Is sourdough bread healthier than other breads? Yes! Learn about the nutrition of sourdough bread and its benefits.
Sourdough Health Benefits
Fermented foods are oft-lauded for their massive health benefits, including beneficial bacteria to balance your intestinal flora and easier digestion. Lactic acid fermentation not only helps to preserve food but also increases the nutrients available for our bodies.
We’re told daily via mainstream advertisements of the probiotic health benefits of one of my favorite foods, yogurt (see directions for easy homemade). This fermented dairy product is popular in the United States, while so many other fermented foods just haven’t quite caught on.
Because of that, if you’re a standard American eater, your taste buds may take some time to adjust to the tang of sourdough. It is just that tang, however, that gives sourdough grain preparation all its nutritional might.
Nutrition of Sourdough Bread
Sourdough preparation improves nutrition by:
- pre-digesting starches, making the bread more easily digestible
- lowering insulin response/improving glucose tolerance
- protecting Vitamin B1 from the damage of the heat of baking
- breaking down gluten, which may result in a bread that gluten-sensitive people can eat
- activating phytase to hydrolyze (dissolve) the phytates, thus freeing up minerals such as:
Why Sourdough Bread Is Healthier and More Nutritious
Because sourdough leavening works much slower than commercial yeast, the bread dough ends up sitting around longer. The lactic acid creates an ideal pH for phytase activity, which decreases phytates by 62% (compared to 38% in yeast breads). After doing so much research, I am convinced that sourdough is THE most nutritious way to prepare grains. (See all my soaking grains research here.)
In Sue Becker’s phytic acid article, she counters that sourdough does not ferment all the flour, only that which is used in the overnight sponge. She doesn’t take into account the long rise time of the entire batch of dough, however. It is then that so much of the breaking down of phytates, complex starches and sugars, and other difficult-to-digest elements happens.
Sourdough rye is the most nutritious of them all, because it has more phytase activity and thus even fewer phytates in the finished product to bind to your minerals.2 I just love that the traditional phrase “sourdough rye” turns out to be scientifically proven as the healthiest bread. Somehow our ancestors figured out all the good stuff without the benefit of scientific labs!
Adding milk to your sourdough actually inhibits the sourdough process. I didn’t want to hear that, because my favorite sourdough bread recipe uses milk. I tested it with just water, though, and it still turned out great!
Sourdough Bread Recipe
Ready to learn how to start and keep a sourdough starter? It’s pretty easy, really – just add at least a tablespoon a day of flour and (sometimes) water, and get ready to try some sourdough baking! If you want to learn how to make nearly anything with your sourdough starter, check out the 24 weeks of multi-media sourdough goodness in the GNOWFGLINS Sourdough eCourse, where I’m honored to be a guest lecturer twice.
- Liljeberg, H. G., Lönner, C. H., & Björck, I. M. (1995). Sourdough Fermentation or Addition of Organic Acids or Corresponding Salts to Bread Improves Nutritional Properties of Starch in Healthy Humans. Nutrition, 125(6), 1503-1511.
- Campbell, J., Hauser, M., & Hill, S. (1997). NUTRITIONAL CHARACTERISTICS of ORGANIC, FRESHLY STONE-GROUND, SOURDOUGH & CONVENTIONAL BREADS. Retrieved July 30, 2020, from https://eap.mcgill.ca/publications/EAP35.htm