Sourdough is a healthier alternative to regular white or whole wheat bread. Although it has comparable nutrients, the lower phytate levels mean it is more digestible and nutritious.
The prebiotics also helps to keep your gut bacteria happy, and it may be less likely to spike blood sugar levels. Besides the nutritional benefits, you can also enjoy the therapy of home baking and the unique sourdough flavour.
What Is Sourdough Bread?
Sourdough is one of the oldest forms of grain fermentation.
It’s believed to have originated in ancient Egypt around 1,500 BC and remained the customary form of bread leavening until baker’s yeast replaced it a few centuries ago Leavened bread is a bread whose dough rises during the bread-making process as a result of gas being produced as the grain ferments.
Most leavened bread uses commercial baker’s yeast to help the dough rise. However, traditional sourdough fermentation relies on “wild yeast” and lactic acid bacteria that are naturally present in flour to leaven the bread. Wild yeast is more resistant to acidic conditions than baker’s yeast. This is what allows it to work together with lactic acid-producing bacteria to help the dough rise. Lactic acid bacteria can be found in several other fermented feet, including yoghurt, kefir, pickles, sauerkraut and kimchi.
The mix of wild yeast, lactic acid bacteria, flour and water used to make sourdough bread is called a “starter.” During the bread-making process, the starter ferments the sugars in the dough, helping the bread rise and acquire its characteristic taste. Sourdough bread takes much longer to ferment and rise than other types of bread, which is what creates its particular texture.
To this day, making sourdough bread remains popular in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries, as well as in the San Francisco Bay region of the US. Some store-bought sourdough bread is not made using the traditional sourdough method, thereby reducing their health benefits.
Buying sourdough bread from an artisan baker like LivFresh increases the likelihood of it being “true” sourdough bread.
It’s More Nutritious Than Regular Bread
Although sourdough bread is often made from the same flour as other types of bread, the fermentation process improves its nutrition profile in several ways.
For starters, whole grain bread contain a good amount of minerals, including potassium, phosphate, magnesium and zinc (3Trusted Source).
Unfortunately, the absorption of these minerals is limited by the presence of phytic acid, which is commonly referred to as phytate.
Phytates are considered antinutrients because they bind to minerals, reducing your body’s ability to absorb them (3Trusted Source).
Interestingly, the lactic acid bacteria found in sourdough bread lower the bread’s pH, which helps degrade phytates. This results in a bread that has a much lower phytate content than other types of bread (4).
One study showed that sourdough fermentation may reduce the phytate content of bread by 24–50% more than conventional yeast fermentation (5Trusted Source).
Lower phytate levels increase mineral absorption, which is one of the ways in which sourdough bread is more nutritious than conventional bread. Moreover, studies show that the lactic acid bacteria present in sourdough bread have the ability to release antioxidants during sourdough fermentation (6Trusted Source, 7, 8Trusted Source).
Sourdough fermentation also increases folate levels in the bread, although levels of certain nutrients like vitamin E may be slightly reduced in the process (3Trusted Source). Finally, sourdough’s longer fermentation time helps improve the flavour and texture of whole-grain bread. This may make people more likely to opt for a whole grain bread, thereby promoting a higher consumption of fibre and nutrient-rich bread (4).