A pinch of salt can go a long way in turning an average dish into an appetizing meal that family and friends will love. Salt comes in many forms, not just the white table salt many are used to.
Kosher salt, sea salt, Celtic salt and Himalayan salt are available nowadays, which is great news for avid cooks who love experimenting with flavors.
In particular, Himalayan salt is becoming popular not just because it’s said to be a very pure salt,1 but also because there’s increasing curiosity on its positive impacts to your health.
But what really makes Himalayan salt special? This article provides you with information about Himalayan salt’s uses and benefits, and how you can incorporate it into your favorite recipes today.
What Is Himalayan Salt?
Himalayan salt is a type of rock salt that's mined from the Punjab region in Pakistan, particularly in the Khewra Salt Mine.2 Ninety-eight percent of Himalayan salt is sodium chloride, while the remaining percentage accounts for trace minerals like potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus and vanadium.3
These trace minerals are responsible for Himalayan salt’s unique taste, which is different from table salt,4 albeit the two are chemically similar.
Oftentimes, people tend to compare Himalayan salt to sea salt, probably because of the unique flavor that these deliver to food. However, there are distinct characteristics that set these two types of salt apart from each other. See what Himalayan salt has to offer versus sea salt:5
||Himalayan salt is mined from the Khewra Salt Mine in the Punjab region of Pakistan.6
||Sea salt is obtained by collecting and evaporating water from seas, oceans or saltwater lakes using a man-made pool. After the water evaporates, salt residues develop.
|Texture and Taste
||Himalayan salt is a coarse and red to pinkish salt that tastes quite strong if tasted directly.
||Sea salt is coarse, but with a grayish to white color. It also has a strong taste when taken directly, although it is different from that of Himalayan salt.
|Elements in the Salt
||Trace minerals and other elements are found in Himalayan salt.
||Sea salt also contains trace minerals, but there is a high risk that it has traces of heavy metals like lead. This is due to pollution that can negatively affect the quality of water in areas where the salt is mined.
What Is Himalayan Salt Good For?
Himalayan salt is often utilized in the same way as table salt; it’s used for cooking, seasoning and preserving food. What’s unique about Himalayan salt, however, is its availability as salt blocks that may be used as serving dishes, cooking surfaces and cutting boards.7
Apart from using Himalayan salt for culinary purposes, it can also be substituted for bath salts and added to relaxing salt and mineral baths that allow the skin to soak up minerals from the water.8 Plus, it can also be made into eye-catching Himalayan salt lamps and candle holders for your rooms.9
Himalayan Salt’s Health Benefits
Using Himalayan salt instead of conventional table salt is a decision that you won’t regret. For starters, Himalayan salt is less processed and does not contain additives, unlike table salt, which is heavily refined and mixed with anti-caking agents like magnesium carbonate or sodium aluminosilicate.10 Plus, Himalayan salt also has benefits that can impact your body by:11
✓ Promoting healthy pH balance in your cells, particularly brain cells
✓ Assisting in the development of hydroelectric energy cells in your body
✓ Aiding the skin in healing damaged muscle and other soft tissues
✓ Inhibiting muscle cramps
✓ Improving bone strength
✓ Supporting respiratory health
✓ Boosting blood sugar health
✓ Promoting vascular health
Promoting better sinus health
Absorbing food particles via your intestinal tract
Helping improve digestion and increasing satiety
✓ Regulating sleep
✓ Regulating blood pressure levels (in conjunction with water)
✓ Purifying air (when used in a salt lamp)
✓ Aiding as a potent detoxifier when added in water, as it turns to an ionic solution that helps draw out toxins in skin and adipose tissues
There are 84 trace minerals in Himalayan salt that all offer various benefits. Here’s a rundown of five of the most important trace minerals in this salt:12
- Sodium: The body needs it for various functions, as it helps with contracting and relaxing muscles, preventing dehydration and low blood pressure levels and sending nervous system impulses.
- Calcium:13 It’s heralded for its capabilities in protecting heart muscles, building strong bones, gums and teeth, inhibiting the onset of kidney stones, premenstrual depression and obesity, regulating blood pressure levels and promoting a healthy alkaline pH level.
- Magnesium: This is a vital component of the body’s biochemical processes. Magnesium also plays a role in promoting proper formation of bones and teeth, relaxing blood vessels, enhancing muscle and nerve function, regulating blood sugar and insulin sensitivity and promoting creation of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) or the body’s energy currency.14,15
- Iron: It serves in promoting immune system strength and energy production. Iron’s main function, however, lies in hemoglobin production that is an important step in oxygen transportation throughout the body.
- Potassium: Himalayan salt contains higher amounts of potassium compared to other natural and unprocessed salts. This helps your body maintain a balanced potassium-to-salt ratio.
Maintaining the Body’s Sodium and Potassium Levels Can Make a Difference
Many experts have suggested that consuming as less salt as possible is good for your health. However, there are major drawbacks to this train of thought. While consuming too much salt is definitely dangerous for your body, there are also health risks attributed to a major decrease in salt intake.
