Is sourdough bread healthy for you? What the Science Says

Ever since people created instant yeast in world war two store bought wheat or white bread has been the convenient go- too option for sandwiches, bread sticks, toast, and more. But, recently sourdough bread has become more popular with it’s tangy and delicious flavor and healthy and filling taste. Is sourdough bread healthy as well as delicious? Read on to find out.

What is sourdough bread?

Sourdough Bread

Sourdough bread is bread that is naturally leavened, made from a start bread that contains natural yeast (instead of instant store bought yeast). It has a tangy flavor and takes longer to rise and prepare to cook. And, it tastes delicious.

Natural yeast is everywhere, in the air, on leaves, and on bark. The white film found on berries is yeast. Yeast is a single celled fungus and by taking those yeasts and fermenting them with water and flour you create a wet substance called a “sourdough start,”  start. And that is what you use to make sourdough bread.

Sourdough starts are naturally made, and often handed down from generation to generation. In order to make sourdough bread the start takes 6 or more hours, typically overnight, to rise, and cooked in a dutch oven or cast iron skillet. (In terms of time-consuming, store-bought bread is less work, but the overall health benefits and delicious taste of sourdough bread may make you want to start making your own.)

Is sourdough bread healthy?

A woman holding a sourdough bread

In the bible, bread is referred to as the “staff of life,” and since biblical times people have been surviving off of bread. Almost everyone can think of a time where bread was a comfort food- whether it’s a peanut butter sandwich your mom made, pizza and bread sticks, or cinnamon rolls. Bread is a staple in our society.

But, not all bread is created equal and it’s not all the healthiest. After the invention of instant yeast during world war two has come gluten intolerances, Celiac disease, and digestive issues with breaking down wheat. Why are these health issues happening after centuries of bread being the staff of life?

Some say that it’s the instant yeast that is the cause of wheat concerns with health, and that sourdough bread is actually healthier than other white or wheat breads because of the natural yeast in the sourdough start and the extended period of time it takes to ferment and rise.

Sourdough benefits

A man eating sourdough bread

Sourdough bread has many benefits. Here are just five of the amazing benefits of sourdough bread.

1. Breaks down wheat

Wheat is very hard for people to digest, with not absorbing  the good nutrients, or even sometimes making us sick.

A huge benefit of sourdough bread is the natural yeasts ability to break down gluten, resulting is some gluten intolerant or people with celiac able to digest sourdough bread. The long fermenting time makes the dough produce enzymes that break down the phytic acid, which allows your body to absorb the nutrients in wheat and digest it easily.

2. Slows digestion

Another benefit of sourdough bread is the slower digestion time, allowing you to feel fuller for longer periods of time.

3. Lowers glycemic index

Sourdough bread has a GI of 54 which is much lower compared to other bread which ranks 70 or more on the scale. Sourdough bread starts with a lower glycemic index, because of the long fermentation time with breaking down the starches, and helps lower your blood sugar.

4. Good for your gut

In addition to providing many vitamins and minerals, sourdough bread is a great source of fiber and is very good for your gut. Sourdough bread is full of prebiotic and probiotic bacteria and is one of the best foods you can give your gut. The long fermentation time from the sourdough start is good for your whole digestive system and can help your gut flora thrive.

5. Tastes delicious

One benefit of sourdough bread is the delicious taste that it has. Whether your dipping your bread in olive oil and balsamic vinegar, or your making homemade sourdough waffles, or another sourdough delight, sourdough is a great way to go. (And, not all sourdough is super sour. Some are more sour than others, and you can flavor your sour dough to mask any sour taste it might have.)

Where to get Sourdough

Bread seller packing a bread for his buyer

With the rise in popularity with sourdough many stores have started offering prepackaged sourdough bread. Often times these versions of sourdough aren’t truly sourdough, and they are just flavored that way. This gives you the flavor, but not the health benefits that true simple and natural sourdough bread will give you.

Check the labels on the store bought sourdough bread. True sourdough bread should have flour, water, and sourdough start as the ingredients- with maybe some salt or herbs. If the label on the store bought sourdough bread has more than four ingredients, and yeast is one of them, it isn’t a true natural sourdough bread.

Other ways you can get sourdough bread include:

  • Make your own bread by getting a  local start. There may already be people around you who make their own sourdough bread, and you can ask around for a start, and then start baking your own bread. (Ask if you can try some bread from their start before taking home any to see if you like the taste.)
  • Buy from local artisans. You can check that it is truly sourdough by asking how long the start took to rise, what the ingredients are, or where the start originated.
  • Make your own start (although this process is not as beginner friendly and you need to know what you are doing.)

Bread: the staff of life

Loaves of Sourdough Bread

Sourdough bread is healthy (many people even say healthier than other bread,) has many health benefits, and tastes so good. No wonder it’s known as the staff of life.

There are many resources on youtube, books at the library, or online articles that can help you learn where to get sourdough bread, how to fed a start, or delicious sourdough bread recipes.

Have you tried sourdough? Let us know in the comments below.

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