Is sourdough bread healthy?
Made using a fermented starter, sourdough has been hailed as a healthier option, but is it really good for you? We asked registered nutritionist Nicola Shubrook to explain.
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What is sourdough bread?
Sourdough is a leavened bread, which means the dough naturally rises as a result of the gas that is produced as the grain ferments. While most commercial breads use baker’s yeast as the raising agent, sourdough is made using a sourdough starter.
A sourdough starter is a culture of yeasts and beneficial bacteria that naturally occur and are allowed to ferment over the course of approximately five days. A portion of the starter, known as the levain, is mixed with bread flour to make sourdough.
Nutritional profile of sourdough
The blend of flour or flours used to make the sourdough will impact the macronutrient profile. However, a typical 100g portion (approximately two slices) of sourdough contains:
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- 7.8g protein
- 0.7g fat
- 47g carbohydrate
- 2.9g fibre
- 0.81g salt
What are the health benefits of sourdough bread?
- May support gut health
- May aid blood sugar management
- May reduce risk of heart disease
- May be easier to digest
- May be more nutritious
1. May support gut health
Although the beneficial microbes in the starter tend to be lost during the baking process, the fibre and plant compounds, called polyphenols, become more bio-available. These act as an important fuel source for our gut microbes, which makes sourdough bread a gut-friendly choice
2. May aid blood sugar management
The fermentation process and higher fibre content makes sourdough a useful option for those with blood sugar management issues. This is because, unlike many commercially produced breads, sourdough has less of an impact on blood sugar levels.
3. May reduce the risk of heart disease
Typically, diets high in fibre are associated with a lower risk of heart disease. Sourdough appears to offer additional benefits thanks to the fermentation process; these benefits appear enhanced when wholegrain rye flour is used.
4. May be easier to digest
Traditional sourdough undergoes a slow fermentation process, the result of which is an increase in the bioavailability of the bread’s vitamins and minerals. This process also starts the breakdown of protein (including gluten), making sourdough easier to digest.
5. May be more nutritious
Research suggests that the fermentation process improves the bioavailability of fibre and minerals. This is because a naturally occurring compound found in grains called phytic acid is broken down, and this enables us to access the grain’s nutrients more readily.
Is sourdough safe for everyone?
For those following a gluten-free diet, such as those with coeliac disease, sourdough made from wheat, rye, barley or other gluten-containing grains must be avoided. However, as long as non-gluten flours are used, the sourdough process itself should not cause a problem.
So, is sourdough healthy?
Due to the addition of beneficial bacteria and the fermentation process involved in sourdough bread, it's one of the healthier loaves you can choose. Bake or buy wholegrain sourdough for an option that's even better for you.
Nicola Shubrook is a nutritional therapist and works with both private clients and the corporate sector. She is an accredited member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). Find out more at urbanwellness.co.uk.
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