How do unrefined salt brands compare?

Learn how unrefined salt brands including Celtic salt, Real Salt, and Himalayan salt compare!

Comparing unrefined salts

When I put up my Uses For Himalayan Salt post last week, I received numerous comments on Facebook and on the blog that sounded like this:

  • “Real Salt is much less expensive. Does it have the same benefits?”
  • “I heard celtic salt was the best. Is that true?”
  • “What is the difference between Himalayan Salt, Real Salt and celtic salt?”

I explained partly with the information I had gleaned from Dr. Mercola’s site and Original Himalayan, stating that Himalayan salt boasts 84 trace minerals and a unique ionic energy when combined with water.

Then, someone from Real Salt kindly linked me to their very informative discussion on the comparisons of various trace minerals in unrefined salt. Surprised with the information and eager to learn more, I was able to chat on the phone with Darryl, a salt expert at Real Salt. Today,  I want to share some of the interesting points I took away from our enlightening conversation.

Popular unrefined salt brands share the same minerals

As it turns out, the popular types of unrefined salt – himalayan salt, Real Salt and celtic sea salt – all share the same number of trace minerals.

The thing that stood out to me when reading about himalayan salt was the “84 trace minerals contained in the salt.” This number of trace minerals is used by Dr. Mercola and Original Himalayan, as well as other sources of himalayan salt.

Real Salt says it contains 60 trace minerals. When I looked at this comparison, I thought, “60 vs. 84… I’ll take the 84!” After all, many health experts speak so highly of himalayan salt and its wide mineral profile. Real Salt takes a very graceful approach when they explain the misleading claim of 84 minerals:

It makes sense for us to keep our marketing messages as simple and real as our products are, but some salt companies have a tendency to complicate things with a little marketing trickery. For the most part they’re good companies producing good salt, but their marketing material can be a little misleading.  We’re going to talk about it today, not because we want to point fingers, but because our customers sometimes ask and we like simple answers.

As it turns out, the 24 extra trace minerals that are supposed to be in Himalayan Salt are unaccounted for. How so?

All salt companies use independent labs to know what minerals are in the product. The salt company tells the lab to test for the certain minerals. For example, a salt company would request the lab to test for 84 specific minerals.

In the lab results, the mineral analysis will show some minerals with a number of <.00001%. Real Salt explains what this means:

When a lab reports <.00001% of gold it doesn’t mean they found a tiny amount of gold, it means the lab equipment can’t detect amounts of gold lower than .00001%. In plain English, a technician […] would say, “our equipment didn’t detect gold […]” Whenever you see the “less than” sign in lab results, it is the same as saying “not found in this sample.”

So trace minerals listed for salt, with a measurement of <.00001% are not in the salt… but the companies still claim these minerals in their total mineral count! Real Salt, however, wants to be as straight forward with their mineral numbers as possible, for the benefit of their customers. They state that it contains only 60 trace minerals because they only list the minerals that are actually in the salt.

Another marketing trick to watch for is inflating the percentage of minerals in sea salt. Called “brine inflation,” it occurs when company tests their salt mixed with sea water (brine). This gives results that show a larger percentage of trace minerals (but not larger variety of minerals). When the salt is dry, the mineral content drops (learn more).

Is there a “best” unrefined salt?

The three popular unrefined salt brands are:

  • Real Salt – mined from an ancient sea bed in Redmond, Utah. The most economical and convenient option for most. My favorite for eating, sole, and for salt detox baths.
  • Himalayan Salt – mined from ancient sea beds in Pakistan.
  • Celtic Sea Salt – harvested off the shores of France.

Learn how unrefined salt brands including Celtic salt, Real Salt, and Himalayan salt compare!When speaking with Darryl, I asked him if there is an optimal option out of these popular unrefined salts. It turns out that there isn’t a bad salt out of the three, as long as you purchase from the right sources.

