The Benefits of Sourdough Bread


A simple mixture of flour and water--a 6,000-year-old discovery in ancient Egypt--is all it takes to create sourdough starter. Left at room temperature, wild yeasts and the bacteria, Lactobacillus, from the grain and the air, jumpstart the process of fermentation, which gives the dough its sour flavor. After "feeding" it with more flour and water for about a week, the starter can be used in place of yeast in bread and other recipes. The starter may be kept alive for an indeterminate period--many trace back over 160 years.

Some sourdough enthusiasts claim a range of health benefits, from treating disease to boosting mood. While sourdough bread may not live up to all of these claims, research reveals some advantages. The fermentation and long rising time appears to help break down starches, proteins, gluten, and phytates in grains, making them easier to digest, as well as boosting nutrient availability. The absorption rate of starches is slowed down, thus, reducing the glycemic index of the bread.

A startling study which included white, whole wheat, whole wheat with barley and sourdough white breads and their impact on people of different age and body weight was conducted.

People who are overweight and between age of 50 and 60 had the best reaction on sourdough white bread, surpassing the whole wheat, and positive effects of it can be seen even after lunch. These positive results were: a decrease in sugar level in blood and an increase in insulin level. Even after a second meal (which was without sourdough bread) this situation remained the same.

It is believed that fermentation caused by the sourdough changes the properties of natural starch in the bread turning it into a healthier and better food.

Other types of bread in the study made of whole grains of whole wheat did not show such good results as sourdough bread. Whole wheat bread has even caused a mild increase in blood sugar that was even retained after the second meal. Such results may come from the process of milling wheat and other grains, although the above rule does not apply to all types of bread made from whole grains and whole wheat. One must wonder what the effects of whole wheat sourdough would be?

A few of the Benefits

1. Sourdough often has a lower glycemic index than that of other breads–meaning, it doesn’t spike blood sugar as dramatically. This is because it depletes damaged starches within it, simply by its fermentative nature.

2. Sourdough bread contains the bacteria Lactobacillus in a higher proportion to yeast than do other breads. More Lactobacillus means higher production of lactic acid, which means less of the potentially dangerous phytic acid. And what does that mean? More mineral availability and easier digestion.

3. Easier digestion is made even more possible by the bacteria-yeast combo working to predigest the starches in the grains. Predigestion by sourdough = less digestion for you.

4. Sourdough preparation is more lengthy (soaking, rinsing, etc.), and this longer prep time results in the protein gluten being broken down into amino acids. Again, this translates to easier and more pleasant digestion, sometimes even for those who are sensitive to gluten.

5. Acetic acid–which inhibits the growth of mold, is produced in the making of sourdough. So, sourdough naturally preserves itself. Pretty neat considering the toxic preservatives thrown into the food supply today.

6. The fermentation process increases the content of beneficial bacteria in the bread AND the gut. Healthy gut bacteria = happy body.

7. Additionally, these bacteria control yeast population in the gut, so yeast overgrowth and infection is less likely to occur.

8. The integrity of sourdough is so complex that it contains a host of goodness in terms of nutrients. In sourdough, you can find vitamins B1-B6, B12, folate, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, vitamin E, selenium, iron, manganese, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc and potassium–in addition to uniquely balanced proteins and fatty acids. Whoa! This is in contrast to most commercially produced breads, which maintain only a fraction of their original nutrient content after all the processing they undergo.

9. Sourdough bread made with wild yeast, bacteria, and whole grain flour is the oldest and most original form of leavened bread. It truly is an ancient art that is crafted in harmony with nature. It’s only natural that we eat it as opposed to other breads.

Make your own sourdough starter

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