Should You Pass the Pink Salt?

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As a food additive, salt doesn’t get a lot of love. There are ongoing debates about how much is too much when it comes to consumption and whether intake is directly related to cardiovascular events like heart attacks.

Clouding the issue further is pink salt, the distinctively hued mineral that’s been growing in popularity over the past few years. Mined in the Himalayas and purported to be a healthier alternative, pink salt is sold on shelves and even appears in "salt spas," where exposure is said to be good for the skin and respiratory system. It sounds good, but is any of true?

The hype surrounding pink salt comes from the idea that, as a relatively unprocessed substance, it retains more zinc, iron, bromine, and other minerals. But most well-balanced diets already provide these minerals—and regular table salt actually has added iodine, which promotes thyroid function. Moreover, since all salt is roughly 98 percent sodium chloride, it's not likely the remaining 2 percent of varying minerals is an amount large enough to make any difference.

Pink salt is also used in salt lamps, which are said to be able to clean the air and reduce allergens by dispensing negative ions. Salt spas promote a similar benefit, with patrons sitting in salt-covered rooms to breathe in "clean" air and soothe skin conditions like psoriasis. But no studies have shown that pink salt can release those ions—and if it did, in what concentration.

Because different varieties of salt can vary in mineral content, it's certainly possible some people will think pink salt simply tastes better thanks to the potassium, calcium, and magnesium that also gives it that distinctive tint. But if you're seeking it out purely for health reasons, you might be better off passing.

[h/t TIME]