When comparing the salts, they share the same number and type of measurable minerals. The minerals slightly vary from salt to salt and sample to sample, however. For example, himalayan salt usually contains a tad more sulfur than Real Salt. This gives Real Salt a slightly sweeter taste. After he told me this, I tasted my himalayan and Real Salt side-by-side and did notice that Real Salt has a distinct, pleasantly sweet flavor.

As someone who knows just about everything – and everyone – in the salt industry, Darryl told me the producers for himalayan salt and celtic salt that he recommends. He is well aquatinted with Selina, who owns Selina Naturally (Celtic sea salt), and Melissa, who runs HimalaSalt. Darryl emphasized the importance of sourcing salt from companies who are deeply involved in the salt-producing process from beginning to end. This entails honoring the earth and keeping the salt pure.

Selina monitors every step of the process to ensure the purest sea salt possible. Melissa offers a very unique Himalayan salt because is committed to sustainable and fair trade sourcing. HimalaSalt mines the salt without blasting to avoid explosive residues, unlike other producers of himalayan salt.

You can usually find Real Salt, Selina Naturally Celtic Salt, and HimalaSalt at your health food store. If you can’t, you can find it here online: 

The important thing is that you are consuming adequate amounts of unrefined salt each day, for the vital sodium and trace minerals. We discussed that some people muscle test better for one salt in particular, but that each salt contains the same beneficial properties.

 What about making Sole?

Himalayan sole, packed with all the benefits of himalayan saltIn my Himalayan Salt post, I shared a recipe for a healthful elixir of super-saturated salt water called sole. As it turns out, you can reap the benefits of sole by making it with Real salt, himalayan salt or celtic salt.

What about the special ionic properties of himalayan salt touted by so many websites? (Including my previous post, because I drew information from these other sites). Well, each salt does have a unique energy… just like everything. If we did muscle testing for the salts, some people will muscle test stronger for a particular salt. But himalayan salt is no different than Real Salt when mixed with water for sole.

Additionally, I received comments and questions about using metal utensils for mixing the sole. According to Darryl, here’s why it’s important to avoid using metal with sole:

The reason for [not using metal lids/utensils with sole] is that salt when mixed with water can (and will) oxidize metals.  It is the same reason that salt on the roads will rust your car.  Dry salt can sit on dry metal without it causing a chemical reaction – however when you add water to the equation everything changes and the chemical and physical reactions start to take place.  When this happens it can release other metals and chemicals into the salt water as the metal lid (or metal spoon) starts to corrode.  Even if they are stainless steel or other non-corrosive metals that won’t rust in theory, they can still react to the salt water.

Now that said, using a metal spoon to scoop water out a little water or to quickly stir the solution probably won’t be in contact with the salt water to start the reaction, so I would not worry too much about that few seconds.  I do that myself without worry.  Leaving the metal spoon in the salt water, or using metal canning jar lid that is in contact with the salt water for longer periods really increases the potential of having oxidization and corrosion issues by drawing chemicals/metals/elements out of the metal and into the water.

What about contaminants in the salt?

When I echoed the concerns of some readers about contaminants in the salt, Darryl explained that when the salt comes from a trustworthy brand (Real Salt, Selina Naturally or HimalaSalt) one does not need to worry about contaminants or toxins. 

I’ve heard some readers voice concerns because they heard that unrefined salts, specifically himalayan salt, may contain trace levels of unsavory compounds like fluoride and lead. When I mentioned this to Darryl, he explained that Mother Nature created a good package for us in any of the unrefined salts. While we need to avoid salts that contain additives or processing by-products, we don’t need to worry about the salts from the brands listed.

He gave one example to illustrate this. Peaches contain a small amount of natural fluoride. In this state – in the synergistic aspects of the whole peach – the fluoride isn’t harmful. But the isolated fluoride added to water is harmful, because Mother Nature didn’t intend for us to drink fluoridated water. The same goes with the salts: each unrefined salt is a complete and synergistic package as Mother Nature intended. 

Have you tried these various unrefined salts? Do you have a favorite? 

