Pink Himalayan Salt, Is It Really Worth The Cost?
By: Todd Gamel RN
During my eighteen years in the restaurant business I used a wide variety of salts, salt products, and salt substitutes in countless recipes for a variety of reasons. Depending on the particle or size (coarse, fine, finishing) and type of grain of salt used, the amount has to be adjusted in order to season the dish correctly. In addition, some salts have a unique flavor profile depending on the sea in which they come from (sea salts), or the country and or area of the country in which they are mined (Hawaii, Himalaya, India, Italy, etc…). No matter the source, there is one thing that all of these salts have in common and this is of course sodium (Na). In fact, almost every salt product available commercially contains about 97 – 99% sodium. Unrefined salts, tend to be on the lower end, but overall the difference in sodium between commerically available products is generally less than 1%. For some reason, it is this other 2 – 3% that makes up salt that seems to have caught America’s attention and fueled a fire for “the pink stuff” or ‘Himalayan Pink Salt’.
Anyone who embarks on a LCHF / Ketogenic way of eating (WOE), will experience some form of diuresis, this is especially true during the early part of the process when your body is adapting from burning carbohydrates to burning fat as it’s primary fuel source. Because diuresis can cause you to lose a fair amount of sodium and potassium in your urine, it is important to make sure that you eat foods that supply your body with an adequate amount of sodium and potassium to replace that which you will lose in your urine. This is especially true for those of you who may be practicing some form of intermittent fasting (IF).
To combat this, there are a wide variety of ‘drinks’ and or bone broth recipes that can help you stay hydrated and help you to replenish your sodium and potassium stores as well as add some trace minerals back into your bloodstream. Some of these remedies, drinks, or bone broths make some quite specific health related claims which have not been scientifically proven, and that is what brings me in a round about way to the topic of this article regarding the benefits or so called benefits of ‘Himalayan Pink Salt’.
Pink Himalayan Salt And The 84 Trace Minerals
Mined in the Punjabi region of Pakistan as well as some other regions of the Himalayas, Himalayan pink salt (PHS) is all the rage right now. So let’s look at the chemical breakdown of PHS which is 98% sodium (Na) and 2% various trace minerals. One of the biggest claims made by almost all sellers, advertisers and proponents of pink Himalayan salt is that it is better for you because it contains 84 trace minerals that are essential to proper bodily function as well as promoting health and well being. Keep in that only 2% of the total makeup of PHS contains these 84 trace minerals that are claimed to be so beneficial. Logic would dictate that in order to get that many minerals in such a small percentage of salt, they must be pretty small amounts right? To find the answer to this question, I decided to do some research on the subject.
When examining the benefits of PHS, Dr. Harriet Hall from Science Based Medicine stated in her article on Himalayan pink salt that “the amount of minerals in it is too minuscule to make any difference, and we already get plenty of the same trace minerals from other foods.” In addition TIME Health a subsidiary of TIME magazine interviewed Dr. Andy Weil program director of the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine about the benefits of PHS. In this interview he stated, “All salts vary somewhat with respect to trace mineral content and texture. Proponents claim that pink salt has more minerals than typical salt, but you aren’t likely to get any extra health perks from eating it. Pink Himalayan salt is nutritionally very similar to regular salt. It’s just prettier and more expensive”.
Finally, ‘Medical News Today’ in their article ‘Pink Himalayan Salt: Does It Have Any Health Benefits’ concludes “At present, there is no scientific evidence to show that pink Himalayan salt provides more health benefits than regular table salt. Although pink salt contains several minerals, they are present in such small quantities that they are unlikely to bring any notable health benefits. It is also lower in iodine than iodized table salts, which may cause health issues for those who do not get enough iodine from other sources. Replacing fine-grain table salt with crystals of pink Himalayan salt may help to reduce sodium intake, but, as with any other salt, it should be enjoyed in moderation”.
I have read all the claims from a variety of authors, trainers, fitness gurus and or medical professionals, and watched hundreds of videos touting the same rhetoric. My personal opinion is that there is simply not enough of the 84 trace minerals in PHS to justify the claims that it promotes health and well being more so than any other salt. So, should the 84 trace minerals in PHS cause you any concern? Well, no. However, the science does not appear to back up any of the health benefits of PHS either.
The Sodium / Potassium Pump (Potassium in Pink Himalayan Salt)
The electrolytes sodium (Na) and potassium (K+) work hand in hand as part of the sodium-potassium pump. This sodium-potassium pump helps to move sodium ions from inside your bodies cells to the outside of the cell. In turn, this same sodium-potassium pump moves potassium ions from the outside of the cells to the inside of your bodies cells. So why is this transport of sodium and potassium so important? Because the sodium-potassium pump helps to regulate nerve impulses in both skeletal and cardiac muscle as well as helping to maintain proper fluid balance in the body. The only reason I wanted to mention this in this article is because I have seen several proponents of PHS claiming that it is a good source of potassium, and is a crucial component for proper sodium-potassium pump function. The funny thing is that none of the Himalayan salt products that I could find on the internet, list the amount of potassium in one serving of PHS. If the potassium content of PHS was so important, you would think that the amount of potassium contained in PHS would be listed on the nutritional label wouldn’t you? This lack of information was a problem for me, so in order to try and validate some of these claims I decided to look at the on-line results of the spectral analysis of PHS.
