Sourdough bread is a trend that has recently risen from the dead. With its hard crust and airy center, many people believe that sourdough has taken the “cake” in the bread-making game. Any avocado toast lover would agree that sourdough is the way to go when you pile on smashed avocado and a perfectly poached egg. But what exactly are the benefits of substituting your average white bread for a light and tangy piece of sourdough?
What is Sourdough Bread?
These lusted-over loaves of art have become one of the greatest trends during the beginning times of COVID-19, when many of us had more free time at home to experiment in our kitchens. With its luxurious crust, it enables anyone to create just about any design and watch as it expands, bakes, and goldens into an irresistible final product.
Traditional recipes contain as little as three ingredients: salt, flour, and a well-nurtured sourdough starter. The starter is simply a mix of just flour and water that is allowed to sit and is periodically fed with additional flour to eventually become fermented. This mixture allows a specific type of bacteria to set up shop and continue to flourish as your starter expands.
The starter is the superstar in the sourdough-making process. It acts as the leavening agent for the bread to pick up moisture and expand before and during the baking process. As gases are created, the carbon dioxide gets trapped inside the dough and creates small air pockets, which allow the finished bread to be light and airy on the inside. These gases also add to the flavor and texture of the bread. Since the fermentation of the sourdough starter takes longer than the traditional instant yeast method, there are a greater number of acids being released organically. This process is what gives sourdough its naturally tangy (or... sour) flavor.
Nutrition Behind the Scenes
Whole-grain breads naturally contain a handful of beneficial minerals including potassium, phosphates, magnesium, and zinc. These minerals can also be found in sourdough breads and are more easily acquired because of the chemical properties the bread holds. In your average bread, the absorption of the minerals that are present can be limited by compounds called phytates, or phytic acid, that bind to them. However, sourdough contains lactic acid, which helps neutralize the levels of phytates by lowering the pH of the bread, resulting in an increased bioavailability of nutrients. This means that the micronutrients present will be readily available and absorbed faster for your body to use.
Added Health Benefits
Added nutrition. Sourdough’s fermentation process allows for an increased amount of antioxidants and folate, resulting in a more impactful product.
Easier to digest. During the fermentation of the sourdough, some gluten is degraded, which weakens the proteins, and makes the bread easier to break down and fully digest. This can make sourdough a great option for individuals that may have a gluten sensitivity or feel bloated after consuming gluten-containing bread.
Blood sugar control. Many researchers believe that the fermentation sourdough goes through causes the carbohydrate molecules that make up its structure to have a lower glycemic index (GI). This can slow down the rate at which sugar enters your bloodstream, ultimately improving blood sugar levels.
Pre- and Probiotics. These are different types of beneficial bacteria that help keep the flora of your gastrointestinal tract happy and are both found in sourdough.
Since sourdough bread has a lower GI than other carb-loaded options, it may be the smarter choice the next time you are at the grocery store. With its organic lactic acid aiding in the absorption of its nutrients and overall digestion, sourdough might be a great addition to your diet. Along with all the additional benefits that are being researched on this delectable bread, the creation process can also be a great hobby to pick up. Sourdough starters can be tricky to get exactly right, but who knows, it might just become the greatest asset in your kitchen!
Learn more about healthy eating and other wellness programs offered by Wellness Workdays.
Written by Nicole Groh, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern