaches, nausea, change in appetite, loss of energy, fatigue, confusion, hallucinations, nervousness, restlessness, mood changes, urinary incontinence, muscle weakness and cramps. Medical studies support the statement that drastically cutting back on salt intake can have disastrous consequences.
- For instance, a 2009 study confirmed that large bone fractures in seniors can be attributed to hyponatremia.
- A 1995 study conducted to understand the impact of sodium on hypertensive patients revealed that low sodium levels are linked to an increased risk of heart attacks.
- Through a Harvard study which involved the participation of 60,000 nurses, it was found that low levels of calcium and magnesium increased the chances of developing high blood pressure by 23%.
Why is Himalayan pink salt better than table salt?
The primary issues with commercially refined salt are the artificial processing and additives used to make it more aesthetically pleasing. All salt is derived from a salt water body. Usually, for commercial production, regular sea water is channeled to the land, where it is sun dried. So, table salt is also derived from the sea.
However, since this water is usually sourced from the shores the salt contains a lot of pollutants. After all, sewage does go into the ocean and that is from where the salt comes. To deal with this issue, the crystals are chemically cleaned and heated to a temperature of 1200 degrees F. Because the natural crystals are off white, the salt is also bleached.
At this point, the granules lose all their natural nutrients along with the pollutants. However, the chemicals used to achieve the bright white color and cleaning stay back. As a final measure, anti caking agents are added to the salt to prevent its deterioration from exposure to humidity. The result is that even when the salt is consumed, these chemicals prevent it from getting dissolved in the body, leading to a buildup of the salt and chemicals in the cells and organs, and that is what causes a host of health problems.
Unfortunately, the FDA allows commercial manufacturers to include 2% additives in salt and sometimes a part of this 2% is aluminum, which is linked to Alzheimer’s. A simple experiment with salt water fishes is enough to understand just how toxic table salt is. When added to water that contains regular salt, ideally, these marine creatures should thrive as it is their natural environment, but they die.
Himalayan pink salt vs. white, table salt vs. sea salt: A nutritional and safety perspective!
As mentioned above, the most striking benefit of using Himalayan pink salt is that it is free of pollutants, including heavy metals, which are found even in natural sea salt. In fact, even the Celtic sea which is considered one of the least polluted salt water bodies in the world and is hence the source of water used in the production of gourmet salt has higher levels of heavy metal than Himalayan pink salt.
Real salt is not chemically cleaned or processed, so it does not contain artificial additives but natural minerals, including iodine. Himalayan pink salt is 84% sodium chloride and 16% other minerals. In contrast, with your table salt, you are getting 98% sodium chloride and 2% chemicals. Of course, the fact that commercial salt is sold in the form of tiny granules also exacerbates the problem over consumption.
In contrast, the larger crystals of pink salt means that per half a spoon the amount of sodium chloride is lower than what it would be in the same quantity of table salt. The molecular structure of commercial salt also differs vastly from Himalayan pink salt, since the former is subjected to high temperatures. This change also mars its ability to be absorbed and processed in the body.
Low sodium salts are known to contain mono-sodium glutamate for taste enhancement and the harmful effects of this chemical are well documented. As far as sea salt is concerned, 97% of it is sodium chloride while it does have 3% trace minerals. However, as explained, pollution is a huge concern. A comparison of table salt vs. Himalayan pink salt vs. natural sea salt shows that pink salt contains the highest concentration of calcium at 0.16% and potassium at 0.28%. It also contains 0.1% magnesium.
Himalayan pink salt benefits
This natural nutrient can help in numerous ways such as:
- Less sodium consumption
- Better electrolyte balance
- Improves hydration of cells and organ tissue
- Balances intra and extra cellular water content
- Regulates pH balance in the body
- Prevents muscle cramping
- Enhances metabolic activity
- Strengthens bones
- Prevents goiter
- Improves blood circulation
- Lowers blood pressure
- Removes toxins
- Helps in the intestinal absorption of nutrients
- The trace minerals pull out accumulated toxins from the cells
- Minerals in ionized form get absorbed easily in the body
- Supports cardiac health
- Helps in enhancing insulin sensitivity
- To some degree, acts as a natural anti histamine
- Balancing of trace minerals helps to regulate hormonal activity
- Anecdotal evidence suggests that pink salt is also effective against cellulite
- Enhances nerve functions
- Good for thyroid and adrenal health
But, what about the taste?
Used as gourmet salt by some of the most well known chefs in the world, including those who work for Michelin star restaurants, Himalayan pink salt is milder than regular table salt when it comes to salinity. However, the difference in the saltiness is not remarkable enough to spoil the taste of a dish.
Also, because the crystals are larger, instead of giving an overall salty taste, they offer a gradual burst of saltiness on the palette which can be different and unique. Of course, the pink and red crystals also look aesthetically appealing when added to finish a dish.
A touch of good health in regular foods with Himalayan pink salt!
This salt goes extremely well with fruit and veggie salads. Of course, it can also be used in cooking and curing like regular table salt. When used in brining, it gives a succulent and juicy texture to poultry and pork.
Do you have any questions regarding Himalayan salt, its uses and amazing benefits?
Please visit our FAQ’s page. There you will find all the ins and out about this product.