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Comments

  1. Mrs G says

    I use “sel de Guérande”, harvested in the region of Guérande, France.
    We had the opportunity to visit a salt field with a guide who explained us all the process. The salt is harvested manually using traditional methods.
    Like agriculture, it’s very dependent on climate. Last year was a bad year because the summer was wet and cold. A good year would be with a dry and warm summer with some wind. A lot of families (less than in the past, though) live of this activity and they are organized cooperatives of small, independent producers. There are also a lot of herbs and plants growing in the fields and many of them are edible, our guide just picked some for us to taste and they were delicious.

  2. kelly says

    Thanks! That was very helpful! Happy news that my bulk RealSalt purchase is just as healthful as it is economical!! Hooray!

  3. Carla says

    I appreciate the time and work that goes into your articles, and I love your recipes. But I have noticed that you tend to have a very narrow range of sources when researching your blog posts. It’s never a good practice to rely solely (hehe) on the company you’re promoting for facts and sound research. This introduces bias into your work, a huge concern in the research world. You are not a certified practitioner of any kind yet, I know this, but do take care to expand your research efforts, especially since you tend to write with somewhat of an authoritative stance (i.e. bold fonts) and pretty strong declarations.

    • says

      I share my research from sources that I trust and I strive to bring helpful, accurate information to my readers with the best of my ability. :) Hence this follow-up post to share information of which many other health experts are not aware. And I am a Certified Nutritional Therapist as of October 2013.

      • Vitalia says

        You rock Lauren! Congrats on being certified and for all the hard work that went into that. It’s not your job to hold everyone’s hand. If they want to find out about more products/companies that provide great products, it’s up to them. Having a blog at all that you keep up with is greatly helpful and you don’t have to do it but I’m grateful you do.

        Vitalia

      • DesignedForDetox says

        Congratulations Lauren, on becoming a Certified Nutritional Therapist.

        I love all the information and recipes you share with everyone here at E.S.

        ~Chelsea

      • Bren says

        Lauren, as a nutrional health blogger it is absolutely your perogative to make strong declarative statements! Heavens–anyone who follows Dr. Mercola has to sift through occasional rants, agree to disagree and take away what is valuable. Some of his heavy-handed essays I take with a grain of salt!

        I SO appreciate your comparative narration on unrefined salts AND love your writing style. Furthermore, I enjoy hearing secondhand from a knowledgeable and very amiable company representative. Thank you for sharing your experience and your passion for educating your readers on “the new nutrition.”

        Congrats on your certification!

  4. Cher says

    I love Real Salt and buy it in bulk. I recently found out it does not contain iodine, and would love to know how to get that mineral into our diet. I don’t know if any of the other’s contain iodine.

    • says

      Unrefined salts are not significant sources of iodine, so we need to get iodine from other sources. Chris Kresser has a great free ebook on iodine supplementation and you get access to the freebie by signing up for his newsletter at ChrisKresser.com. I recommend this book to everyone, it is a wonderful resource!

    • Traci says

      Yes, I found this out a while back too, that even the good natural salts like Laureen talks about in this article do not contain iodine. Two local chiropractors that we go to recommended the same iodine supplement (they and their families take it also). It is by Standard Process and is called, “Prolamine Iodine.” You are supposed to take one per day and there are 90 tablets in each bottle. I think one bottle is around $14.00.

    • says

      Sea kelp is LOADED with iodine and is a great way to supplement IF NEEDED. You can purchase it in its “kombu” form and cook it with rice or beans (great for beans as it breaks down the sugars that cause gas) or you can find it in a powerdered form. Some people put it in to capsules, some just sprinkle it on food.

      You can also use, yes I’m saying this, ordinary iodine found in the chemical factories like CVS, Rite-Aid, Walgreen’s, etc. By rubbing a silver dollar-sized amount over your abdomen, it will be absorbed through your skin. If after 12 hours you still see yellow (from the iodine), then use a smaller amount. Your body will not absorb any more than it needs.

