Himalayan Salt vs Table Salt vs Sea Salt
Although there may be differences in color and other minor chemical compositions compared to table salt, salts are mainly made up of sodium chloride.
Comparison between Himalayan Pink Salt and Table Salts
There are many types of gourmet salts available in the market with claims to help differentiate themselves in the eyes of the consumer. Suppliers of some Himalayan pink salt claim that this salt is heathier and tastes better in foods compared to other salts due to the presence of trace minerals. Although there may be differences in color and minor chemical composition compared to table salt, the major component of these salts and most other sea and land salts is sodium chloride. These subtle differences in mineral composition and other impurities may contribute to more than a color difference.
Production of Himalayan Pink Salt versus Sea Salt
Himalayan pink salt comes from ancient sea salt deposits found in the Himalayan Mountains of Pakistan. It is claimed that the salt is mined in caves by hand and stone ground, suggesting that it is minimally processed. Salts from this region will contain impurities (e.g., minerals) that help define the native geological features of the mountains and characterize the physical properties of the salt. For example, Himalayan salts have varying shades of color including white, pink and dark red. The pink or red color is generally attributed to iron oxide, copper or red marl (clay or silt). Sea salt from the Cargill Newark, CA facility is produced by solar evaporation of ocean water. Similarly, table salt may be produced by mechanical evaporation of brine. The nature of this crystallization process from brine leads to a highly purified table salt crystal that has fewer impurities—hence its white color compared to the Himalayan salt hues.
Potential Benefits of Himalayan Pink Salt versus Sea and Table Salts
There are many claims on the potential benefits of Himalayan pink salt but no science-based evidence could be found to support these claims. The presence of trace minerals (up to 84 different trace minerals) is the foundation of the “beneficial” claims. It is well known that all salts contain a small amount of (trace) minerals. Table 1 compares amounts of some essential elements (required for optimal health) found in sea salt and Himalayan pink salt to table salt using the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) as a reference. With the average daily sodium intake by Americans estimated to be 3,600 mg per day (or 9 g salt per day), comparisons are shown between the amount of elements found in various salts. The Cargill® Sea Salt is under the DRI for all elements, except for chromium, sodium and chloride. In addition to the essential elements found in salts, there are heavy metal elements (e.g., lead, mercury) present that could be considered harmful if they were present in high enough amounts. Fortunately, the concentration of these potentially harmful elements is relatively low, and appear to pose little risk from a toxicological perspective.
Besides element composition, it is also important to compare claims being made about various types of salt. Often, a “less sodium” claim is made by some manufacturers of Himalayan salts. The rationale for this claim is due to less refinement of the salt (e.g., more impurities present) and larger crystal size. The larger crystals result in a lower bulk density of salt which results in less salt mass per given unit of volume (say, ½ teaspoon). If there is less salt applied in total, then there is less sodium, by default. Lower bulk density and less sodium is a similar benefits of Cargill’s Diamond Crystal® Kosher Salt, which provides 53% less sodium by volume compared to table salt. For the Himalayan pink salt, there was no direct claim to the level of sodium reduction per volume provided by the manufacturer.
(1)Dietary Reference Intakes depends on age, sex, pregnancy and lactation of individual. Data in table represents DRI for males aged 19-30 years. (2)Average American consumption of salt (~3,600 mg sodium) per day Dashes (-) indicate minerals are not typically measured in Cargill salts (4)Intermediate = 15 to 364 days Dashes (-) indicate mineral amounts are too small to measure OR not measured in Cargill salts.
Sensory of Himalayan Pink Salt versus Table Salt
Drake and Drake (2011) studied the descriptive flavor profiles and time-intensity curves (intensity and duration of salty taste profile) of various sea and land salts in aqueous solutions. According to the results, there was a statistical difference between the Himalayan pink salt and table salt in mineral notes, metallic notes and saltiness. The Himalayan pink salt had higher mineral and metallic notes, whereas the table salt had higher saltiness. These authors also reported no difference between the time intensity curves between Himalayan sea salt and table salt. One limitation of this study is the lack of testing in any food application, which makes it difficult to determine the effect of the minerals in any practical application (e.g. soups, sauces). However, there are many compounds that impact flavor at extremely low levels (mg per kg) and it is therefore possible that the trace minerals found in salts may impart flavor changes even at very low levels depending upon the food application.
In summary, there are many different types of claims on the potential benefits of Himalayan pink salt versus other types of salts, but no science-based evidence could be found to support these claims.
Drake, SL and Drake, MA, 2011, Comparison of Salty Taste and Time Intensity of Sea and Land Salts from Around the World, Journal of Sensory Science, vol. 26, pp. 25-34 http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1745-459X.2010.00317.x/full
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