According to a study published in the Lancet, while high-salt diets were linked to a higher risk of cardiovascular events and death in hypertensive populations, low-salt diets were alarmingly also connected to a higher possibility for cardiovascular events like heart attacks and stroke16 and deaths in people with or without hypertension.17
Results highlighted that a daily intake of nearly 3,000 milligrams of salt was connected to optimal health. While the results of this Lancet study have been deemed controversial, you’d be pleased to know that there are other studies supporting this claim.
Ultimately, you shouldn’t be concerned on maintaining optimal sodium levels alone, but in ensuring there’s a balance between the sodium and potassium levels in your body. A 2014 study in the journal Advances in Nutrition pointed out that a person’s sodium to potassium ratio was more strongly linked to blood pressure changes, as opposed to either sodium or potassium individually.18
Furthermore, researchers also discovered that this ratio can help determine if a person has a higher risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and all causes of mortality, and can be a more important risk factor for hypertension and CVD.19,20,21,22Ideally, balancing your sodium to potassium ratio involves increasing intake of potassium-rich foods while consuming moderate amounts of sodium. Examples of foods that are naturally high in potassium but low in sodium include:23
How to Cook With Himalayan Salt
As mentioned earlier, Himalayan salt is great for seasoning food, from appetizers, main dishes and even some desserts. In this Simple yet Flavorful Homemade Pickle Recipe, Himalayan salt is used for two reasons — adding flavor to the vegetables and preserving them to prolong their shelf life:
Cooking With Himalayan Salt:
Simple yet Flavorful Homemade Pickle Recipe
- Rinse your jar with boiling water to sterilize it.
- To make your brine, add 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar, the Kinetic Culture starter (if using) and enough salt so that it’s saturated (you should have salt that doesn’t dissolve).
- Add whichever spices you prefer into the jar.
- Add the cucumbers into the jar, packing them tightly.
- Add the fresh herbs on top (coriander and dill).
- Fill the rest of the jar with purified water.
- Cover and place the jar in the fridge for three to four days.
If you're up to the challenge, try cooking with a Himalayan salt block. Ideally, you must slowly preheat or temper the salt block carefully before cooking, especially during the first few times that it's used. The Meadow provides a step-by-step guide on how you can temper your salt block for cooking via three different approaches:24
- Gas Range
- Place the salt block on top of the gas range.
- Set the heat to low for 15 minutes to allow the block to heat up.
- Increase the heat slowly to low-medium for another 15 minutes.
- Raise the temperature to medium-high for another 15 minutes.
- To know if your block is ready for cooking, the temperature should be around 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Electric Range
- Put a circular metal ring such as a pastry ring or wok ring on top of the burner.
- Place your salt block on top of the ring.
- To heat the block, simply follow the instructions indicated in the Gas Range procedure.
- Place the salt block on one end of the grill.
- Place your charcoals to the opposite end of the grill, allowing the block to heat up carefully.
- Alternative: If you’re using a gas grill, follow the Gas Range steps to heat your salt block.
Once you’re done cooking, allow your block to completely cool off before cleaning. Use a damp sponge (but do not use any kind of soap) then scrub it softly to remove food particles. It’s important to keep the block as dry as possible (and your scrubbing as soft as possible) so that only a small layer of salt is removed during the cleaning process. After cleaning, store the block in a low-humidity area or wrap it in a towel and place it in a cupboard.
With its many purposes, all-important benefits and lack of additives and artificial ingredients, Himalayan salt is clearly a notch above other types of salt sold nowadays. Even better, studies have highlighted the importance of adding sodium sources such as Himalayan salt to your diet, because of its capabilities in enhancing your well-being.
Do remember, however, that for Himalayan salt to work its magic, you must consume it in moderation alongside potassium-rich foods. Despite Himalayan salt’s unique characteristics, it isn’t the only key for improving health and lowering risk for diseases.
Consuming a real and whole food diet and increasing physical activity remain to be the major factors that can help you achieve these goals.
Frequently Asked Questions About Himalayan Salt
Q: Is Himalayan salt iodized?
A: Iodized salt refers to table salt containing a small amount of potassium iodide or sodium iodide. This type of salt aims to supply the body with iodine, which plays a role in proper function of the thyroid gland.25
Unfortunately, iodized salt is oftentimes unhealthy and not a naturally occurring rock or crystal salt. Rather, according to the Global Healing Center, it is a manufactured type of salt that simply contains added iodide.26 Meanwhile, iodine naturally occurs in Himalayan salt, along with 84 other trace minerals, so there is very little reason for companies to use chemical processes to add more of it.27
Q: How do you use Himalayan salt?
A: Himalayan salt is commonly used to cook, season or preserve food. Plus, if you manage to buy Himalayan salt blocks, these can be used as cooking surfaces, cutting boards or serving platters. Himalayan salt may also be utilized as bath salts for a relaxing bath, or made into Himalayan salt lamps and candle holders that can add character to a room.28
Q: Where can you buy Himalayan salt?
A: You can buy Himalayan salt at groceries, health stores and online shops.