Wednesday’s Ask Dr. Walt — Spicing up Your Salt

Dear Dr. Walt,

What’s the deal with Himalayan salt? Are their health benefits worth it? Are there any contaminants?

—Salt Seeker in Rhode Island

Dear Briny,

A variety of specialty or gourmet salts, all claiming to have been mined from “ancient mineral deposits” or concentrated from the this or that sea or a river, are sold under the names of Himalayan, Hawaiian, Mediterranean, and French sea salts, as well as Australian and a number of other river salts, and many more. These are growing in popularity due to their purported flavor and a wide variety of supposed health benefits.

The promoters of these salt ascribe their hypothetical health effects to the theory they have higher concentrations of essential minerals (like calcium, iron, potassium, and magnesium, and chromium) than ordinary table salt (purified sodium chloride). The purveyors say that if you have high blood pressure and are trying to limit sodium intake, these more flavorful salts may allow you to use less salt, therefore, consuming less sodium.

At the same time, there has been concern that specialty salts may contain heavy metals, such as lead, cadmium, and arsenic, which are toxic compounds—although it has also been claimed that salts mined from ancient mineral deposits should contain lower amounts of heavy metals, which have entered the environment due to industrialization.

To sort through these various theories and concerns, my friends at ConsumerLab have independently tested a dozen specialty salts, including popular products claiming to contain Himalayan Pink Fine Salt, Primordial Himalayan Salt, Cyprus Black Salt, Mediterranean Sea Salt, Hawaiian Sea Salt, Hawaii Black Salt, Murray River Pink Flake Salt, and several others.

The bottom line? According to ConsumerLab, “Tests of specialty salts show that although they provide slightly higher amounts of some essential minerals, they can also have higher amounts of potentially toxic compounds, such as heavy metals, when compared to table salt. The good news is that the amounts of these good and bad compounds are “insignificant from a health perspective.”

In short, these specialty salts are not likely to be helpful or harmful to your health. But, feel free to use them, especially if you prefer their flavor. If you want to minimize your intake of lead and other toxic elements, however, it would be best to avoid black or grey salts and stick with lighter colored salts.

Dr. Walt

© Copyright WLL, INC. 2018. This blog provides a wide variety of general health information only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from your regular physician. If you are concerned about your health, take what you learn from this blog and meet with your personal doctor to discuss your concerns.
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