Pink Himalayan Salt - Is It All It's 'Cracked' Up To Be?

Pink Himalayan SaltThere are certain forums in this space that are touting this Pink Himalayan Salt to be the next miracle cure.  I’ve seen claims that it contains 84 different trace elements, followed by a list of numerous ailments that using this salt cures as a result of containing these trace elements.  I have also seen a paper that claims to have subjected this Pink Himalayan Salt to a series of lab tests and, while it did indeed contain everything it was purported to have contained, the levels were of such miniscule concentrations that they would have absolutely no effect on one’s health whatsoever.  On top of that it was also found to contain certain other toxic elements like Uranium in similar concentrations.  So if you believe the good elements are in a strong enough concentration to be of benefit then you should be equally concerned about the toxic ones.  At the end of the day I have not been able to establish the quality of the reputation of the laboratory making claims on either side of the argument.  Personally, I think it has a unique flavour and I really like it so until I get bona fide scientific proof of either argument, I am going with my tastebuds.

Exogenous Ketones - What are they?

pruvit-company-logo-300x96As you learn about Ketogenic diets you will hear a lot about keto-adaptation, or the ‘Keto-Flu’.  If you drastically reduce your carb intake, your body starts to use up it’s glycogen stores in the muscles and liver.  As these become totally depleted (normally after about 5 days) your body has to find an alternative for fuel and that is when it has to resort to oxidizing fat and producing ketones.  This is not something it has been used to doing so there is an adaptation period.  During this time you will notice a distinct lack of energy and possibly even a little light headedness which can last for 7 – 14 days.  The dizziness is easy to address by increasing the amount of salt in your diet, but the dragging is often the fundamental reason people don’t succeed on a Ketogenic Diet.  However, just recently Pruvit introduced a source of Exogenous Ketones.  Dr. Dominic D’Agostino is due to talk at our Low Carb San Diego 2016 event about the latest research into ketone supplementation.  What they can do is provide an external source of ketones so that your body has something to burn while it is undergoing adaptation.  I did not have it available to me when I first went through adaptation but I have been using it since and it certainly helps when I have had a bad day or a night on the town and I have been kicked out of nutritional pruvitketosis.  While I feel a mild bump as I re-adapt, the effects are minimal.  Although research on this is still ongoing, there are thousands of anecdotal testimonies to the effect that it is very effective.  People who are unable, for whatever reason, to adhere to a strict ketogenic diet may use Exogenous Ketones to enjoy some of the benefits without truly being in ketosis.

What is Ketosis?

Art and Science of Low Carb LivingYour body is considered to be in Ketosis if, instead of using glucose to burn for energy to fuel the muscles and brain, it has become adapted to burning ketones.  The brain is particularly fond of burning ketones, and the very tiny amount of glucose it may need can be manufactured by a process called gluconeogenesis, so an external source of glucose or carbohydrates is not essential for survival.  Protein and Fat are the only two macronutrients that are essential for a human to survive.  As you reduce the carbs your body starts to become fat adapted and oxidise fat for fuel.  As a by-product of this fat oxidation ketone bodies are produced which can also be burned as an alternative to glucose.  As you produce more ketone bodies you start to burn them more and more as a fuel source and you become keto-adapted.   Dr. Stephen Phinney first defined the state of ketosis to be when the concentration of ketone bodies in your blood stream is between 0.5 and 5 mM.  At these levels your body is in a benign metabolic state which allows it to deal with major shifts in the source of fuels.  By contrast ‘Diabetic Ketoacidosis’ is an unstable and dangerous condition when there is an inadequate pancreatic insulin response to regulate serum ketone levels.  This occurs only in Type-1 diabetics or late stage Type-2 diabetics with severe pancreatic burnout.  This results in ketone levels of 15 – 25 mM which is 5 -10 fold higher than the levels characteristic of Nutritional Ketosis.  This is all explained in great detail in my favourite book on the subject: The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living, by Jeff Vloek and Stephen Phinney

IKetone Test Stripsn order to know whether or not your body is in Ketosis, you need to be able to measure it in some way.  Three types of Ketone Bodies are produced, Beta-hydroxybutyrate which can be measured in the blood, Acetoacetate which is excreted in the urine and Acetone which is excreted via the lungs.  Ketone test strips are by far the cheapest and easiest, but also the least accurate.  During adaptation your kidney function changes and for some people that means a reduction in the Acetoacetate excreted and so you get a negative reading when, in fact, you really are still in Ketosis.  Worst is, you don’t know if you are that person.

Testing Beta-Hydroxybutyrate is the most accurate but also the most expensive and invasive.  You have to prick your finger every time to get a reading and, while the meter itself is quite cheap, the testing strips and the lancet needles get very expensive over time.  But it you are a stickler for accuracy, you may need to get one of these.

