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.
See also What is Ayurveda?
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.