Reasons why sourdough bread is better for you

Do the words “sourdough bread” evoke images of crusty, rustic loaves fragrant with yeasty, tangy aromas? You are not alone in this. According to a recent study, sourdough’s market value increased from $298.7 million in 2014 to $2.4 billion in 2018.

This slowly fermented bread pays homage to the traditional art of baking and dates all the way back to ancient Egypt in 3000 BC.

While baking a sourdough loaf may occupy idle hands and provide a welcome diversion from the norm, is it healthier? What you need to know is as follows.

Reasons why sourdough bread is better for you - Photo by pidjoe/Getty Images
Reasons why sourdough bread is better for you – Photo by pidjoe/Getty Images

What is sourdough bread and how is it made?

Three simple ingredients are required for traditional sourdough bread recipes. You’ll need salt, flour, and the enchanted alchemy of a sourdough starter to make it. No instant or fresh yeast, milk, oils, eggs, or sweeteners are required.

A sourdough starter is a fermented flour and water mixture that contains bacteria and yeast colonies. The starter contains a variety of Saccharomyces strains, which are wild relatives of the yeast used in commercial preparations.

The starter acts as a rising agent in sourdough bread. Using the carbohydrates in flour, the yeast produces ethanol and carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is absorbed by the bread dough, which causes it to rise.

“It differs from commercial yeast bread in that it takes significantly longer to ferment completely,” explains Maurizio Leo, baker and author of the Perfect Loaf. “In addition, the flavor of the dough will be enhanced by the organic acids produced as a byproduct of natural fermentation.”

This process imparts the sourdough’s distinctive tangy or sour flavor.

Sourdough bread is more nutritious than conventional bread.

While sourdough bread may appear to be similar to regular bread, the fermentation process used to create the sourdough starter imparts a slew of nutritional benefits. Here are some reasons why sourdough bread may be a healthier option than other types of bread.

Sourdough bread provides your body with more nutrients.

All types of bread contain vital minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and iron. However, we are unable to absorb these nutrients easily due to the presence of compounds called phytates, or phytic acid.

However, unlike other breads, sourdough contains lactic acid. This lactic acid reduces the amount of phytates in the bread by lowering the pH. As a result, sourdough bread contains more available minerals and up to 62% less phytic acid than standard bread.

According to Leo, lactic acid also “increases the bioavailability of the ingredients,” which means that the nutrients in the bread are available to your body more quickly and readily.

Sourdough is very digestible.

Julie Stewart, a registered dietitian, recommends sourdough as a “kinder alternative to bread” that is less likely to cause food intolerances and digestive problems.

This is because sourdough bread is more digestible than the average commercial loaf made with commercial baker’s yeast. Indeed, Stewart reports that her clients experience less bloating when they consume sourdough bread.

“The fermentation process degrades some of the gluten, making it more digestible, particularly for people who have difficulty digesting gluten.”

However, individuals who have coeliac disease should exercise caution. When a person consumes gluten, their immune system attacks their own tissues. And sourdough still contains gliadin, the portion of wheat protein that causes coeliac disease in some people.

“Coeliacs can experiment with gluten-free sourdough bread,” Stewart explains. Additionally, the sourdough fermentation process imparts a softer texture and similar volume and flavor to gluten-free bread.

According to Peter Reinhart, chef and author of 12 books on bread and pizza, sourdough is also prebiotic. Prebiotics are nutrients that nourish the beneficial bacteria in your digestive system, which aid in maintaining a healthy gut and improving digestion by increasing nutrient availability.

How to make a starter for sourdough

Making a sourdough starter requires dedication. To produce the best results, it requires nurturing, feeding, and loving attention.

To begin, combine flour and water to create a’starter’ or’mother’ and allow nature to do the rest. Feed the starter with additional flour over the next 7 to 10 days and allow the mixture to ferment.

The starter relies on the reproduction of naturally occurring yeasts and bacteria. These microorganisms produce the bubbling, fermented starter that aids in the rising of the dough.

“Wild microorganisms prefer a more acidic environment than commercial yeast and ferment the dough more slowly, imparting a more complex, tart flavor to the bread. In fact, sourdough fermentation is the oldest and most primitive method of leavening dough, as commercially raised yeast is a relatively recent development, dating back less than 200 years “Reinhart explains.

Leo explains, “The mixture is ‘trained’ over time to promote the growth of specific strains of wild yeasts and beneficial bacteria that coexist.” These are communities that are stable and harmonious, yet personal and unique.

According to Reinhart, “the future of bread is rooted in its past.” A baker can divide and share their healthy starter with a friend. The new starter is descended from the original starter.

“With proper care, this mixture can persist indefinitely,” Leo explains. Although no official record exists for the oldest starter, the Guardian reports that an 84-year-old Canadian owns a 120-year-old starter.

The gist

Sourdough is a more nutritious option than white or whole wheat bread. While the nutrients are comparable, the lower phytate content makes it more digestible and nutritious.

Additionally, the prebiotics help keep your gut bacteria happy, which may result in a lower risk of blood sugar spikes.

Apart from the nutritional benefits, you can also benefit from the therapeutic properties of home baking and the distinct sourdough flavor.


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