What Balance of Macronutrients Should I Be Trying to Achieve?

The generic answer is 5-10% Carbohydrate, 15-20% Protein and 70% Fat.  In reality everyone is different and it also depends on what you are trying to achieve and what Low Carbohydrate Diet you are following.  Although we recognise all forms of Low Carb Diet, we definitely favour the High Fat Moderate Protein Ketogenic Diet, otherwise known as the Banting Diet promoted by Prof Tim Noakes.

So we start by looking at the total carbohydrates consumed.  For most people, keeping their carbohydrate intake to under 50g a day is enough to ensure that they achieve a state of Ketosis. Once again everyone is different and it is necessary to find your own sweet spot.  If someone is more insulin resistant or they are sick with something like Type 2 Diabetes, it will be necessary to keep the carbohydrate intake down even lower, probably at least under 25g.  Make sure as many of your carbs come from loads of leafy green vegetables, a great source of all the other minerals and nutrients you need.

Now, for protein you should be looking to aim for 1.5 – 2.0 grams per kilogram of bodyweight, or 0.7 – 0.9 grams per pound of bodyweight.  Make sure you don’t eat too much protein.  A lot of the current research is showing that we don’t need a huge amount of protein (even if we are working out really hard) and any excess protein can be converted to glucose in the liver via a process called Gluconeogenesis which raises your blood glucose level and spikes insulin which defeats the object of restricting your carbs in the first place.

The rest of your calories needs to come from fat, preferably saturated fat. and monounsaturated fat like avocados and macadamias.  Get your fats up by eating a handful of Macadamia nuts or half an avo, or a chunk of cheddar cheese or a whack of butter in your coffee with some coconut oil (check out Bulletproof Coffee on our site).  As long as you can eat pork, you should always have bacon in your fridge!

Can I go Low Carb if I have gout?

Art and Science of Low Carb LivingThe Art and science of Low Carbohydrate Living by Jeff Volek and Stephen Phinney is the best book ever! In the book they explain that part of the early adaptation process results in a sharp rise in uric acid due to competition between new circulating ketones and uric acid for renal tubular excretion. It is not because the body is making more but because the body temporarily clears less. Within 4-6 weeks the uric acid levels fall back to below the pre-diet levels. Benign for most people unless, of course you are predisposed to gout where it can then trigger an attack.
They go on to say that most people who suffer from gout can tell early on if an attack is imminent so preventative medication or prompt intervention can usually pre-empt an attack. They also say that once someone predisposed to gout stabilizes on the diet they strongly recommend that the patient avoid cycling in and out of Ketosis.

If you do require the the medication, it is suggested that you remain on it for 3 to 6 months and then wean yourself off once you are properly keto-adapted.  Most gout sufferers go episode free once properly keto-adapted.

Will I Remain In Ketosis If I Take UCAN Superstarch?

Ucan - CranberryAfter the US Olympic Marathon Trials in LA where we were supporting our local hero, Meb Keflezighi, I spoke with the rep for one of his sponsors, UCAN Superstarch.  It became apparent that this may be the most ground breaking product to come around for a long time.  It seems that athletes and sportsmen would benefit most, but it could be perfect for a lot of people just interested in general health as well.

~Dr. Jeff Volek, PhD, Top Nutrition Kinesiologist, Leading Low-Carb Researcher

“It doesn’t matter the age, athlete, or sport. Using SuperStarch to stabilize blood sugar and teach your body to burn more fat is the real deal for any athletic and health-conscious individual.”   Read his research report here.

~Bob Seebohar, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS, 2008 U.S. Olympic Triathlon Team Dietitian

Ucan Snack Bar Box“SuperStarch has so much potential for health and exercise performance because it gives us energy without disrupting what’s already going on in the metabolic background.”

~ Dr. Cathy Yeckel, PhD, Yale University Researcher


  • Before and after workouts or athletic competitions
  • For everyday energy and steady blood sugar
  • As a meal replacement or healthy snack (check out our UCAN recipes)

So, in the cans of superstarch they use Stevia as a sweetener so there is about 1g of carbs in each serving.  The rest of the carbohydrates listed are of the proprietary ‘slow release’ kind and, much like fibre, do not supposedly trigger an insulin response and so need not be counted in the carb count that we each need to maintain to stay in Ketosis.

The bars on the other hand contain 5 g of sugar so if you are even slightly addicted to sugar or carbs then this is a no-no.  If you are not though, you could have this for breakfast, or a snack if you really needed one, and you would not likely trigger an insulin response.  Personally, what I would do, is test yourself to make sure you were in ketosis and then take it and test yourself one, two and three hours later and see what effect it has on you.  Remember every single person is different and you have to see how it affects you.