Food trends are a funny thing. They turned kale from garnish to royalty, and created an empire out of avocado toast. Now, they’re turning our salt from white to pink.
Pink salt, also known as Himalayan salt, is a hot topic in the spice game. It tastes, well, like salt, but looks beautiful and instantly ups one’s cooking cred. But why?
“A lot of people choose Himalayan salt for its unique flavor and visual appeal,” says Lauren Elliott, a registered dietitian and wellness education specialist with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Centers. “And some feel it’s better for you. Nutritionally, however, it’s fairly similar to regular table salt.”
The hype around pink salt has exaggerated its health benefits, but according to Elliott, there are a few ways that it outshines its white counterpart:
- It contains more minerals.
Pink salt is obtained through rock mining, and comes from areas close to the Himalayan Mountains. Its rosy color comes from a unique mineral content — including potassium, calcium and magnesium. But because these minerals only compose 2 percent of pink salt’s makeup, added benefits are minimal.
- It has fewer added ingredients.
During processing, anti-caking agents such as magnesium carbonate or sodium aluminosilicate are added to table salt. Because pink salt is mined, and the grinding is usually done at home, it can be a purer product than table salt.
- It can reduce your sodium intake.
Pink salt has larger granules. Salt that is more coarsely ground is less dense, because the granules will not pack together as tightly as fine ones will. So, teaspoon for teaspoon, pink salt will have less sodium. Larger granules also tend to be more flavorful, requiring you to use less in your recipes.
- It may improve some health issues.
Some research suggests that pink salt has a few specific health benefits, such as improving respiratory disease, improving sleep and enhancing blood sugar regulation. However, research is limited — and until more studies are done, many experts are wary of making any strong recommendations.
To pink or not to pink?
Before making a salt switch, Elliott advises that pink salt has its downsides, too. To start, it isn’t iodized. “The human body needs iodine,” Elliott says. “And that’s one benefit that table salt has over pink salt. If you don’t eat a varied diet consisting of seafood, dairy products, whole grains or produce — iodized salt can serve as a dietary source of iodine.”
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), iodine is necessary to support the thyroid and maintain metabolic function. The recommended daily intake for iodine is 150 micrograms per day for most adults. And while table salt generally contains 45 micrograms per gram, pink salt comes up short.
Another notable consideration about pink salt is that it is, in fact, still salt. The sodium in salt is an essential nutrient for muscle contraction, nervous system impulses and fluid balance, but too much of it can put added pressure on the heart and blood vessels.
“If you’re under the impression that pink salt is a health food, there might be a temptation to use a lot of it,” Elliot says. “In terms of selecting a salt, pick a salt that fits your taste and preference. But whichever salt you choose, be sure to limit your sodium to 2,300 milligrams per day — about one teaspoon.”