Salt gets a bad rap, but the right type of salt in moderation can have great health benefits, according to Ayurveda.
“It can help eliminate waste from the body, aid in digestion, and relieve pain in the colon,” says Heidi Spear, faculty at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health, meditation coach, and author of Ayurveda Made Easy: 50 Exercises for Finding Health, Mindfulness and Balance.
In Ayurveda, the salty taste is one of the six tastes (salty, sweet, sour, pungent, bitter, and astringent). Ancient Ayurvedic texts even mention the likes of sea salt and rock salt. “We need to have salt in our diet,” says Divya Alter, chef at Ayurvedic restaurant Divya’s Kitchen in New York City and author of What to Eat for How You Feel: The New Ayurvedic Kitchen. “It helps us experience all the other tastes properly. Each taste has a mental and physical function in the body.”
But don’t make BFFs with your salt shaker just yet. The goal is to keep the body in equilibrium by discovering your constitution (dosha) and choosing the right salt accordingly, as salt’s inherent elements—fire and water—impact the doshas, and affect each dosha differently.
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Salty Taste for Vata
Vata is air and space, so to keep it grounded, you want something warm, moist, and heavy, making the salty taste an ideal equalizer. When saltiness is ingested, it helps balance vata’s cool and dry elements. Our on-the-go, hyper-connected culture creates excess vata for many people. “In the right amounts, the salty taste’s qualities—oily, heating, and heavy—can balance vata,” says Spear.
Salty Taste for Pitta
Pitta and the salty taste share the same elements: fire and water. Adding saltiness can aggravate this dosha, especially in the hot summer months. To cool down, you’ll want to add small amounts of bitter taste, like bitter melon and dark leafy greens.
Salty Taste for Kapha
Made up of earth and water, kapha is stable, damp, and cold. To optimize best tastes for this dosha, choose something that has heating and slightly dry qualities. So go ahead and sprinkle salt in your dishes, just don’t go overboard, as one quality of the salty taste is water retention, which can make kaphas feel sluggish. “Too much salt is kind of like having molten lava within and can cause aggravation of kapha and pitta, triggering problems such as skin eruptions, digestive issues, and feeling overly hot,” says Spear.
Regardless of your dosha, when choosing a salt to add flavor to your meals, steer clear of table salt, as pure sodium chloride is particularly harsh on the body, says Alter. Here are 6 of our favorite salts—from mild soma salt to fiery black salt—to better balance your dosha.
The Best Type of Salt for Your Dosha
Soma salt, also known as white Himalayan salt, has less of the fire and water elements compared to other salts, so it’s mild and can help reduce inflammation. This salt tends to have a balancing effect on all of the doshas. “This salt is particularly good for the summer,” says Alter, who uses it at her restaurant. “You will not find any other salt that will cool your body.” Since salt tends to bring out other flavors, Alter likes to use soma salt in sweet dishes, like sesame honey balls and vegan strawberry cheesecake. SVAyurveda Soma Salt, $10.99 for 8 oz., Amazon.com.
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Himalayan pink salt
Himalayan pink salt is harvested from large boulders mined from prehistoric seabed beneath the Himalayas in Pakistan. The telltale hue comes from more than 50 trace minerals, including iron, potassium, and magnesium. While the color range in high-quality Himalayan salt shouldn’t impact the flavor, lighter pink salt is better suited for all three doshas, as it will balance vata and kapha without aggravating pitta, according to Alter. For daily use, opt for coarse salt, as it’s less sensitive to caking and moisture than finer grains. Or, invest in a Himalayan Salt Slab for summer grilling—you’ll never over-salt veggies and seafood again. Artisan Salt Company Ancient Ocean Himalayan Pink Salt, $17.99 for 6.5 oz.; salt slabs from $16.95; seasalt.com.
Given the high iron and sodium sulfate content of India Kala Namak black salt, this variety is high in the fire element. “Black salt is very heating,” says Alter. “It really increases the salt in the body and is not good for pitta, but can pacify kapha and vata.” The high sulfur content gives it an eggy taste, which works great as a replacement for the real thing in vegan cuisine. Alter uses it to make scrambled paneer cheese, but you can also add it to chutneys, chaats, and finishing touches in rice and salads. Avoid using it in large quantities, as the sulfurous flavor may overpower your dishes. The Spice Lab India Kala Namak Black Salt, $8 for 4.5 oz.; spices.com.
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Similar to Himalayan salt, natural mineral salt is sourced from ancient seabeds, only this rock salt is from Utah. Its medley of more than 60 trace minerals is said to stimulate appetite, boost digestive fire, and calm emotions when vata goes into overdrive, yet it’s mild enough for pitta and kapha. Use it in coconut rice and kitchari for a delicate finish that yields to the sweet notes of these dishes. Banyan Botanicals Natural Mineral Salt, $9.99 for 1 lb., banyanbotanicals.com.
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Sea salt is a smart substitution for regular table salt—you’ll be swapping anti-caking agents for natural trace minerals like calcium, potassium, and iodine. This sea salt is harvested off the coast of Brazil, then filtered and blasted with air to remove any impurities. Sea salt is definitely more heating than mineral salts and can help with digestion and circulation, though pittas should use sparingly. Salt to taste as a finishing touch—not only will you need less, but salting at the end of cooking will leave your beans and lentils butter-soft. Pure Ocean Premium Atlantic sea salt, $11.40 for 5 lb.; seasalt.com.
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Technically, it’s not a salt, but Kelp Blend Granules are a great way to add salty taste to soups, salads, tofu, and dips. Kelp has a naturally salty taste but is low in sodium, making it especially palatable for pitta. It’s also high in other mineral salts like potassium and magnesium, as well as iodine, Vitamin B6, and fiber. Maine Coast Sea Vegetables Kelp Blend Granules, $4.15 for 1.5 oz., seaveg.com.
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