If you’re not already familiar with sourdough bread, you may be wondering what sets this bread apart from others, and if sourdough bread is healthy.
Sourdough bread is not only delicious due to its unique fermentation process, but it also has several health benefits.
In this post, we’ll go over some of the advantages of sourdough bread over other breads.
What is Sourdough?
Sourdough is a dough that uses living, wild yeasts and bacteria as the leavening agent.
The active sourdough leavening agent is known as the starter.
Sourdough starter is made with just flour and water. It becomes active once the natural yeasts and bacteria in the flour (along with those accumulated from the air) begin to ferment. As the grain ferments, gas is produced, which causes it to rise. The starter is “fed” regularly (with flour and water) to keep it active. This active starter can then be used as a leavening agent for breads and other dough products.
With conventional bread, yeast is added to the dough to help it rise. In the case of sourdough bread, the fermentation from the wild yeasts and bacteria in the starter is what makes it rise.
It is the unique fermentation process of sourdough bread that offers several healthy advantages and makes sourdough bread the healthiest bread option out there.
Health Benefits of Sourdough Over Other Breads:
One amazing advantage of sourdough bread is that our body is able to absorb more nutrients from sourdough bread than from conventional breads made with baker’s yeast.
Bread contains all sorts of important nutrients, such as calcium, iron, selenium, magnesium, zinc, phosphorous, B vitamins, and more.
However, bread also contains phytates, which are compounds that bind to nutrients, decreasing their bioavailability in the body, and impairing their absorption.
Sourdough bread has more readily available nutrients because of its lower phytate levels.
The lactic acid bacteria that is present in sourdough, lowers the pH (i.e. increases the acidity) of the bread, which neutralizes phytates (1).
The acidity of sourdough fermentation is highly efficient at breaking down phytates, and can reduce the phytate content of whole wheat bread by up to 62% (2).
Another benefit of sourdough is that it is easier to digest than conventional breads (4).
The sourdough fermentation process helps break down gluten, making it more easily digestible, even for people who are gluten intolerant or sensitive.
Sourdough bread is less likely to cause bloating, gas, and other digestion issues.
Research has shown that sourdough bread increases good bacteria in the gut, decreases bad bacteria in the gut, is less likely to cause IBS symptoms, and is better tolerated by patients with IBS (5).
What’s more, the sourdough fermentation/acidification process may lead to sourdough bread having a lower glycemic index than other breads (6).
A lower glycemic index means it does not spike your blood sugar and insulin response as much. This is especially important if you are at risk of insulin resistance or diabetes.
Lastly, as an added health bonus, sourdough lactic acid bacteria have been shown to synthesize antioxidant proteins during fermentation (7).
Is Sourdough Healthier Than Normal Bread?
So, is sourdough actually healthier than regular bread?
Well, let’s not get carried away with the benefits…sourdough bread is still bread after all, and is comparable to regular white or whole wheat bread in terms of calories and carbs.
However, sourdough bread has no added sugar, preservatives, or other artificial things that have no business being in your bread. It offers more bioavailable nutrients, as well as the other benefits listed above.
Unlike normal bread, traditional sourdough bread is made from only three ingredients!!! Flour, water, and salt. Plus the natural yeasts and bacteria that make it rise.
The best way to make sure you are getting the full benefits of sourdough bread…is to make it yourself! Check out this post for instructions on how to get a sourdough starter going and how to make a basic sourdough loaf.
Is Store Bought Sourdough Bread Healthy?
So, what about store bought sourdough bread?
If you don’t have the time to make sourdough at home, you can definitely find equally healthy sourdough bread in stores and bakeries.
You just have to be more careful as not all sourdough breads will follow the traditional long fermentation process. Often, store bought sourdough will be given less time to rise than a homemade loaf, for example.
Also, some store-bought breads branded as sourdough may have added ingredients such as sweeteners, oils, or even yeast. Check the label for simple ingredients like flour, water, salt, and starter or culture.
To make sure you are getting the real deal, check for:
- fermentation time of at least 4 hours (if included on the label)
- no added sugar or sweeteners
- no added yeast
- few ingredients: flour, water, salt, starter/culture
Sourdough bread is a healthy bread option due to its high availability of nutrients, easy digestibility, low glycemic index, and antioxidant byproducts.
I hope you enjoyed this post on what makes sourdough bread healthy. Be sure to check out the sourdough starter and bread recipe if you’re interested in making your own sourdough at home!