      Source: I am an NMD … but it doesn’t take an NMD to be and stay healthy.

    • Donna says

      I’ve been researching iodine, so I can tell you that a) iodine has always been added to salt, never naturally-occurring; b) when choosing an iodine supplement make sure it has BOTH potassium or sodium iodide and iodine. You need the iodide for your thyroid, but breast, ovaries, etc. need iodine also. Seems to me that Lugol’s Iodine is the best – can get it in pill form too (Iodoral) although more expensive.. A really good iodine resource is David Brownstein (MD who practises as a Naturopath). That’s why I’m investigating salts – iodine therapy often causes detox symptoms and salts are one of the methods he recommends to help with detox symptoms. Thanks much – good info. and enjoyed all conversations!

  5. Wendy says

    Do you shake the sole before using? Is this comparable to Trace Minerals since the only ingredient is ionized water from the sea in Utah? Thanks
    Wendy

    • says

      Concentrace Trace Minerals has the sodium removed, so it is just concentrated minerals. It’s a wonderful trace mineral supplement and I take it in addition to the salt. And don’t shake the sole before using, just scoop out a teaspoon of the salt water from the top :)

  6. Megan says

    Awesome! What great information. Thanks for comparing side by side and doing such a great job following up! Creation is so amazing – that naturally fluoride is ok, etc.

  7. BlessedCP says

    I use all three salts! I find I crave certain ones periodically. That makes me wonder if certain ones have higher levels of a specific mineral my body is craving.

  8. Jen Thorne says

    Here is the question that no one seems to answer. How much of what salt has to offer does my body need? I’m thinking salt is salt and as long as it comes from a non toxic source, it should be good. If some common salts are not showing some trace minerals, is that really a problem? Do those missing minerals come from some other common sources of food? As long as I’m eating clean (paleo or like my grandma did) I should be getting the things that my body needs. Don’t you think?

  9. Carolyn says

    Unless I missed something while reading the comments…I didn’t see anything about Swanson’s Health Products and their Himalayan Salt they sell? They are a very good company and a woman…Dr Hendel has her own Himalayan Salt product in their line with the Swanson’s label on it. That is where we get our Himalayan salt from. I am interested if anyone has anything to say about it?
    Thanks for both of these articles! I am so glad you posted them!

    http://www.swansonvitamins.com/swanson-ultra-himalayan-crystal-salt-35-27-oz-1000-grams-salt

  10. Judith says

    Is there any info on Celtic salt and the pollutents found in water, like the radiation from Japan that is being found in many bodies of water.

  11. Margie says

    Have just purchased some Mount Zero natural salt (in Australia) hand harvested from The Pink Lake in Victoria. The lake is fed by natural saline aquifers, it has a lovely flavour, and quite a list of minerals on the information label. My favourite has always been the Celtic salt, but it was unavailable.

  12. Cassie says

    Hi Lauren!
    I came across your blog today and so glad I did. This article on salt is particularly interesting and informative. Honestly though, I am very much enjoying reading your entire blog. You bring so much wisdom and experience to your writings….
    Great job-so inspiring! Keep it up and thank you!
    Cassie

  13. Lizzie says

    Thanks so much Lauren for this post! I was one of the people asking about salt comparisons’ from your Himalayan salt post and this answered all my questions! Thanks again!

  14. ghostaliaz says

    I for one love & use ‘The Spice Lab’s Fine Himalayan Natural Unprocessed Cooking Salt, 1-Pound’ & I purchase it on Amazon at this link here: http://amzn.to/1fJxEjV & it cost $6.75. Since I have been using this salt instead of sea salt I have saw a lot of different plus’s & benefits. I just love my Himalayan Salt & I will use it for ever. I also use Black Lava Salt which is really good also. I use both on my popcorn. I will never go back to any other salts & the price is not high to me because feeding my money to doctors & hospitals is much worse, so spending a little extra on better things for my body is well worth any investment that I spend. I don’t use a lot of salt now, but back in the day I use to, but now I only have a half of teaspoon to one per day. For me again Himalayan Salt is the best at least in my eyes & nothing wrong with the other two, but I just choose Himalayan Salt because for me I can feel the differences & I will never go back to the rest. Black Lava Salt is something that I will use also for my whole life.

