Do I have to use salt?

Yes. If you don’t suffer from kidney disease, or have salt-intolerance (see “Note” at end of this article), salt is very important in the creation of most healthy fermented foods. Exceptions would be certain drinks or fruit-based condiments.

  • Salt is a critical ingredient which helps to prevent undesirable bacteria from growing, encouraging a fermenting environment that supports the increase of the desirable bacteria that produces lactic acid.
  • An in-depth FAQ article detailing the Four Stages of Lacto-Fermentation, provides more information on the role of salt.
  • It is important to use the correct form of salt. “Flake” salt, table salt that is iodized, and any salt that has anti-caking agents added to it, are NOT acceptable for use in lacto-fermentation. They interfere with the lacto-fermentation process, as well as creating a cloudy brine.
  • Unrefined, high-quality salt provides minerals required by lactic-acid bacteria which have very complicated nutritional requirements.*
  • Lb. casei strain Shirota (LcS)*, is extremely important in the correct development of fermented milks including yogurt, leiben, dahi, kefir and koumiss, as well as fermented meat, brewed drinks, Japanese pickles and bread. LcS requires high amounts of manganese, some of which a high-quality salt can provide.
  • Leaving salt out of lacto-fermented foods, negatively impacts the health of the final product.
  • Unrefined salt is healthy for most people – See Shirley’s Wellness for more information
  • Refined Salt is Harmful to Health8-year study reviewed

Note: The ability of people to tolerate salt varies greatly. If you have pre-existing conditions – kidney problems or potassium deficiencies, or genetic ACE mutation – you may be more at risk of salt intolerance. If you eat processed foods, your salt intake is much higher than those who follow a traditional diet. Fermented foods, for example, are our primary source of salt, as salt is not included in any other part of our diet. For a well-reasoned article on knowing the differences between salt intolerance, Herx-symptoms from Lyme disease, please see this blog