Here at EatingWell, we love our carbs. Not all carbs are created equally, but nutritious whole grains deserve a regular spot on your plate for a variety of reasons. In fact, whole grains, like quinoa, barley, oatmeal and popcorn, contribute valuable nutrients to your diet and can even help you lose weight. Several breads are packed with nutrition and can be part of a healthy diet, including sourdough bread. Sourdough bread had a moment when people were baking and cooking more at home, and this is for good reason. We dove into the research to find these impressive health benefits of sourdough bread.
Whether you buy sourdough from the store or make your own, it has a pretty impressive nutrition profile (we have this homemade sourdough bread and starter recipe to help you get started). Most sourdough isn't made with whole-grain flours but if you make it at home you can use whole-wheat flour for your bread. Here is the nutrition for one slice of sourdough bread:
7% DV iron
10% DV folate
What sets sourdough apart from traditional bread is that it is made by fermenting flour and water, rather than adding yeast to create a leaven. The fermentation process helps to unlock B vitamins in the bread, which help with energy metabolism. Additionally, sourdough is usually made with fortified flour so it delivers iron and folate, which are important for women, especially if they are pregnant.
4 Health Benefits of Sourdough Bread
Not only does sourdough bread deliver a tangy flavor that's perfect for toast and sandwiches, it is good for you, too! Here are four science-backed benefits of sourdough bread.
1. It is good for your gut
The fermentation process for sourdough bread can lead to an increased number of prebiotic and probiotic-like properties, which help improve gut health. An animal study out of the University of Eastern Finland found that sourdough bread made with rye flour increased the number of good gut bacteria compared to white bread with rye flour. Look for sourdough bread made with whole grains, which are higher in fiber than processed grains, giving your bread additional gut-friendly benefits.
2. It can lead to better digestion
Even though sourdough bread is not gluten free, one study found that regular sourdough consumption might help improve the digestion of gluten. The fermentation process for sourdough alters the enzymes in the wheat and might potentially help counteract adverse reactions to gluten. It's too soon to recommend sourdough bread to people with celiac disease (who cannot tolerate gluten) but people who feel sensitive to gluten may want to talk to their doctor or a dietitian to see if they might be able to enjoy sourdough bread. Other studies have found that the lactic-acid bacteria in sourdough might even help moderate allergic responses, inflammation and auto-immune diseases.
3. It promotes healthy aging
Whole grains and bread, like sourdough bread, are a staple of the Mediterranean diet. Some research has pointed out it could be a crucial food to help promote healthy aging. A study in Aging Clinical & Experimental Research found that habitual consumption of whole-wheat sourdough bread contributed to lower risk of heart diseases, diabetes and cancer for older adults in the Southern Mediterranean.
4. It can help keep blood sugars in a healthy range
Eating carbohydrates naturally causes our blood glucose to rise as we digest them, but rapid spikes and drops in blood glucose can increase risk for chronic illnesses, like diabetes. We get those big spikes from eating simple carbohydrates, like sugar and refined grains, especially when they're not paired with protein and fat (two nutrients that slow down digestion).
How foods affect your blood glucose is quantified by glycemic index and glycemic load. Glycemic index refers to how much your blood glucose rises two hours after consuming a food, whereas glycemic load indicates how quickly the blood glucose spike occurs. Sourdough bread has a lower glycemic index and glycemic load than white bread and whole-wheat bread that is not fermented. Whole-wheat sourdough is higher in fiber, which additionally lowers the strain it puts on your blood glucose.
Sourdough is gaining popularity, and for good reason. It is packed with nutrients, healthy carbs, protein, fiber and vitamins like folate and iron. It can improve digestion, lower chronic disease risk and even promote healthy aging. Whether you buy it from a local bakery or make some yourself, try some sourdough bread today to reap the flavorful benefits.