  15. Pam says

    I use Real Salt. But I have heard that because it is processed so small and uniform that it probably has
    fillers etc.
    Would you comment or check on that?
    Thank you and love your site!

  16. Shayla Gregg says

    Great article, I plan on purchasing some real salt real soon! :) I was just curious if the content of the trace minerals is so small is it actually enough to be impacting our body’s or making a difference?

    • says

      Yep, it certainly does make a difference! They’re called trace minerals for a reason, because we only need a very small amount, but we need to be replenishing our trace minerals on a daily basis and that is one of the reasons why unrefined salt is so important :)

      • Shayla Gregg says

        I just purchased Real Salt and Himala Salt from amazon, so glad I stumbled upon your article about the differences in salts because I had no idea! So thank you for bringing this to my attention! Its so fascinating that salt gets a bad rep, but the problem isn’t salt its that we are eating its nutrition-less cousin (if it can even be called that) and not the real thing! I cant wait till my order arrives so I can start making sole and now freely let my husband use salt to sprinkle on his food :) So how much should we be consuming in a day then to get our necessary amount of trace minerals?

  17. KB Shields says

    Have you investigated Hawaii’s red salt, called Alia, I think. Would like to know more about it against these other salts.

  18. says

    I heard long ago that it was important to eat the salt that was harvested on the continent that you’re on, due to the salt’s reflection of the direction of the electromagnetic current of that land body. This influences the direction of electromagnetic direction in our bodies.
    I’ve always been curious, and have yet to to try it out, as to whether this will help with jet lag when traveling, switching to the salt of the continent to which you travel.
    Great article – wonderful to see someone addressing this! :)

  19. lyss says

    Thank you for researching this! Very informative. I’m glad to hear that they’re “all good”. : ) Ever since switching to good salts, I haven’t gone back! I typically use pink himalayan salt, since it comes in bulk at my Sprouts store for $2.99/lb. Good salts can be pricey, so I’m thankful to have found pink salt in bulk so cheap. That said, just last week I found a 26 oz. pouch of Redmond salt on clearance for $2.23. I have no idea why it was marked down, but you better believe I snatched it up! I have never seen a decent price for celtic sea salt, so I’ve never tried it. But if I never do, I’m happy with my pink and real salts! They just taste so much better than table or white sea salt!

  20. Steve says

    I’m using what they sell in the market place, goes for roughly 50 cents a kilo I think. Filipino sea salt from Bulacan. Sadly globalization of commodities is destroying this historic industry. But while it lasts, it is real salt and is real cheap. And I love it!

    Steve in Baguio City – Philippines

  21. Trudy says

    Like your article. Have you heard of Pansalt produced in Finland? I’ts about to be launched on the Australian market. A Healthy salt Alternative with half the amount of harmful sodium and additional potassium magnesium and other beneficial minerals. Let me know what you think of this product. I can send an email on more specific details of the unique product.

  22. says

    I use Real Salt, I buy it directly from their stores in bulk (I live in Utah, yay for local sourcing!). Having been To their stores and seeing and eating the other items they offer through their daughter companies (raw milk, pastured eggs) along with other organice free sourced items, I believe they are a company with integrity and truly stewards of their customers health and the land they use to produce their products.

  23. Allyson Bossie says

    I love the convenience of Real Salt for the table. I mean it shakes, evenly coats better (thinking of things like fries, fresh ground salt from a grinder is a bit chunkier and makes my fries saltier),etc. However, I love cooking with either Pink Himalayan or Grey Celtic Sea Salt. I can’t find Real salt here, but my stores carry Pink Himalayan. And at the stores I used to shop at the Grey Celtic was cheaper by at least $3/package so I often went Grey. Now though, Himalayan it is because I can find it without ordering

  24. M. Jones says

    I liked how you addressed this issue. I also wanted to comment on that I know Darryl personally, he really is a great guy, and pretty much the most knowledgeable person of the “Redmond [Bosshardt] Family”. I’m so glad you got an opportunity to talk with him.

