Why Sourdough Bread Is Good for You: 6 Health Benefits of Sourdough Bread

Learn six health benefits of sourdough bread, including its nutrient profile, health benefits, and why it's a good choice for healthy blood sugar.

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Published:
June 12, 2024
January 2, 2024
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I’m a dietitian, and sourdough is one of my favorite breads! I love a good slice of sourdough toast with smashed avocado and veggies. 

When it comes to healthier bread choices, sourdough is a popular option for several reasons. Not only does it have a delicious sour flavor and unique texture, but it’s also incredibly easy to make your own sourdough loaf at home. 

Sourdough relies on a mix of wild yeast and lactic acid bacteria to leaven the dough instead of baker’s yeast. It has more nutrients, is less likely to spike your blood sugar, contains less gluten than other breads, and is easier to digest for most people.

If you live with diabetes or are trying to be more mindful of your blood sugar levels, sourdough bread is a great alternative to other types of bread because of its slow impact on blood sugar levels, unlike other traditional breads.

Let’s go beyond the fact that sourdough is delicious and discuss the benefits of eating sourdough bread for healthy blood sugar levels and overall health. Maybe sourdough will become your new favorite bread, too.

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What Exactly Is Sourdough Bread?

Sourdough bread has a rich history dating back centuries. Its tangy flavor and chewy texture originate from ancient bread-making techniques that gained popularity for its natural fermentation process. 

This traditional method uses wild yeast and bacteria from the environment to leaven the bread. Sourdough's unique character stems from its reliance on a naturally occurring sourdough starter, a mixture of flour and water inhabited by wild yeast and lactobacillus bacteria. This symbiotic relationship between yeast and bacteria results in the fermentation of the dough, giving it its signature sour flavor. 

Preparing sourdough requires a slow fermentation process, typically requiring a longer rise time than conventional bread recipes. This extended fermentation not only contributes to the distinctive taste but also allows for the rich nutritional profile and digestibility of the bread.

<p class="pro-tip"><strong>Learn More: </strong><a href="is-cornbread-healthy">Is Cornbread a Healthy Choice? A Closer Look</a>.</p>

Sourdough Bread: A Nutrient Breakdown

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Sourdough offers more than just unique and enjoyable flavors. It's a nutrient powerhouse that goes well within a wholesome diet. In every slice of sourdough bread, you’ll provide your body with: 

  • Complex Carbohydrates: Sourdough is rich in complex carbohydrates, providing a steady release of energy
  • B Vitamins: This bread boasts B vitamins, including B1, B2, B6, and folate, which play essential roles in metabolism
  • Minerals: Sourdough contributes minerals like iron, magnesium, and zinc, supporting various bodily functions
  • Probiotics: The fermentation process introduces beneficial bacteria, promoting gut health
  • Reduced Gluten: The fermentation also aids in gluten breakdown, potentially easing digestion for some individuals

You can see that sourdough bread is not just a delightful indulgence but a nutritious addition to your daily routine

Health Benefits of Sourdough Bread

Many health benefits come along with choosing sourdough bread over the myriad of other bread choices.  Here are just a few of the reasons you may want to consider adding sourdough bread to your diet.

