Identifiable by its flavorful tang, crisp, crackling crust, and soft, creamy crumb, sourdough bread is considered one of the healthiest varieties of bread you can eat. The commercially packaged loaves that line store shelves can’t compare with sourdough’s artisanal, handcrafted flair.
Composed of three simple ingredients (flour, water, and salt) sourdough is often associated with San Francisco, a nod to the Bay Area’s salty air. The city on the bay has long provided a prime environment for sourdough to thrive in. While sourdough may have exploded in popularity in the last ten to fifteen years (we’re tipping our hats to you, Tartine), it’s actually one of the oldest forms of leavened bread.
Following are the top benefits of sourdough bread, an utterly delicious carb that has seen such an exciting comeback.
It’s good for your gut
The core to sourdough bread lies in the power of natural wild yeast. In order to give life to a loaf of sourdough bread, a culture of flour and water must be mixed and left to ferment over the course of a few days.
By naturally allowing bacteria from the ambient environment make a new home in the flour and water culture you’ve created, Lactobacillus develops. This is a “good” bacteria, or probiotic, also found in kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, and other fermented foods. This paves the way for all those health benefits probiotics are famous for.
While Lactobacillus doesn’t survive during the final baking, it leaves the baker (and those who enjoy the bread afterward) with something to remember it by: lactic acid is left in its wake, a compound that decreases the levels of phytic acid found in grains. Phytic acid blocks the absorption of all the good minerals your body is striving to absorb and put to good use.
According to Vanessa Kimbell, sourdough baker, teacher, and author extraordinaire, “long slow fermentation of wheat can reduce phytates by up to 90%.” Since sourdough’s mantra is a long, slow fermentation, thanks to lactic acid, eating a slice or two (or more — no judgment here!) of sourdough bread provides your body with more minerals and nutrients than commercial bread.
With a special thanks to the powerhouse lactic acid in sourdough working hard to make minerals and nutrients in our bread more bioavailable, exactly what nutrients is our body absorbing?
Zinc, iron, and magnesium are the top three ready and waiting in your loaf of sourdough. The baker’s grain choice plays a heavy role in the nutritional value of each loaf as well. Incorporating stoneground, regionally sourced grains leads to a more wholesome (and locally supported, always a plus!) product. Rye flour, in particular, has been shown to regulate blood sugar levels, which aids in warding off diabetes.
It’s highly digestible and needs no added preservatives
The live yeast that leavens (gives “rise”) the dough not only imparts that unique tang associated with authentic sourdough but acts as a natural preservative, giving your bread a longer shelf life. No need for added preservatives here!
The wild yeast and bacteria present in your sourdough culture feed off the flour and water in your dough, predigesting the starches. In turn, your body can more easily digest those crusty, creamy slices, a favorable quality particularly among those who battle with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). It might also find favor with those who normally have trouble digesting bread, though of course, it’s not appropriate for those who have celiac or serious wheat allergies.
For everyone else, it pays to discover a good source for fresh sourdough bread — or to learn to make it yourself! See the steps to making your own starter in my article here.
More information and resources about sourdough
On the web
- Sourdough: Recipes for Rustic Fermented Breads, Sweets, Savories, and More
- Bread Baking for Beginners
- The Sourdough School: The ground-breaking guide to making gut-friendly bread
About Aiyana Edmund
Aiyana Edmund first became curious in the wrangling of wild yeast in 2015. After her first successful sourdough loaf, she became a self-proclaimed sourdough junkie. After countless buttered hunks of bread, many wonky trial and errors (over fermented! Under fermented! Too much water! The list goes on…) she is now striving to offer her community sourdough bread using organic, regionally sourced grains.
Aiyana currently lives on the North Fork of Long Island with her taste-tester/gluten loving boyfriend. Find her on Instagram: @1610bakehouse @eyeonuh
All photos by Aiyana Edmund