  25. Donald Garrett says

    Thank you Lauren! I agree with your article to a point, with the point of departure being mined salt vs ocean salt, and the idea that chemically identical minerals are biologically identical. R. Buckminster Fuller makes a compelling–conclusive actually–case that the only creatures on earth we could possibly share common ancestry with on this planet are the cetaceans…which also matches my memories on the subject.

    Salinity. We are the only land mammal with hair (vs fur), tears and salty blood, among hundreds of other things we share in common with cetaceans that no other land mammal has.

    There is a place in the ocean, that Bucky discovered is at the exact center of the highest human population density on the planet, with population density decreasing in every direction from this central point.

    The ocean and air temperature at this point, has perfectly averaged 98.6 degrees for a very long time. The ocean salinity at this point, exactly matches human blood salinity. In fact the entire mineral composition of the sea at this point, exactly matches the proportion of what Bucky call the “92 regenerative elements,” the naturally-occurring elements found in our bodies. Which also happens to be the exact proportion of the 92 elements found in the entire universe–we are made of star-stuff stars are another ancestor we all share in common. HeHee.

    What this article says is not true: that because the minerals cannot be measured, they are not there. I mean, what is the human MDR for uranium? It’s always there in seawater in extremely (undetectable by normal measurements) trace amounts, but I wouldn’t put that on the label of my product! But yes, uranium has a function in our bodies.

    There are big differences between mined salts and sea salts. One important difference is mined salts, which come from dried-up oceans, tend to have different proportions of the minerals than is found in solution in seawater, particularly of trace things like uranium, which are typically found in much higher (still almost unmeasurable) trace amounts than in sea water, and they form different compounds vs those found in ocean water, which can be good and bad but is mostly bad. Also higher concentrations of metals, which can be very high due to local geological variations, vs the relatively even mixing that occurs in the ocean.

    Second, is mined salts tend to switch from the “right-spin” orientation found in the body and in the ocean, to the “left-spin” orientation, which makes them incompatible with biology. This is not a big factor if the salt is carefully mined as the article notes, but there are compounds where the chemically-identical “right-spin” molecule is beneficial while the “left-spin” version is poisonous.

    This is why you don’t buy commercial mineral supplements. They are dead, and “left-spin,” our bodies cannot use the minerals in that form, indeed they are mildly toxic and require effort to get rid of, which means our digestion must switch over from getting nutrients to eliminating unwanted substances. Which means all the good thing you ate at that moment get flushed too.

    What type of salt do we use? All of them my dears! Mainly celtic because of the reasons mentioned above, but also the others for variety, because of the reasons mentioned above. Sometimes we are attracted by the trace mineral concentrations which make Himalayan salt pink <3 (besides we like pink :) )

    This is why seaweed is so beneficial. Being sea-creatures at heart <3 the minerals in seaweed are in the exact proportion our bodies need them, in the exact *form* our bodies need them in, held in a living "right-spin" matrix, bound up together in complex organic compounds that our bodies effortlessly absorb and utilize. This is "bioavailability." Even in sea-salt form, some of the minerals are in compounds the body can't absorb, typically simple mineral salts, vs complex organic compounds.

    Remember, in a laboratory chemical assay, a DNA molecule is indistinguishable from an equal mixture of its constituent elements. But rearranging a few hydrogen, carbon and nitrogen atoms into different compounds can make the difference between food and deadly poison! CO2 makes water bubbly, CO (carbon monoxide) kills you in relatively minute concentrations. Sugar, olive oil and motor oil are all quite similar hydrocarbon molecules. And you won't find something as magical as DNA coming from a mixture of chemicals…and life, happens in the magic :)

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