Himalayan rock salt, often referred to as “white gold”, has been touted as a healthy alternative to normal table salt.
But what evidence do we have that this is the case?
A quick look at what’s out there on the internet comes down to one of three arguments.
Let’s look at the health claims one by one.
Claim #1: Himalayan salt contains 84 minerals.
But what are these minerals, and how much is in them?
Among the list of the 84 minerals, we find things like arsenic, lead, cadmium, mercury and even the radioactive mineral radium. These 84 minerals aren’t sounding too good now are they? I wonder why they didn’t put that on the label?
It’s a bit of a shock but don’t throw out your Himalayan salt just yet, as the amounts are exceedingly low. So low that you could eat nothing but sea salt for a year and still not have an issue (at least in regards to these minerals).
Other beneficial minerals like iodine, potassium, magnesium and calcium are all found in much higher amounts. But how much would we need to eat to get our recommended daily allowance (RDA) of each of these?
The RDA for Magnesium is 320-420 mg depending on your gender and age (1). There are 0.16 grams of Magnesium per kilogram of Himalayan salt. So you’d have to eat more than 2 kgs of salt a day to get the RDA.
The RDA of iodine is 150mcg (1). A kilo of Himalayan salt contains less than 100 mcg of iodine. So you’d have to eat more than 1.5 kilos of salt a day to get the RDA.
It’s clear that any minerals that are found in Himalayan salt (or any salt for that matter) are completely worthless.
Claim #2: Himalayan salt has many health benefits
This one is actually true. Salt helps keep us hydrated, balances our sodium/potassium ratios and ensures we have enough electrolytes. But these reported health benefits are all based on salt itself, and any salt will do.
Claim #3: Himalayan salt is unrefined
This argument claims that Himalayan salt is healthy because it’s unrefined and therefore doesn’t contain any additives or chemical residues used to process it. The problem with this claim, though it does sound good, is the fact that there is no evidence that refined salt is any different to unrefined salt in the amounts of chemical residues. It’s chemical structure is exactly the same as well. Additionally, as we saw above, the amounts of salt needed to get anywhere close to being physiologically relevant are huge, so even if there were some chemical residues, it wouldn’t be a problem at such low amounts.
So there you have it, salt is an important part of the diet, but the more expensive Himalayan salt is not worth it from a health perspective (but may be worth it for its taste).