Salt is something with which we are all well acquainted, largely to the role it plays in seasoning food.
Most commonly, salt is thought of as sodium chloride (table salt). Still, in chemistry, a salt is any combination of a cation (positively charged ion) and an anion (negatively charged ion) joined by an ionic bond.
For this article, we'll be focusing on the most ubiquitous salt -- table salt.
Once a staple in all kitchens and dining rooms, table salt has met some fierce competition in recent years from other “trendier” or more “natural” options.
One of the most popular alternatives to table salt is Pink Himalayan salt.
Today, we discuss what (if any) differences there are between regular table salt vs. Pink Himalayan salt and what potential benefits there may be to swap one for the other.
Let's first start by discussing a little bit about salt, sodium, and its role in the body.
What is Sodium? And Why is it Important?
Sodium is an essential mineral that plays a key role in maintaining blood volume and blood pressure and muscle contraction and nerve impulse transmission. <2,3,4>
Salt is one of the oldest seasonings, and salting is one of the oldest food preservation forms.
Saltiness is even one of the five basic human tastes (along with sweet, sour, bitter, and umami).
The average person consumes close to 3,000mg of the mineral daily (usually in table salt). <1>
Sodium chloride accounts for ~98% of table salt by mass, which is why people use the terms so interchangeably.
Now, let's discuss the differences between regular table salt and Pink Himalayan salt.
Regular Table Salt vs. Pink Himalayan Salt
Salt can be produced in several ways.
The first is by extracting it from underground salt mines, and the second is by evaporating saltwater (hence, sea salt).
Table salt is made from salt mined from underground salt deposits. It is then processed and refined to eliminate impurities and then has certain additives, like anticaking agents, to prevent clumping and improve its nutritional profile (i.e., iodized salt, which has iodine added to it).
Pink Himalayan salt is harvested from the Khewra Salt Mine, located near the Himalayas in Pakistan.
The Khewra Salt Mine is one of the oldest salt mines globally, and it's also the second largest.
Pink Himalayan salt is mined by hand and minimally processed to yield a more "natural" or unrefined product than table salt. Pink Himalayan salt also does not contain any additives as table salt does.
Pink Himalayan salt is similar in sodium content to table salt, as both contain ~98% sodium chloride.
However, where Pink Himalayan salt stands apart from table salt, it also contains other important minerals and electrolytes, including magnesium, calcium, and potassium.
Due to its hand-extraction and lack of additives, many individuals perceive Pink Himalayan salt to be a “better” salt than table salt. We’ll address this in greater detail below.
Table salt is white with a small crystalline structure, while Pink Himalayan salt is a pink-colored salt typically with a larger crystal size.
As mentioned above, both regular table salt and Pink Himalayan salt contain approximately 98% sodium chloride.
The real difference between the two is that the final 2%.
One study sought to investigate the differences between various salts harvested from around the world and noted Pink Himalayan salt contained greater amounts of magnesium, iron, potassium, and calcium than table salt. <5>
However, the differences were incredibly small, meaning they’re unlikely to make much of a difference on a day to day basis. <5>
Health Claims of Pink Himalayan Salt
In tandem with the rise in popularity of Pink Himalayan salt, so is the number of claims attributed to its use.
Some of the "benefits" (claims) you'll encounter when reading about Pink Himalayan Salt include:
- Supports Hydration
- Reduces The Signs Of Aging
- Stabilizes pH Balance
- Enhances Circulation
- Reduces Blood Pressure
- Detoxifies The Body
- Reduces Muscle Cramps
- Boosts Libido
While these perceived benefits seem alluring, the reality is that there is a succinct lack of evidence for these claims beyond what regular sodium has been shown to do in the body -- required for hydration, muscle function, nerve transmission, etc.
As we said above, Pink Himalayan salt does contain more trace minerals than regular table salt <5>, and it’s also more “natural” in that it doesn’t contain any additives.
However, the extra trace minerals naturally present in Pink Himalayan salt only account for ~2% of the mineral content. They are unlikely to have any meaningful impact on an otherwise healthy diet.
Remember, 98% of Pink Himalayan salt is sodium chloride, exactly what regular table salt is.
Now, this isn't to say that Pink Himalayan salt is "bad"; it's just not the magic "superfood" it's hyped to be.
How Is Pink Himalayan Salt Used?
The most obvious use for Pink Himalayan salt is in the kitchen. You can add it to dishes pretty much the same way you would use regular table salt.
Add it to eggs, marinades, grilled meats, sauces, or as a finishing garnish on your meal at the dinner table.
Pink Himalayan salt can also be used as a cooking surface.
It's not uncommon for culinary enthusiasts and amateur gourmets to use large blocks of Pink Himalayan salt to sear or grill various meats.
One thing to keep in mind is that while you can use Pink Himalayan salt interchangeably with regular table salt, you need to be cognizant of the crystal size.
Table salt is very finely ground, while Pink Himalayan salt is usually more coarsely ground.
Therefore, if you want to swap the salts one for one, you’ll either need to use more Pink Himalayan salt (due to the larger crystal size) or grind it to a similar texture as regular table salt.
To put things in perspective, a teaspoon of regular table salt contains around 2,300 mg of sodium, while 1 teaspoon of coarse Pink Himalayan salt may contain less than 2,000 mg of sodium.
Beyond its role in cooking and eating, many individuals use Pink Himalayan salt in several other applications.
For starters, some individuals will add Pink Himalayan salt into a warm bath under the belief it will help relieve muscle cramps and/or improve skin quality.
Others purchase salt lamps, which are believed to help improve skin and respiratory problems by removing air pollutants. However, there is scant evidence to back up these other uses of Pink Himalayan salt.
Pink Himalayan salt may be a more "natural" alternative to regular table salt, and it certainly can be a viable option to include in your diet. That doesn't necessarily mean it is inherently "better" or more effective than regular table salt.
Many of the claims surrounding Pink Himalayan salt are just that -- claims. There is next to no research comparing the two salts and showing one superior to the other.
Finally, if you decide to switch regular table salt for Pink Himalayan salt, make sure to incorporate other dietary sources of iodine (fish, seaweed, shrimp, multivitamin). Pink Himalayan salt isn't particularly rich in the essential trace mineral.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Department of Agriculture. What We Eat in America. NHANES 2013–2014, Table 37. 2017.
- Andersson B, Eriksson L, Fernández O, Kolmodin CG, Oltner R. Centrally mediated effects of sodium and angiotensin II on arterial blood pressure and fluid balance. Acta Physiol Scand. 1972;85(3):398-407. doi:10.1111/j.1748-1716.1972.tb05274.x
- Barchi RL. Molecular pathology of the skeletal muscle sodium channel. Annu Rev Physiol. 1995;57:355-385. doi:10.1146/annurev.ph.57.030195.002035
- Kole MH, Ilschner SU, Kampa BM, Williams SR, Ruben PC, Stuart GJ. Action potential generation requires a high sodium channel density in the axon initial segment. Nat Neurosci. 2008;11(2):178-186. doi:10.1038/nn2040
- DRAKE, S. and DRAKE, M. (2011), COMPARISON OF SALTY TASTE AND TIME INTENSITY OF SEA AND LAND SALTS FROM AROUND THE WORLD. Journal of Sensory Studies, 26: 25-34. doi:10.1111/j.1745-459X.2010.00317.x