  • Easily Digestible<p style="margin: 0;">Sourdough bread is often easier to digest than bread that’s been fermented with brewer’s yeast.
     The lactic acid bacteria and wild yeast used during sourdough fermentation help break down the antinutrients naturally found in grains, which helps your body digest foods made with these grains more easily. 
    Like other fermented foods, sourdough may improve gut health. Sourdough fermentation may also result in the production of prebiotics, a type of indigestible fiber that feeds your healthy gut bacteria, improving digestion and supporting a healthy gut microbiome. 
    The fermentation process in sourdough breaks down gluten and phytic acid, potentially making it easier on the digestive system. This may also help to decrease the bloating that some people experience when eating whole grains<p>
  • Lower Glycemic Index<p style="margin: 0;">Sourdough bread seems to have less of an impact on blood sugar and insulin levels than other bread types.
    Researchers believe that the process of sourdough fermentation may alter the structure of carbohydrate molecules, resulting in a lower glycemic index (GI) and a slower release of sugars into the bloodstream. However, several things can influence the body’s glycemic response, so more research is needed on the specific effects of sourdough. 
    Sourdough fermentation is commonly utilized in crafting rye bread, as rye lacks sufficient gluten for traditional baker's yeast to function effectively. A study revealed that individuals who consumed rye bread also experienced a lower insulin spike compared to those consuming an equivalent amount of conventional wheat bread.
    Several studies comparing blood sugar responses after consuming sourdough bread versus bread fermented with baker's yeast showed that participants who consumed sourdough bread often had lower blood sugar and insulin levels than those eating yeast-fermented bread<p>
  • Suitable for Gluten-Sensitive Individuals<p style="margin: 0;">While not entirely gluten-free, sourdough's long fermentation process and the lactic acid bacteria break down the gluten in the flour. This results in a lower gluten level in your baked bread, which may make it more tolerable for people with gluten sensitivity.
    Because there are still trace amounts of gluten, sourdough is not recommended for those with a gluten allergy or celiac disease<p>
  • Reduced Yeast Content<p style="margin: 0;">The prolonged fermentation process of sourdough bread decreases the yeast content, which may be potentially beneficial for those with yeast sensitivities<p>
  • Naturally Derived<p style="margin: 0;">Sourdough relies on a naturally occurring starter, avoiding the need for commercial yeast and artificial additives.
    Instead of relying on industrially produced yeast strains, sourdough uses microorganisms present in the environment, allowing the dough to ferment and rise through a natural and traditional process.
    Using a sourdough starter gives the bread its unique flavor profile and aligns with the growing interest in whole, minimally processed foods. 
    The absence of synthetic additives and reliance on naturally occurring microorganisms make sourdough a healthy choice for those who prefer a more wholesome and traditional method of food preparation<p>
  • Nutrient-Rich<p style="margin: 0;">The fermentation process that occurs during the making of sourdough bread enhances the nutrition profile of the bread in several ways.
    Whole grain breads provide a good dose of minerals, including potassium, phosphate, magnesium, and zinc. However, your body cannot efficiently digest these minerals due to the presence of phytic acid, also commonly called phytate.
    Phytate naturally occurs in several plant-based foods, including grains. It is typically referred to as an antinutrient because it binds to minerals, making it harder for your body to absorb these nutrients.
    Sourdough bread tends to have less phytate than other types of bread because the sourdough’s lactic acid bacteria lowers the bread’s pH and helps deactivate phytate<p>

Learn How to Improve Your Nutrition and Monitor Your Glycemic Index Levels with Signos’ Expert Advice

Understanding how different foods impact blood sugar can help improve overall health and well-being. Knowing the glycemic index of foods, you can make informed decisions about what foods to eat and how much to manage blood sugar and support your health. 

Signos CGM empowers you to improve your health by keeping track of your diet, exercise, sleep habits, and blood sugar. Knowledge is power, and a CGM can give you specific information about how your habits affect your health. 

Find out if Signos is a good fit for you by taking a quick quiz.

<p class="pro-tip"><strong>Also Read: </strong><a href="best-breads-to-minimize-blood-sugar-spikes">Best Breads to Minimize Blood Sugar Spikes</a>.</p>

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References

  1. De Vuyst, L., Van Kerrebroeck, S., & Leroy, F. (2017). Microbial Ecology and Process Technology of Sourdough Fermentation. Advances in applied microbiology, 100, 49–160. https://doi.org/10.1016/bs.aambs.2017.02.003
  2. Ribet, L., Dessalles, R., Lesens, C., Brusselaers, N., & Durand-Dubief, M. (2023). Nutritional benefits of sourdoughs: A systematic review. Advances in nutrition (Bethesda, Md.), 14(1), 22–29. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.advnut.2022.10.003
  3. Gabriele, M., Sparvoli, F., Bollini, R., Lubrano, V., Longo, V., & Pucci, L. (2019). The Impact of Sourdough Fermentation on Non-Nutritive Compounds and Antioxidant Activities of Flours from Different Phaseolus Vulgaris L. Genotypes. Journal of food science, 84(7), 1929–1936. https://doi.org/10.1111/1750-3841.14672
  4. Markowiak, P., & Śliżewska, K. (2017). Effects of Probiotics, Prebiotics, and Synbiotics on Human Health. Nutrients, 9(9), 1021. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu9091021
  5. Ma, S., Wang, Z., Guo, X., Wang, F., Huang, J., Sun, B., & Wang, X. (2021). Sourdough improves the quality of whole-wheat flour products: Mechanisms and challenges-A review. Food chemistry, 360, 130038. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodchem.2021.130038
  6. Nordlund, E., Katina, K., Mykkänen, H., & Poutanen, K. (2016). Distinct Characteristics of Rye and Wheat Breads Impact on Their in Vitro Gastric Disintegration and in Vivo Glucose and Insulin Responses. Foods (Basel, Switzerland), 5(2), 24. https://doi.org/10.3390/foods5020024

About the author

Victoria Whittington earned her Bachelor of Science in Food and Nutrition from the University of Alabama and has over 10 years of experience in the health and fitness industry.

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