You’ve no doubt heard a lot about sourdough bread lately (thanks 2020!) and maybe you’ve even had a go at making your own homemade sourdough starter and sourdough bread. But, the question remains, what’s the difference between sourdough bread and regular bread?
And is sourdough bread better for you than regular, store bought, mass produced bread? I was intrigued by this too, so set about finding out a bit more about sourdough bread.
A multi year long study on the market value of sourdough bread demonstrated that its value increased from $300 million in 2015 to $3.7 billion in 2019. Due to the abundance of benefits this bread has to offer in relation to traditional white bread, this comes as no surprise.
In fact, traditional bread is often regarded as being a food item that lacks nutritional value. As such, as people become more aware of the benefits sourdough bread has to offer, its rapid increase in market value is not surprising. But the question that lies to be answered is "is sourdough bread better for you?"
Historical Roots Of Sourdough Bread
Historical records show that the process of creating sourdough bread is a traditional art that was perfected as far back as 2000 BC in ancient Egypt, where it was a popular food item. So, it’s fair to say that sourdough bread is not some new fad food and has in fact been around for a very long time.
Sourdough Bread vs Regular Bread
In order for you to make sourdough bread, you only need three ingredients: flour, salt and a sourdough starter. Unlike traditional bread, there's no need for yeast, milk, oils, sweeteners or eggs.
The sourdough starter is essentially a fermented mixture of water and flour which consist of colonies of yeast and healthy bacteria. The reason why sourdough bread doesn't need an additional rising agent like traditional bread is because the sourdough starter functions as a rising agent.
The yeast in sourdough utilizes carbohydrates that it extracts from flour to develop carbon dioxide and ethanol. As this occurs, the carbon dioxide gets trapped in the dough, causing it to rise and giving those lovely big bubbles/holes that sourdough bread is so famous for.
The process of making sourdough is significantly different from regular bread as the fermentation process takes much longer.
In addition to that, the bread provides a more profound taste, as a result of the organic acids that get created during this lengthy fermentation process. This is what gives sourdough its distinctive sour or tangy flavor, hence the name sourdough.
The Benefits Of Eating Sourdough
At first glance it may appear that the only difference between this type of bread and traditional breads is that it tastes different. But as a result of its distinctive fermentation process, it provides a host of nutritional benefits. Here are some of the underlying reasons why sourdough is much healthier than conventional bread.
1) Body Takes In More Nutrients
Interestingly enough, all types of bread have essential nutrients in them such as iron, magnesium and calcium. The problem with them is that our body cannot easily absorb them. This is because other compounds within them, bind to them and make it harder for our body to bypass them and absorb the nutrients in them.
Some of these binding compounds that hamper our ability to absorb nutrients from conventional breads include phytates and phytic acid. However, unlike traditional types, sour bread is rich in lactic acids. Lactic acids neutralize phytates.
As a result of this, they contain 60% less phytic acid than conventional options. What this means is that the lactic acid increases bioavailability of essential nutrients within the bread, so our body is more easily able to absorb them.
2) Antioxidant and Anti-Allergenic Properties
The lactic acid compounds in sourdough provide a wealth of benefits themselves. Studies suggest that they have anti-allergenic and antioxidant properties as well as the cancer preventative compound peptide.
As such, lactic acid is commonly touted as being able to help treat auto-immune related diseases. In addition to this, since these byproducts survive the heating method that's used to create this type of bread, this means the bread has 'probiotic' potential as it stimulates our immune responses in the stomach.
This can lead to a healthier digestive system that is able to metabolize food more efficiently. If you are able to metabolize food more efficiently, does this mean that eating sourdough bread is good for weight loss?
The jury is still out on this one - sourdough bread is still bread, so it is high in carbohydrates and therefore would not be recommended in a diet intended for losing weight.
However, if your sourdough is made with wholemeal/whole wheat flour or other grains with increased fibre and nutrients compared with regular white flour, it can still be a healthy addition to your diet if eaten in moderation.
3) Reduce Starch Availability
People who suffer from diabetes, heart disease and obesity are often told to avoid high starch products such as white flour, white bread and white rice. However, sourdough lactic acid produces other organic acids, which reduce the availability of starch.
What this means is that just like traditional bread, this type of bread has starch. But, organic acids within them, reduce our body's ability to retain that starch. This is why doctors will tell patients to avoid white breads and use alternative breads such as whole wheat and sourdough.
So, there you have it, it seems there are numerous potential health benefits in choosing sourdough bread over regular, mass produced white bread.
It seems pretty conclusive that sourdough bread is better for you than regular bread so grab yourself a loaf today, or try baking your own homemade sourdough bread.
Don’t just stop at sourdough bread though! Once you’ve got an active sourdough starter (sometimes referred to as a “mother dough”) there are so many things you can make with it - cookies, pancakes, cake, and my personal favorite, sourdough pizza - it’s amazing!