Ever wonder if sourdough bread is really that different from "regular" bread? Other than the fact that sourdough bread and sourdough bagels use a sourdough starter to leaven the dough (make the dough rise), while most "regular" breads use yeast, are they really that different? And if they are different, does it really matter?
Yes, they are different and yes, this difference does make sourdough a healthier bread option.
Yeast is a fungus - a single celled organism - which digests the sugars that are found in flour. As it digests these sugars, the yeast gives off carbon dioxide, which is a gas that causes the bread to rise. The scientific name of standard yeast is Saccharomyces cerrivasae.
Sourdough starter is a mixture of flour and water that is colonized by "wild" yeasts that live in the air, in the soil, and on the surfaces of grains, fruits and vegetables. The scientific name of the sourdough starter yeast is Sacchraromyces exiges.
In fact, these organisms are related, but the cerrivasae yeast can't survive in an acidic environment, whereas the exiges sourdough starter yeast can. That is why sourdough has a typical "sour" flavor.
So if both of these yeasts digest sugar and give off gases that cause bread to rise, why is sourdough healthier for you?
- Sourdough has a lower glycemic index than other breads. It is less likely to spike your blood sugar as dramatically as other types of bread.
- Sourdough contains more Lactobacillus and less yeast. This leads to less phytic acid, more mineral availability, and easier digestion.
- Sourdough predigests the starches in the grains. This also makes the bread more easily digestible and allows you to absorb more nutrients.
- Sourdough helps to break down the gluten. This further helps with digestability and may help those who are sensitive to gluten.
- Sourdough produces Acetic acid which helps preserve the bread. Naturally occuring preservatives are always healthier for you than chemical preservatives.
A recent study performed by Guelph University further proved the benefits of sourdough. The study compared four types of breads to determine which had the most positive health effects when it comes to carbohydrate metabolism, blood sugar, and insulin levels. The subjects used were overweight people between the ages 50 and 60 who consumed the bread in the morning, and then ate a normal lunch.
The 4 bread types compared were:
- Whole wheat
- Whole wheat with barley
- Sourdough made with white flour
The study showed that when the sourdough was consumed the subjects maintained their carb metabolism, blood sugar, and insulin levels. It was much better for people in regards to these indices than any of the other types of bread studied, even whole wheat.
So, sourdough is the healthiest of all bread types because it is nutrient dense, easy to digest, and has the least impact on blood sugar. These are just some of the reasons we make sourdough bread and sourdough bagels for ourselves and others.
Not only is it healthier, but it tastes great!