How Healthy Is Sourdough Bread, Exactly?
Sourdough bread is unique in terms of how it’s made and how it affects our body, but can it be part of a healthy diet? The revival of low or reduced-carb diets, such as the keto and paleo diets, has villainized all or certain grains, white bread in particular reigning as public enemy number one in the diet world.
The ultimate question is, does sourdough’s special composition make it a healthier choice? To see how it stacks up, let’s break down the nutrition and health benefits of sourdough.
What is Sourdough Bread?
A sourdough bread recipe needs just four ingredients: flour, water, salt, and naturally occurring live, or wild yeast. The process begins with making a sourdough starter, to help cultivate this wild yeast, which gives sourdough its distinct, tangy flavor.
The starter begins by mixing flour and water and allowing it to ferment over several days, feeding the starter with more flour and water each day. This process lasts about five days, until the live yeast and lactic acid bacteria in the flour have properly leavened, and then part of the starter can be added to bread dough. The easy, but long process of fermenting and rising also helps give sourdough a unique texture and beautiful shape.
Sourdough Bread Nutrition
A slice of sourdough stacks up very nicely against conventional white bread in terms of protein, vitamin and mineral content, as well as the presence of prebiotics. While everything should be enjoyed in moderation, this is certainly a bread you can feel good about eating.
Here’s the nutritional breakdown for one medium slice (64g) of sourdough bread:
Calories: 170; Fat: 1.5g; Saturated Fat: 0g; Carbohydrates: 33g; Sodium: 390mg; Fiber: 1g; Sugar: 3g; Added Sugars: 0g; Protein: 7g; Calcium: 2%; Potassium: 2% DV; Iron: 15% DV
Vitamin and Mineral-Rich
Sourdough is a great source of several minerals such as iron and selenium. Iron is an essential part of red blood cell production and energy metabolism, and selenium helps protect our immune system, cells, and tissue. Sourdough is also a great source of many B vitamins, which assist in proper nervous system function and help regulate our metabolisms.
Prebiotics & Probiotic-like Benefits
Prebiotics are a type of indigestible fiber that keep your gut healthy by feeding the good bacteria, called probiotics, that live there. The presence of prebiotics in sourdough is thought to make it easier to digest than many other breads and the presence of probiotic cultures have shown to increase vitamin and mineral absorption. The probiotics themselves don’t survive the baking process, but the lactic acid bacteria produced during fermentation remains and provides the benefits. The presence of lactic acid bacteria in sourdough has shown to also contain antioxidant benefits, safeguarding your body against illness.
Interested in learning more about gut health and its impact on your body?
One slice of sourdough has more protein than an egg, making it a sneaky way to increase your protein intake. The high protein content can be partially attributed to the tedious sourdough preparation process. All the resting and folding involved in preparing the dough for baking helps to activate its gluten content. Gluten is composed of proteins, and helps give bread dough its elasticity.
How Is Sourdough Bread Different from Other Breads?
Sourdough differs from other breads in a variety of ways. First, the ingredient list for sourdough is much shorter than pre-sliced and even supermarket bakery varieties. Many other types of breads have oils, sugar, preservatives, and other chemicals in their ingredient list. Besides affecting the flavor of the bread, chemicals and additional ingredients are often added to other breads because they can’t stay fresh as long as sourdough can or fend off mold as well.
The presence of bacteria, due to sourdough’s unique fermentation process, improves sourdough’s nutritional profile. This allows for better nutrient absorption, improved gut health, and some studies have even shown fermentation alters the structure of carbohydrates in the dough for better blood sugar control and a lower score on the glycemic index.
Is Sourdough Bread Gluten-Free?
No, sourdough bread is not gluten-free, but it has shown to be easier on the digestive system for those with a gluten intolerance or sensitivity. The long fermentation process involved in making sourdough has shown to improve digestion of gluten-forming proteins, known for causing wheat intolerances and allergies.
Research has also shown the presence of fructans, a carbohydrate found in wheat, causes digestive issues similar to gluten intolerances and are now thought to be the cause of many self-diagnosed “gluten intolerances.” However, sourdough fermentation breaks down fructans, making them easier on the digestive system.
Phytic acid is another culprit for causing digestive issues in the body and is present in wheat and bread products, but the yeast and lactic acid produced by the sourdough starter neutralizes the effects of phytic acid, making nutrient absorption and overall digestion much easier.
Don’t Have the Time to Make Your Own Sourdough? Try Our Shortcut!
Our Whole-Wheat Sour-Faux Bread recipe takes a meager 12 hours, compared to almost a week. Probiotic-rich yogurt and vinegar mimic the tangy flavor of sourdough without the need for a starter. Once it’s baked, enjoy this delicious bread with Vegan Smoked Tempeh Bacon B.L.T.s (the tempeh gives another probiotic boost), in Grilled Heirloom Tomato and Feta Panzanella, or even in our Dulce De Leche Bread Pudding recipe.