In this article I will explain some reasons why sourdough bread is better for you than the regular bread made from the modern leavened dough.
Even though I will never be a big bread eater, there are still some types of bread that I will occasionally make, because they are simply a better and healthier option for human body – such as sourdough bread made from spelt or other whole grains.
So, why is sourdough bread better for you? Here are some reasons:
- first of all, it is a more naturay way of making bread
- it is easier to digest compared to modern bread
- it has a lower glycemic index
- it is often more nutritious than the modern bread
- many people with gluten intolerance can actually eat this kind of bread (especially if it was made from spelt or some other old grain variety)
- homemade sourdough bread doesn’t have involve any store-bought stuff – only milled grains and their natural yeasts…
These are only a couple of reasons to start with; now I will cover everything in more detail, and explain why I prefer sourdough bread and see it as a much better option compared to today’s regular bread.
If you have, by any chance, been following this blog for some time, you might already know what is my philosophy about grains and legumes (and other seeds) in human diet. I think those food groups can be an appropriate part of human diet only if they are either sprouted or fermented.
That’s because they are full of starches that are not really suitable for proper digestion, and are also packed with some molecules (that nature made for a reason, to help the plant), such as phytic acid, that act as antinutrients in human digestive system. They bind precious minerals and prevent them from being absorbed in human body.
Today we miss the alchemy of real bread
Then I guess you understand what is so wrong about most of today’s bread. And I don’t mean that who-knows-what that you can buy in supermarkets and is full of chemicals. In my opinion, that shouldn’t be considered food at all.
I mean, you know, the most common type of hand-made bread that requires pre-cultivated fresh or dried yeast for the dough to rise. Yeasts are actually fungi that feed on sugars (usually from the flour, but you probably know that if you add some sucrose /brown sugar/ to the dough, it will rise more and quicker), and one of the fermentation products is carbon dioxide which makes bubbles within the dough, making it rise.
That process is made as short as possible today, leaving no time for the flour to actually ferment. That means the phytic acid won’t get decomposed and there will be lots of starch molecules in the dough. Gluten, which traps those nice bubbles in the dough, can be another problem, as I already wrote in one of previous posts.
Back in the days, bread used to be something else
Not that long ago, bread was not made this modern, instant-way. Our ancestors probably had bigger awareness of what is actually food and how to prepare it. OK, the whole lifestyle wasn’t so fast back then and they probably had time to ferment bread for twelve hours, but that is why they didn’t get health conditions from eating grains, as modern humans do.
Today we hear so much about grains being bad and people being gluten-intolerant and so on. Some conditions that didn’t even exist a hundred years ago… Those people probably knew how to prepare grains to make them appropriate food for human body. Of course this story has more components (one of them is this one), but today I am writing about bread.
What makes sourdough different form modern leavened dough?
Sourdough bread includes long fermentation of flour with wild yeasts and bacteria that are found on the grains and in the air.
The fermentation also results in forming carbon dioxide bubbles inside the dough that make the dough rise, but there are some bigger and more important changes that also happen. The grains included in this process actually ferment, as they really should, and many of their harmful compounds get decomposed.
Starches get broken down into simple sugars, and phytic acid gets decomposed in presence of relatively high concentrations of lactic acid. The minerals and other precious nutrients get much more available for human body to absorb.
By all means a healthier choice
Sourdough bread is also characterized by lower glycemic index in comparison to “normal” bread, which means it doesn’t make blood glucose levels rise too high after consuming it. I also found lots of claims that most of the gluten in sourdough gets broken down to amino-acids in this long fermentation process, but I didn’t find any written scientific proof for that.
However, I think there must be some truth to it because I felt the difference myself: when I eat too much grains that contain gluten, I feel tired and as if there is an inflammation process going on in my body. After I eat sourdough bread, I feel fantastic.
I also read about lots of cases where gluten-intolerant people had no problems after eating sourdough bread. All in all, if you know that bread is bad for you but still like its taste or usefulness in your everyday feeding habits, give sourdough bread a try – there is a huge difference in how you’ll feel afterwards.
Sourdough can be made from gluten-free grains as well, but it will not look all nice and bubbly as if it jumped out of a French bakery commercial. But the grains (flour) in it will get fermented, and that is all that really matters.
This bread on the pictures was made from coarse spelt flower mixed with rice flour, hence its not-so-bubbly look. Nevertheless, the taste and texture were amazing. I wrote another post with detailed description of how to make sourdough at home, you can check it out here.
Although sourdough bread can really be made into a piece of art with measuring all the quantities and respecting a specific time frame for each step, I love this “punk” approach because it shows that you don’t always need to measure everything and follow a strict recipe.
Our great-grandmas’ grandmas didn’t have those little kitchen scales. Just pay special attention to how a good starter should look, and to the dough stretching technique. I wrote a detailed how-to in this spelt sourdough bread recipe post, with some photos of the process. If you haven’t already, I hope this inspires you to try some sourdough bread and fall in love with it!
P.S. If you would like to know why I think spelt is a better choice for making sourdough (or any other) bread than wheat, you can read this article about modern wheat (followed by a delicious spelt chocolate cake recipe!).