• By Elizabeth Coots, Extension Agent

Family and Consumer Sciences: Himalayan salt

Himalayan salt is a type of rock salt known for its pink color. The color comes from trace amounts of minerals naturally present in the caves of Pakistan where the salt is mined. It has gained popularity as a natural alternative to salt or a healthy salt. But is this just a new health fad? Is Himalayan salt really any different than table salt?

All salt is basically the same chemical - sodium chloride (NaCl).

Table salt, sea salt and Himalayan salt all contain about 40 percent sodium. They differ in their amounts of trace minerals, texture and flake size.

Table salt is mined from underground salt deposits. It is highly processed to remove impurities and trace minerals. Anti-caking agents are often added to prevent clumping and leave a smooth, fine texture. Table salt may also be fortified with iodine, which is added to prevent hormonal deficiencies associated with the thyroid gland.

Sea salt is obtained through the evaporation of seawater. It is usually not processed and contains trace amounts of minerals depending on the water source. Its texture is course and flake size ranges from small to large.

Himalayan salt is mined from underground sources near the base of the Himalayan Mountains in Pakistan. It is not processed and is commonly marketed as a ‘natural’ salt. Himalayan salt is advertised to contain between 60 and 84 trace minerals. However, the actual mineral content is present in very small amounts. In fact, most of the minerals promoted in Himalayan salt can easily be obtained from other healthy food sources and some minerals may even be harmful to the body, if consumed in large amounts.

Himalayan salt is commonly marketed as “contains less sodium than table salt.” This is true in terms of volume only. Himalayan salt has a larger crystal size than table salt. Therefore, a teaspoon of Himalayan salt will contain less sodium than a teaspoon of table salt because less salt fits into the spoon. Since table salt has a much smaller crystal size and fine texture, more of it fits into the spoon, and you get a slightly higher sodium value. It is for this reason that you should not substitute Himalayan salt or sea salt for table salt in recipes.

There are many claims associated with Himalayan salt. Do an internet search and you’ll find eating Himalayan salt will cure just about any aliment you have, including aging. However, there is no scientific research associated with these claims or evidence to support them. Be wise about your salt intake. The majority of the salt we consume is hidden in processed foods, not from our salt shaker. Choose whatever salt you like, whether it’s the color, texture, flavor or price that is appealing to you. Just remember to use it in moderation. Current US dietary guidelines recommend less than 2,300mg of sodium per day. Too much sodium consumption can lead to a number of health problems including high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.

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