Sourdough bread made with sourdough is a product of ancient traditions but has recently been rediscovered and revalued.
Many people consider it healthier than conventional bread, as it is easier to digest and less likely to raise blood sugar. But is it really so?
Sourdough bread: what does it mean?
Natural yeast, also called sourdough or sourdough, has been used since ancient times for the fermentation of flour.
It is believed that its origin dates back to ancient Egypt. And it remained the usual form of leavening bread until brewer’s yeast replaced it a few centuries ago. With the leavening of bread, the dough grows in volume. This is due to the production of gas that is released during the fermentation of the flour.
But currently, most leavened bread uses commercial brewer’s yeast to facilitate dough leavening.
Instead, traditional fermentation with sourdough is based on spontaneous yeasts and lactic acid bacteria naturally present in the flour. These spontaneous yeasts are more resistant to acidic conditions than brewer’s yeast. And this allows it to work together with the bacteria that produce lactic acid, improving leavening.
Bread with sourdough requires a long leavening
The mixture of spontaneous yeasts, lactic acid bacteria, flour, and water used to make sourdough bread is also called sourdough or sourdough.
During baking, it ferments the sugars present in the dough, helping the bread to rise and acquire a characteristic, slightly acidic taste.
In reality, sourdough bread takes much longer to ferment and rise than other types of bread and this also gives it a particular texture and lightness.
Benefits of sourdough bread
The nutritional characteristics of sourdough are similar to those of most other types of bread. What differs in the composition of the bread is essentially due to the type of flour used, whether wholemeal or refined.
However, the natural fermentation process can improve the nutritional profile of bread in several ways.
It is more nutritious
Bread made from healthier whole grains contains a good amount of mineral salts such as potassium, magnesium, zinc, and phosphorus. But their absorption is limited by the presence of phytic acid, commonly called phytate. In fact, this substance is an antinutrient that binds to minerals, reducing their ability to assimilate by the body.
You should know that the lactic acid bacteria present in sourdough bread lower the pH of the bread, helping to degrade phytates. And this produces bread with a much lower phytate content than regular bread, which can be up to 25-50% less.
In addition, studies show that the lactic acid bacteria present in sourdough bread have the ability to release certain antioxidants during fermentation. And leavening with sourdough also increases the levels of folate in bread, which is then transformed into folic acid (vitamin B9) in the body.
It is easier to digest
Sourdough bread is more digestible than bread fermented with brewer’s yeast.
According to research, this could be due to the prebiotic content of long-rising bread and the probiotic properties capable of predigesting the product.
Prebiotics are non-digestible fibers that nourish beneficial bacteria in the gut. Instead, probiotics are beneficial bacteria found in certain foods. Consuming them regularly can help improve gut health, facilitating digestion.
In addition, fermentation with sourdough degrades gluten to a greater extent than brewer’s yeast. This is a protein complex present in some cereals, which in sensitive or allergic people can cause digestive problems.
In reality, gluten tolerance varies from person to person. In some, the digestion of gluten does not cause visible problems. But in other people, it can cause stomach pain, bloating, diarrhea or constipation. And the lower gluten content of sourdough bread could increase its tolerance for sensitive people.
However, the fermentation of sourdough does not completely degrade the gluten. Therefore sourdough bread containing wheat, barley or rye should be avoided by people with gluten intolerance or celiac disease.
Has a lower glycemic index
Spontaneous fermentation bread may have a better effect on blood sugar and insulin levels than other types of bread.
Researchers believe that fermentation with sourdough can change the structure of carbohydrates. This reduces the glycemic index of bread and slows down the rate at which sugars enter the bloodstream.
Also during fermentation, the lactic acid bacteria present in the dough produce organic acids. Some researchers claim that these acids may help delay stomach emptying by preventing a spike in blood sugar.
Several other studies have compared the glucose response for the two types of bread. Overall, people who consumed the long-fermented bread had lower blood sugar and insulin levels than those who ingested the brewer’s yeast-fermented bread.
The longer fermentation time of sourdough also helps to improve the flavor and texture of the bread.
In addition, lactic acid bacteria, in addition to producing organic acids, that lower the pH of bread, also provide some substances called bacteriocins. In this way, the proliferation of pathogenic bacteria is inhibited. In addition, this type of bread does not mold as easily as the others and can be enjoyed longer.
Sourdough bread: nutritional values
The exact nutritional profile of sourdough bread depends on the type of flour used to make it. However, on average, an average slice of sourdough bread (56 g) contains:
Carbohydrates: 32 grams
- Fiber: 2-4 grams
- Protein: 6 grams
- Fat: 2 grams
- Selenium: 22% of the RDI
- Folate: 20% of the RDI
- Thiamine: 16% of the RDI
- Sodium: 16% of the RDI
- Manganese: 14% of the RDI
- Niacin: 14% of the RDI
- Iron: 12% of the RDI
With so few ingredients, what are the health benefits of sourdough bread?
- 1. Digestibility of sourdough bread
Let’s say right away that natural bread is easier to digest than regular bread. In particular, it is suitable for those who have digestive problems or suffer from IBS.
Part of the gluten is fermented in the sourdough production process; which means it can be easier to digest for people with IBS and other digestive problems, where gluten is normally fermented in the colon leading to bloating and sometimes diarrhea. As always, everyone is different, so if you normally avoid bread due to digestive issues, you could introduce a small amount at a time and monitor your symptoms.
- 2. It is highly nutritious
Of this benefit, in fact, it is easy to doubt. If it contains only three ingredients – flour, sourdough, and salt – how can sourdough bread be more nutritious than normal things?
It all comes down to that clever fermentation process we talked about at the beginning. Sourdough – as with all types of wholemeal bread – contains minerals including potassium, magnesium, and zinc, all essential elements for our health. The difference is that regular whole wheat bread also contains a high level of phytates. Phytates bind to minerals in our foods, reducing our ability to absorb them properly.
Instead, the lengthy fermentation process required to create sourdough breaks down most of these phytates; which means that the minerals in bread are absorbed more easily by our bodies.
- 3. Contains less glucose
Many pieces of bread have a high glucose content, which can cause a sharp rise in blood sugar levels after eating them. Sourdough, on the other hand, contains much less glucose, because much of it is used in the process to create wild yeast.
Is sourdough good for gut health?
Lactobacilli, the bacteria present in sourdough, are among the best probiotics; Which means that this food has immense health benefits when ingested in the right form and dose.
Put simply, these are the same bacteria found in other fermented foods, such as yogurt and kefir, and help promote the “good” and “benevolent” bacteria found in our digestive systems.
Although these bacteria are unlikely to reach our colon, and although each type of sourdough is different from the others, even at the level of the mouth or throat the microbiomes will benefit from the addition of beneficial bacteria.