The Benefits of Sourdough

There are many healthful benefits of sourdough bread!
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Evaluating the bread we ate was one of the very first steps we took on our journey to eating a traditional foods diet. At first we made an effort to eat whole wheat because we knew whole grains were better for us.  Then we started making our own whole wheat bread to avoid all the yucky ingredients in most store bought breads.  Eventually we made the switch to sourdough bread in order to ensure that our whole grains were soaked/soured and therefore more nutritious for our bodies. This was one change my husband whole-heartedly embraced since he loves sourdough bread. However, I later learned that sourdough bread contains many other health benefits.

Sourdough in the Bible

Did you know that there are over 50 Bible verses that refer to yeast? They couldn’t go to a store back then and just purchase a jar of Baker’s yeast.  Those verses are referring to a sourdough culture! The starter was used to make leavened bread.  It wasn’t until the turn of the 20th century that yeast was isolated and able to be mass produced. (source)

Mass Production of Yeast: The Problem

The mass production of yeast sped up the process of making bread.  The bread no longer needed 8 to 24 hours to finish rising, it could be done in a mere hour. Is this beneficial to us? Mark Sircus Ac., OMD does not believe so:

 Fast-made bread is one of the most destructive implementations into the modern diet. It has become normal fare. Poorly-prepared and poorly-digested wheat is the chief contributor to the current plague of “gluten-intolerance,” obesity, diabetes, Candida diseases and many allergenic conditions all of which contribute to the conditions that cause cancer.

Only when wheat gluten is properly fermented is it healthy for human consumption. When not it is potentially one of the most highly allergenic foods we eat. (source)

 

Back to the Basics

It’s not really surprising to me that our divergence away from slow-rising sourdough and towards quick-rising manufactured yeasts has caused health problems.  It’s for this reason that our family has chosen to go back to the basics.  We don’t mind that it takes a little more time and creates a little more work.  Sourdough bread is a labor of love. It’s good, home-cooked comfort food, that, when toasted with a thick slice of butter, is absolutely decadent.

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Benefits of Sourdough

True sourdough bread is healthier than conventional bread for many reasons.

  • Sourdough bread has been shown to not spike your blood sugar the way white and whole grain bread do.  One set of researches set out to test how different types of bread affect blood sugar.  They found:

    “With the sourdough, the subjects’ blood sugar levels were lower for a similar rise in blood insulin,” said Graham, whose findings are to be published in the British Journal of Nutrition. “What was even more interesting was that this positive effect remained during their second meal and lasted even hours after. This shows that what you have for breakfast influences how your body will respond to lunch.” (source)

  • When fermented long enough, the phytic acid is broken down allowing our bodies to absorb all the wonderful vitamins and minerasl, including 18 different amino acids, B vitamins, iron, zinc, magnesium, and selenium. (source)
  • “Sourdough bread rates a 68 on the glycaemic index as opposed to the rating of 100 by other breads. Foods that have low ratings on the glycaemic index are prominent in societies that tend to have lower incidence of diseases and unhealthy conditions that run rampant in our culture such as diabetes.” (source)
  • Sourdough bread is able to resist mold. As it ferments, the bacteria create a by-product that is strongly anti-fungal. (source) I can attest that this is true.  Come to think of it, I can not think of a single instance of molding sourdough in our house. (And we’ve had plenty of other molding foods.)
  • There is some evidence that celiacs can even eat sourdough bread if it has been fermented long enough, therefore reducing or eliminating the gluten. (source)(source)
  • The fermentation process of the slow-rise basically pre-digests the starches in the wheat for us, making it easier to digest, and overall healthier.

Reading Labels

Unfortunately, like everything else food-related, its important to read labels.  True sourdough bread will contain a starter which is the natural yeast that makes it rise.  Many of the breads labeled as ‘sourdough’ at the store contain yeast in the ingredient list, which is a clear indication that it is not a true sourdough. I have been able to find a sourdough loaf at Trader Joe’s that only contains wheat, flour, water, starter, and salt.  You have to look carefully though. The other option is to make it yourself.  There is definitely a learning curve to making your own sourdough bread, but the health benefits are certainly worth it.  I use my starter to make many other things including pancakes, waffles, cookies, and other baked goods. You can start your own starter using this method, or you can buy a starter here.  Amazon also has lots of great sourdough cookbooks. If you don’t want to make it, and can’t find it locally, you can also order true sourdough bread online, although you will pay a pretty price for it.

For lots of fun sourdough ideas, check out my sourdough pinboard.  I have pinned all kinds of fun sourdough articles and recipes from around the web.

Are you a sourdough fan?  Were you aware of all the health benefits associated with sourdough?

 

  1. I loved your post! I am not usually a sourdough bread lover because the outside tends to be too hard/crispy for me. I am willing to reconsider and try my own based on what I’ve just read. Thank you!

  2. Wow thank you for sharing all of this!! I love sourdough bread and have always wanted to learn to make it! I never knew all of its health benefits but now I definitely need to make it for my family!!

  3. They also carry a true sourdough at Whole foods! It freezes well too so I just buy a bunch at a time

  4. Thanks for the detailed description. Do you know if any slow rise sourdough is made from strictly bacterial starter and does not include any yeast (including natural yeast)?

    • I’m not sure Christina, my gut tells me no. If I come across anything different though I will definitely come back and let you know.

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