According to the spectral analysis, Pink Himalayan Salt contains 3.5mg of potassium per kilogram (3.5mg/Kg) of weight. So, in order to find out how much potassium is actually in 1 teaspoon of pink Himalayan salt, I had to do a little basic math, and here are my results.
1 kilogram = 1000 grams
Potassium 3.5gm/kg or 3,500mg/kg = 3,500mg/1000grams or 3.5mg/gram
1 teaspoon HPS weighs 4.4 grams
Therefore, if 1 teaspoon of Himalayan Pink Salt weighs 4.4 grams, and there is 3.5mg of potassium per gram of PHS, then the total amount of potassium in one teaspoon of PHS is 15.4mg (3.5 x 4.4 = 15.4mg). Since the recommended daily intake of potassium for an adult is 4,700mg/day, I think it is safe to say, that PHS is not a good source of your required daily potassium intake. Heck, one avocado contains about 700mg of potassium. I am not refuting the fact that PHS has potassium, just the fact that it is a good source for added dietary potassium as some so-called health advocates claim. Just for comparison, below I have listed the sodium and or potassium content (if any) for 1 teaspoon of some of the more common salts available at your local supermarket.
Kosher Salt – Sodium (Na) 1,800mg
Morton Lite Salt – Sodium (Na) 1,160mg, potassium (K+) 1400mg
Pink Himalayan Salt – Sodium (Na) 2,000mg, potassium (K+) 15.4mg
Sea Salt (fine grain) – Sodium (Na) 2,360mg
Sea Salt (coarse grain) – Sodium (Na) 1,600mg
Table Salt – Sodium (Na) 2,325mg
If you are worried about a electrolyte imbalance between sodium (Na) and potassium (K+) during the induction phase of a LCHF / Keto diet when you are diuresing (having frequent urination) or during intermittent fasting (IF) when you are consuming large amount of water; then from a purely chemical composition standpoint, Morton Light salt would be a better option than pink Himalayan salt. So what we see is that the science simply does not validate the fact that PHS is a good source of dietary potassium as many have claimed.
The Cost Benefit Ratio
Just looking at the various purchasing options at your local supermarket, or even online, you will see that PHS is quite a bit more expensive than regular table salt, sea salt, or Morton Lite Salt. Depending on the brand, and whether you get the fine or coarse grind, the price varies quite a bit. You can of course save quite a bit of money by purchasing in bulk, but are you gaining any real benefit from spending your hard earned money on PHS? That is a question you will have to answer for yourself, but to help you form your own conclusion I have listed some of the more popular brands of PHS found at not only my local Walmart, but the best selling brands on Amazon as well just so that you can see the variation in the prices of PHS.
Olde Thompson Fine Pink Himalayan Salt (12.5 ounces) $4.93, or $0.39 per ounce
Olde Thompson Coarse Pink Himalayan Salt (12.5 ounces) $3.83, or $0.31 per ounce
McCormick Grinder Coarse Pink Himalayan Salt (2.5 ounces) $2.71, or $1.08 per ounce
Sherpa Extra-Fine Grain Pink Himalayan Salt (5lbs) $14.24, or $0.18 per ounce
The Spice Lab Coarse Pink Himalayan Salt (2.2lbs) $8.55, or $0.24 per ounce
Wild Fine Himalayan Pink Salt (1 lb) $12.95, or $0.80 per ounce
Morton Kosher Salt (3lbs) $3.23, or $0.07 per ounce
Morton Lite Salt (11 ounces) $2.12, or $0.19 per ounce
Morton Iodized Salt (26 ounces) $1.48, or $0.06 per ounce
The problem is, there is so much hype surrounding the claims and benefits of consuming PHS, however, according to science, the benefits are actually minimal or none at all. I know this statement will not make some people happy, and yes, I understand that know one can place a price on your health, but to pay exorbitant prices for a product that has little or no real benefit to your health is in my opinion wasteful, especially if you are on a budget and trying to maximum both your health and food dollars.
If you have read this far, then I applaud you for your strength of will. Many who would not agree with my conclusions would have simply stopped reading by now, or sent me a scalding email or response without reading the complete article. The bottom line is that I started my research in order to better educate myself regarding the use of pink Himalayan salt to determine whether it could help me to meet my health goals. What I found along the way was a lot of claims and hype, but very little science to back up any of those claims. Am I telling you to stop using PHS? No, what I am telling you is that if you continue to use PHS in your diet, just be aware that many of the so called health benefits of using such are unconfirmed if not over inflated.
It is my personal opinion that if you are worried about a sodium-potassium electrolyte imbalance, you would be better off using something like Morton’s Lite salt, which has about a 45 – 55% ratio of sodium to potassium, as opposed to using PHS. Keep in mind that while sodium replacement is important, consuming to much sodium can be a problem for people who have high blood pressure, chronic kidney problems, and or congestive heart failure. The best solution would be to simply increase the amount of potassium rich foods in your eating plan. Stay keto strong my friends.