bread, wheat, sourdough, is-sourdough-bread-healthy

Is sourdough bread healthy?

Recently, your Facebook feeds may have been filled with images of sourdough bread as people found their starters from the neighbors and became master bakers. Bread is a delicious comfort food, and, thankfully, also has some health benefits!

What are the benefits of sourdough bread over regular wheat-based breads?

This post will provide a brief synopsis of what sourdough is, how to make it, how it differs from your typical loaf of wheat-based bread, and who should eat sourdough (hint: everyone). We’ll also take a look at some interesting tidbits about why you might want to eat more sourdough. And finally we’ll cover some common misconceptions people have about this type of fermented dough that may lead them to avoid trying out this amazing food. Let’s delve into nutrition as it relates to sourdough bread.

Sourdough basics

Sourdough bread is a type of leavened bread that has a slightly tangy taste. It’s made through fermentation of bacteria and yeast over a long period. The sourness in the bread can come from various sources, including lactobacillus, the bacteria found in yogurt and kefir. Sourdough fermentation improves the volume, texture, flavor and nutritional value of the bread. Hundreds of different types of sourdough exist in Europe. Some strains of sourdough lactic acid bacteria can be reactivated by adding flour and water and may be used as sourdough starters.

How to make your own sourdough starter?

To make your own sourdough starter, this article by Michele Redmond, MS, RDN in Food and Nutrition Magazine provides some useful tips. She presents a simple approach that involves combining flour and water over a period of seven days. She explains that this fosters fermentation of compounds already present in the grain.

History of sourdough

An article from NPR presents some fun facts about sourdough. Sourdough bread has been around for centuries and is a staple in kitchens all over the world. Sourdough dates back to ancient Egypt and was likely discovered by accident when bread dough was left out and wild yeast was introduced. More recently, Alaskan miners carried sourdough starters to be able to make bread without yeast.

Nutritional benefits of sourdough

While the nutritional content of sourdough can vary, an article on the nutritional benefits of sourdough points out several positive attributes. First, the authors mention the ability of fermentation to increase mineral bioavailability, or the ability of our body to use the minerals we consume. The article also highlights the slow starch digestibility of sourdough and low glycemic response. In addition, sourdough baking may improve the texture of gluten-free breads for celiac patients. Sourdough bread may also increase levels of bioactive compounds, but the authors note that more research is needed.

Sourdough fermentation has also been found to reduce fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols (FODMAPS). Sourdough bread is a desirable low FODMAP fiber-rich product that may be used to help those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) increase fiber intake.

Another recent article discusses sourdough bread and gastrointestinal health and disease. In this review, the authors highlight several small studies that have been done on this topic. They conclude that preliminary evidence of the role of sourdough bread in managing gastrointestinal symptoms has resulted from low-quality studies. They suggest further research with larger samples.

A quick search of the USDA’s FoodData Central provides some basics on the nutrient content of 1 slice (43g) of sourdough, which contains:

  • Calories: 120
  • Protein: 4g
  • Fat: 1.5g
  • Fiber: 1g

This article by Nicole Cormier, RD, LDN from Delicious Living Nutrition, which is a team of registered dietitians and other professionals, presents a useful summary of the benefits of sourdough. Among these are the ease of digestion, the micronutrients it contains, and the ability to store the bread longer than others given the acetic acid produced along with lactic acid.

Other uses of sourdough besides bread

There are many other uses for sourdough besides making bread. The unique flavor it gives to food and its versatility makes it an appealing ingredient in cooking. Sourdough can be used to make pancakes, waffles, biscuits and muffins. It can also be used as an ingredient in meatloaf or as a soup base.

The article mentioned above presents some useful recipes for sourdough pancakes and chocolate cake. A search for sourdough cake pulls up some recipes with quite a few positive reviews, including this gluten-free chocolate cake and a sourdough carrot cake. There are many other ways to use sourdough, including to make banana bread.

Final thoughts

As a food with a number of positive characteristics, sourdough can make a nice addition to your diet during quarantine.

If you’d like to learn more about other healthy bread options, please check out my previous post with a list of healthy bread. I also discuss gluten-free bread here to expand your knowledge of bread options. Finally, if you’re looking to expand beyond bread, please check out my suggestions for alternatives to bread.

Have questions? Comments? I would love to hear what you think below!

Jinan Banna Photo

Jinan Banna, PhD, RD, is an associate professor at the University of Hawaii and the owner of Jinan Banna, LLC. When she isn’t working she is usually found hiking or sampling food from around the world.

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