By Dr. Joseph Mercola | Guest Writer
Kosher salt, sea salt, Celtic salt and Himalayan salt are just some varieties that are available nowadays, which is great news for avid cooks who love experimenting with flavors. Himalayan salt is becoming particularly popular, not just for its supposed purity, but also because there’s an increased 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 favourite 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. Ninety-eight percent of Himalayan salt is sodium chloride, while the remaining percentage accounts for trace minerals like potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus and vanadium.
Oftentimes, people tend to compare Himalayan salt to sea salt, probably because of the unique flavour that they both deliver to food. However, there are distinct characteristics that set these two types of salt apart from each other. According to the blog EatYourKale.com, the factors that set Himalayan salt apart from sea salt include:
- Source – Himalayan salt is mined from the Khewra Salt Mine in the Punjab region of Pakistan, while 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 – Both have a coarse texture, but Himalayan salt has a pinkish tinge while sea salt is either grey or white.
- Minerals – While both salts offer trace minerals and other elements, sea salt has the disadvantage of being polluted by heavy metals like lead, depending on the quality of the sea water used.
What Is Himalayan Salt Good For?
Himalayan salt is 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.
Apart from using Himalayan salt for culinary purposes, it can be added to foot soaks and used as a body exfoliator to keep your skin soft and smooth. It can also be made into eye-catching Himalayan salt lamps and candle holders for your rooms.
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 monosodium glutamate or sodium ferrocyanide.
There are numerous trace minerals in Himalayan salt that all offer various benefits. Here’s a rundown of the most important trace minerals in this salt:
- Sodium – According to an article in Nature, sodium “influences various immune cells at biological barriers, including the skin, intestine and kidney.”
- Calcium – This mineral is essential for organs such as your heart and your muscles’ nerves for proper function. It’s also needed for building and maintaining strong bones.
- 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.
- Iron – It helps strengthen your immune system and is crucial in DNA synthesis. Iron’s main function, however, lies in hemoglobin production, which is an important step in oxygen transportation throughout the body.
Managing Sodium and Potassium Levels Can Make a Difference
Many experts have suggested that consuming as little 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, stroke and deaths in people with or without hypertension.
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, there are also additional 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.
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. Ideally, 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:
- White beans
- Sweet potatoes
- Cherry tomatoes
- Red grapefruit
- Acorn squash
- Nuts and seeds
- Bee pollen
How to Cook With Himalayan Salt
As mentioned earlier, Himalayan salt is great for seasoning food, from appetizers to main dishes and even some desserts. In this Simple yet Flavourful Homemade Pickle Recipe from Naturally Savvy, Himalayan salt is used for two reasons – adding flavour to the vegetables and preserving them to prolong their shelf life:
Cooking With Himalayan Salt: Simple yet Flavourful Homemade Pickle Recipe
|Organic mini cucumbers, enough to fill a jar of your choice||2 tablespoons of Dr. Mercola’s Himalayan salt||Fresh oak or bay leaves (3 or 4 for the whole jar)|
|Dr. Mercola’s apple cider vinegar||Fennel, mustard seeds, pepper, garlic, coriander and/or dill|
- 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:
- 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 the 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 on the market. Studies have highlighted the importance of adding sodium sources such as Himalayan salt to your diet, mainly for its potential 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 as 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.
Unfortunately, iodized salt is oftentimes unhealthy and not a naturally occurring rock or crystal salt. Rather, according to the Global Healing Centre, it is a manufactured type of salt that simply contains added iodide. 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.
Q: How do you use Himalayan salt?
A: Himalayan salt is commonly used to cook, season or preserve food. 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.
Q: Where can you buy Himalayan salt?
A: You can buy Himalayan salt at groceries, health stores and online shops.
If you want to give Himalayan Salt a try, it’s widely available here.
About the Author
Born and raised in the inner city of Chicago, IL, Dr. Joseph Mercola is an osteopathic physician trained in both traditional and natural medicine. Board-certified in family medicine, Dr. Mercola served as the chairman of the family medicine department at St. Alexius Medical Centre for five years, and in 2012 was granted fellowship status by the American College of Nutrition (ACN).
While in practice in the late 80s, Dr. Mercola realized the drugs he was prescribing to chronically ill patients were not working. By the early 90s, he began exploring the world of natural medicine, and soon changed the way he practiced medicine.
In 1997 Dr. Mercola founded Mercola.com, which is now routinely among the top 10 health sites on the internet. His passion is to transform the traditional medical paradigm in the United States. “The existing medical establishment is responsible for killing and permanently injuring millions of Americans… You want practical health solutions without the hype, and that’s what I offer.”
Visit Mercola.com for more information, or read Dr. Mercola’s full bio and resume here.