There’s much more to sourdough than just great tasting bread. There are a number of health benefits to sourdough that many may not be aware of. Sourdough is very simple to make yourself, with few ingredients. As well as this, sourdough can provide many benefits for your digestive system.
The History of Sourdough
Sourdough is a method that is believed to date back to ancient Egypt about 1500 BC. This technique was likely discovered by mistake when a baker left dough unattended for longer than usual. By leaving the dough sitting for a long period of time, the bacteria and yeast transformed the dough into the first type of leavened bread. It was discovered that it tasted better and lasted longer, so the process was repeated.
What is Sourdough?
Sourdough bread is a simple bread to make with only four ingredients: flour, water, salt and naturally occurring bacteria and yeast. The process begins with a starter that gives sourdough its sour taste. Compared to commercial bread, sourdough performs much better in terms of protein, vitamin, and mineral content. As well as this, sourdough has the presence of prebiotics.
Sourdough is a leavened bread where the dough rises as a result of gas being produced as the grains ferment. The majority of breads use baker’s yeast to help the dough rise. However, traditional sourdough relies on fermentation using “wild yeasts” naturally present in the flour to raise the bread.
The mixture of yeast, lactic acid bacteria, flour, and water used for sourdough is called a “starter”. During the process, the starter ferments the sugars and helps to rise the bread while also giving it its distinct taste. Sourdough takes longer than other types of bread, giving it its unique taste, aroma, and texture.
Sourdough, the Healthier Bread
Sourdough has many health benefits over commercial bread. During the lengthy rising process, the bacteria present feed on carbohydrates in the dough. This produces both lactic acids and acetic acids. This acidity results in a bread with a longer shelf life and a lower glycemic index making sourdough a good option for diabetics as it’s digested slower.
The fermentation process of sourdough also helps to break down certain nutrients that commonly cause problems, such as gluten and FODMAPs. In many people these nutrients can cause digestive upsets and bloating. Because these are broken down during fermentation, sourdough is often more tolerable for those with sensitive digestion.
Although sourdough is made from the same type of flour as commercial bread, the process of fermentation improves its nutritional profile in a few ways. Sourdough contains a good source of minerals such as magnesium, potassium, phosphate and zinc. In regular bread, the presence of phytic acid limits the absorption of these nutrients. Phytates are known as antinutrients as they bind to minerals and as a result reduce the body’s ability to absorb them.
The lactic acid bacteria in sourdough lowers the breads pH, which as a result, degrades phytates. This means that the fermentation process reduces the phytate content, resulting in a bread with a lower phytate content. This allows important nutrients to be more easily absorbed.
As well as this, the lactic acid bacteria present in sourdough has the ability to release antioxidants during fermentation. The fermentation process also increases levels of folate and other nutrients, such as vitamin E. Sourdough is a very good source of:
Easier to Digest
Sourdough is a lot easier on your gut to digest compared to commercial bread. This may be partly due to the prebiotic content and probiotic qualities of sourdough. Prebiotics are a type of fibre that is not digested and provides a food source for beneficial bacteria in the gut. Regular consumption of prebiotics and probiotics can help to improve gut health and aid digestion.
Sourdough fermentation also helps to break down gluten. Gluten is a protein found in many grains that often causes digestive distress for people who are sensitive to it. Gluten tolerance can vary between people. Due to sourdoughs lower gluten content, it may be easier to digest for those who are sensitive to gluten. However, it’s important to remember that sourdough fermentation does not eliminate gluten completely, and should still be avoided by those with celiac disease.
Sourdough and Blood Sugar Control
Sourdough is thought to have a good effect on blood sugar and insulin levels compared to other breads. However, the reason for this isn’t fully understood yet. It is believed that the fermentation process may modify the structure of carbohydrates reducing the bread's glycemic index. This slows down the rate of digestion and the speed that sugars enter the bloodstream. As a result, sourdough is less likely to produce a spike in blood sugar levels.
Another way sourdough may control blood sugar levels is through the bacteria found in the dough during fermentation. Some research suggests that the organic acids produced by this bacteria may delay stomach emptying in similar ways to vinegar, preventing a spike in blood sugar levels.
Making Your Own Sourdough
If you’re ready to make your own sourdough, you can either make your own sourdough starter culture, or purchase everything you need here. Each sourdough starter contains its own unique community of yeast and bacteria that change over time. Sourdough begins with the preparation of a pre-ferment, or starter. This is a fermented mixture of flour and water that contains a colony of wild yeast and lactobacilli bacteria. The purpose of a starter is to produce a leavening agent and develop flavour for the bread. There are many sourdough recipes online, however your complete kit provides easy recipes to follow along with, and all the sourdough equipment you need.
The Bottom Line
Sourdough is a healthy bread made using the fermentation of dough with naturally occurring beneficial bacteria and yeast. Sourdough uses a natural leavening process rather than commercial baker’s yeast. The lactic acid produced by lactobacilli gives sourdough its distinct sour taste, while also improving texture and shelf life. Find out why our kits are a sell out and featured in the Herald Sun..