The Health Benefits of Sourdough Bread
If you have read some of my recipes, you may have noticed. I’m a HUGE fan of sourdough bread. Not only because it’s delicious, but also because it’s super healthy! Here’s why YOU should also switch to sourdough bread.
What is Sourdough?
Sourdough bread is a traditional bread made of regular wheat or any other grain. The thing that makes it different from regular bread, is the way that it’s made. Regular bread is made with yeast which allows the bread to rise. But a sourdough bread is made with a sourdough starter, which is lactic acid bacteria, to rise and prepare the bread for baking through fermentation. Fermentation is basically pre-digesting the carbohydrates in the bread and the bacteria produce loads of nutrients while fermenting. These nutrients will be available in the bread for you! The bacteria don’t survive the baking process, but they do add a lot of health benefits to the bread!
A bacteria starter? You see where I’m going right?!
Because of the fermentation, a lot of the carbohydrates that are present in the dough, are broken down and turned into acidic compounds. This is why the bread may smell (and taste) a little more sour than regular bread.
But in my opinion, this only makes it tastier!
Also, it is speculated that a lot of the gastrointestinal symptoms that people experience from wheat and grains, started after the traditional sourdough method was replaced by the big scale fast yeast production that is used for most bread nowadays. And often people find themselves having little to no symptoms once they switch to proper sourdough bread.
Health Benefits of Sourdough
The health benefits of sourdough bread already start to add up once you look at the ingredients list. Regular bread is made of flour, water, salt, sugar, yeast and tons of additives to keep it fresh for days of shelflife. Sourdough bread, on the other hand, is made with flour, water, salt, and a sourdough starter. That’s it!
Digestibility and FODMAP
The sourdough does a great job of fermenting hard to digest carbohydrates in the grains. These carbohydrates (including the FODMAP group fructans) can often cause gastrointestinal symptoms in people with a sensitive gut or Irritable Bowel Syndrome (click for my article). So eating a sourdough bread instead of a regular bread makes life a whole lot easier on your gut!
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FODMAPs (click for my article) are fermentable carbohydrates. And as said, they can be fermented by sourdough. This is great news for people who follow the FODMAP diet! Since this reduces the FODMAP content, in particular, the fructans, of the bread once it’s produced with sourdough.
Part of this is because a sourdough fermentation takes up way more time (12-48 hours) than a regular yeast bread (30 mins up to 3 hours) this allows the sourdough (which is live bacteria) to break down a lot of the fructans that are present in the grains.
Because the fructans are broken down, they can not contribute to the stimulation of gut symptoms anymore.
Remember though, if you’re following the FODMAP diet, not all fructans are broken down. There are restricted portion sizes. For example, a sourdough spelt bread is low-FODMAP at 52-82 grams and a wheat sourdough bread at 97 grams. Keep in mind, that the fructan content is really dependent on the amount of time the bread has been given to rise. The longer it has risen, the less fructans there are. So this can vary greatly between different brands and bakers.
It is smart to be consuming whole grain sourdough bread on the FODMAP diet (and any other diet or lifestyle) since whole grains are a great source of fiber, B-vitamins and iron.
Also, studies have shown, that that the consumption of sourdough bread can help increase the bifidobacteria living in your gut. These bifidobacteria are beneficial in IBS and do not produce gas.
Choosing a Sourdough bread over a regular bread can help improve your vitamin status. The sourdough preparation actually improves the ability of your body to absorb the nutrients provided (bioavailability). In comparison to regular bread, the Magnesium, Zinc, and Iron are better absorbed by your body from a sourdough bread. This is the result of the breakdown of phytate by the sourdough. Phytate reduces the availability of zinc, protein and other nutrients. So the less phytate there is in your bread, the more nutrients you get! (such a nice rhyme)
Apart from that, there are chemically active compounds in the sourdough bread that help improve your health.
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How to Buy or Make Sourdough Bread
If you don’t like baking or have very little experience in making bread (like me) it is probably wisest to get your sourdough bread from a sourdough baker. If you use Google and search for ‘sourdough bread’ or ‘sourdough baker’ around you, something will come up for sure.
In my personal opinion, the bread from a baker will always be better than bread from a supermarket. But supermarkets do sometimes sell sourdough bread. If you want to get sourdough bread from the supermarket, check the labels to make sure it does not have any yeast added to it. If it does, it’s usually not a real sourdough bread that has been rising for at least 12 hours.
Want more information on what to look out for in healthy products? Schedule a free IBS-symptom assessment and I’ll show you how I can help.
I have been getting curious about making my own sourdough starter and baking bread myself. If you want to find out how my sourdough bread turned out, and which recipe I used, click this link! It is not difficult at all, you just need some patience.
There are some tools you need before you start baking the bread. One of the options is to buy a starter pack on amazon. This will get you ready to go. But a good piece of cloth and a ceramic or glass bowl also does the trick.
Do let me know if you made sourdough bread yourself! And please share your best advice! I’m very curious about everyone’s results!
Hi there, I’m Manon.
In my daily life I work as a registered dietitian in the Netherlands with a special interest in gut health.
During my workday I get loads of questions about healthy food, recipes and lifestyle to make it a little easier to get healthy. On Positive Gut I collect my best recommendations, tips and recipes to make your healthy lifestyle a little easier!