Lacto-fermentation is an ancient salt-based fermentation technique. This natural process enriches foods with health-benefiting probiotics while preserving them and enhancing their flavours and textures.
But is 20 grams of salt per kilo of vegetables too much salt for our health? Is there really too much salt in lacto-fermentations? Find out in this article! 😉
Go straight to the section that interests you:
- How much salt in a lacto-fermentation?
- How much salt should you consume per day?
- The role of salt on health
- The role of salt in lacto-fermentation
- How to optimize the use of salt
- The benefits of lacto-fermentation
What Is Lacto-Fermentation?
Lacto-fermentation is simply the fermentation of vegetables using salt. It’s called “lacto” because the lactic acid bacteria naturally present in vegetables convert sugar into lactic acid.
Salt plays a crucial role in this process. It promotes the development of good bacteria and inhibits the growth of bad ones.
Lacto-fermentation occurs in five steps:
- Preparation of the vegetables
- Addition of salt
- Putting in jars
For a more detailed explanation of each step, see our complete guide on vegetable fermentation.
The amount of salt used can vary slightly from one fermentation to another. For more information, read How Much Salt to Use in Lacto-Fermentations?
Amount of Salt in Lacto-Fermentations
The salt content of a typical lacto-fermentation (sauerkraut, kimchi, hot sauce, etc.) is 2%, and this proportion remains constant over the fermentation time. So, if you add 20g (2%) of salt to your fermentation, there will still be 20g of salt several months later!
To find out the sodium content of a portion of lacto-fermented vegetables, simply calculate 2% of the weight of that portion.
|Portion of lacto-fermented vegetables||Weight of salt (g)||Weight of sodium (g)|
|One cup (250g)||5.0||2.0|
Since the weight of a vegetable in grams generally corresponds to its volume in millilitres, you can also estimate the weight of salt you need based on a volume measurement, such as a cup.
How Much Salt Should You Eat a Day?
We are often asked the question: How much salt should we eat a day? It’s a simple question, but the answer is complex and subject to much debate.
When it comes to salt, many health professionals recommend refocusing the debate on a more problematic food additive: sugar (ref.)! In fact, in the 60s and 70s, the sugar industry influenced research to minimize the impact of sugar on heart disease, emphasizing on salt and saturated fats (ref. and ref.).
The WHO recommends a daily sodium intake of no more than 2,300 mg, or around 5g of salt (ref.).
However, a meta-analysis of 25 studies published in 2014 highlights a discrepancy between the WHO’s official recommendations and actual salt consumption around the world. In reality, 90% of the world’s population consumes between 7 and 12.5g of salt every day, with no negative impact on health. Even more surprisingly, the analysis suggests that sodium consumption levels below or above the amount just mentioned could cause health problems (ref.).
To illustrate these figures, if your only food was sauerkraut, you would have to eat between 350 and 625g of sauerkraut a day to comply with the world salt consumption average!
The Role of Salt on Health
Salt (sodium chloride) is essential to life! Not only is it crucial to the proper functioning of our nervous system, but it is also essential to produce hydrochloric acid, which is vital for optimal digestion (ref.). So don’t try to eliminate it.
The question of salt intake limits is a complex one. Some studies have established a link between high sodium consumption and an increased risk of cardiovascular problems, particularly in people with high blood pressure (ref.). However, it has also been shown that consuming too little sodium can increase the risk of cardiovascular incidents, whether or not you suffer from hypertension (ref.).
Overall, it seems that moderation and balance are key to healthy salt consumption.
The Role of Salt in Lacto-Fermentation
Salt is essential for lacto-fermentation. It allows to:
- Eliminate pathogenic bacteria
- Create a safe environment for the fermentation process
- Slow down the softening of vegetables
- Add flavour!
The more salt there is, the slower the fermentation and the longer the vegetables will remain crunchy. On the contrary, the less salt there is, the faster the fermentation, the softer the vegetables, and the shorter the storage time.
Could there be any dangers of salt in fermentation? Quite the opposite! Salt keeps your food safe. Find out more by reading Is Lacto-Fermentation Safe?
How to Optimize the Use of Salt
There are several ways to optimize the sodium content of your lacto-fermentation.
The most reliable method is to weigh your salt.
However, measuring your salt using a level teaspoon or tablespoon is enough to give good results. The following table tells you how much a teaspoon or tablespoon of salt weighs.
|Utensils||Abbreviation||Weight of salt|
|1 teaspoon||tsp.||5,7 g|
|1 tablespoon||tsp.||17 g|
However, the best way to optimize your salt intake is in moderation! Fortunately, there are many delicious ways to eat fermented vegetables as a side dish. 😋
Find all our explanations and advice on using salt in lacto-fermentation in our Salt and Brine Ultimate Guide.
Benefits of Lacto-Fermentation
Lacto-fermentation is fun, tasty, and good for your health!
Among its many benefits are:
- Improved digestion
- Enrichment of our microbiota
- Increase in the nutritional value of our food
Incorporating fermented vegetables into your diet can therefore be beneficial for many reasons. All it takes is a few bites during a balanced meal to support your well-being!
Discover all the benefits by reading 6 Benefits of Lacto-Fermentation According to Science.
Although it may seem like there’s too much salt in fermented foods, the amount added is actually compatible with a balanced diet. In fact, a series of recent studies have shown that the ideal intake is between 7 and 12.5g of salt per day (ref.). Eating a 100g portion of sauerkraut provides just 2g of salt.
Salt is essential for lacto-fermentations and the benefits they provide. Whether you use a scale or a spoon, it’s easy to add the right amount without overdosing. Excess salt in lacto-fermentation is only possible if you don’t measure the amount added.
If you’re worried about your salt intake, it’s also important to remember that eliminating it from your diet altogether will be just as bad for your health as over-consumption. So, moderation and balance are the way forward.