Sourdough bread may have health benefits due to the fermentation process that manufacturers use to make it. Beneficial bacteria and low phytates make sourdough bread easy to digest, and they may also help with weight loss.

Sourdough bread is a fermented food that people around the world have eaten for thousands of years.

Manufacturers make it using a starter culture with yeasts and bacteria. These microbes ferment the carbohydrates in the flour, producing carbon dioxide gas that makes the bread rise.

Sourdough is a traditional leavened bread, so it takes longer to ferment than regular bread and has a tart flavor and unique texture. Leavening is the process of using a raising agent to make bread rise. To make regular bread, manufacturers use commercial baker’s yeast.

This article discusses the potential health benefits of sourdough bread. It also offers a basic recipe and some alternatives to consider and looks at the nutritional profile of a slice of typical sourdough bread.

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According to some research, sourdough-leavened wholemeal bread can help a person lose excess weight. This effect is due to the combined glycemic index (GI) and glycemic load (GL) ratings.

Although food in general has an effect on blood sugar levels, the overall effect on blood sugar concentrations also depends on the carbohydrates in specific foods. The two measures that experts use to rate that effect are the GI and the GL.

The GI measures how quickly foods can increase blood sugar levels. It rates a food from 0 to 100, with sugar (pure glucose) at 100. Processed foods may have a higher GI rating than food that is lower in fat or fiber.

The GL is a measure that scientists developed to calculate how carbohydrate amounts in food can potentially interact with blood sugar levels.

When taken together, these ratings may help a person make healthy food choices that are not immediately apparent from the GI rating alone. For example, watermelon has a GI rating of 80, but it has a low amount of carbohydrates and, therefore, a GL rating of 5.

Sourdough bread has a GI rating of 54 and a GL rating of 8, while bread made from white wheat flour has a GI rating of 71 and a GL rating of 9.

This combination of a GI rating of 54 and a GL rating of 8 puts sourdough bread in a low GI category, according to international tables.

Learn more about GI here.

The fermentation process that manufacturers use to make sourdough bread means that the food may be easier to digest than some other types, particularly for people with digestive issues.

A laboratory study using stool samples from donors with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) suggested that sourdough bread was less likely to lead to IBS symptoms than unfermented bread.

The researchers suggested that sourdough bread enhances the growth of beneficial bacteria rather than undesirable microorganisms. Sourdough bread’s long fermentation times may cause less gas and bloating than regular wheat bread.

A 2018 study suggested that sourdough bread may reduce fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols (FODMAPs). FODMAPS can cause symptoms in people with IBS.

The study indicated that sourdough bread may also reduce abdominal pain and flatulence and improve the gut’s microbiota.

Learn more about IBS here.

Some research from 2005 suggested that the sourdough fermentation process can lower the phytate content of whole wheat flour. Phytates are plant compounds that can inhibit the absorption of essential nutrients in the body.

The review indicated that the phytic acid degradation in sourdough bread increases the bioavailability of minerals, free amino acids, and protein.

The fermentation process of sourdough bread reduces anti-nutrients such as phytates in humans and monogastric animals, and it increases beneficial phytochemicals.

Some research has indicated that sourdough bread has more phenols, carotenoids, folates, and other beneficial compounds than unfermented bread.

Many of the plant compounds present in sourdough bread have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which can benefit health.

Making sourdough bread usually takes longer than making regular bread. There are many recipes using different flours and ingredients.

Also, the lactic acid bacteria produce antimicrobial and antioxidant metabolites, which help preserve the bread so that it has a longer shelf life.

Sourdough starter

To make sourdough bread, a person will need to obtain an active sourdough starter from a supplier. They could also make their own sourdough starter and feed it with flour and water over a number of days.

Basic recipe

The following is a basic recipe for sourdough bread.

Ingredients

  • 250 grams (g) (1.04 cups) of warm water
  • 500 g (3.23 cups) of white flour
  • 10 g (2 teaspoons) of salt

Instructions

  1. Put the flour into a bowl and add 300 g (1 cup) of a sourdough starter.
  2. Add the water and salt, and combine all the ingredients into a consistency suitable for kneading.
  3. Turn out the dough onto a board or other suitable surface, and knead it for approximately 15 minutes.
  4. Leave the dough in a warm area to rise for 2 hours.
  5. Shape the dough and place it into a loaf tin dusted with flour.
  6. Leave the dough to rise for a second time for 8–12 hours.
  7. Heat a baking stone or tray in an oven at 464°F (240°C) and turn the dough out onto the stone.
  8. Cut a mark on the top and bake for 30 minutes or until golden.

There are many versions of sourdough bread, and people can choose recipes and ingredients to suit their tastes and dietary requirements. Some recipes add ingredients such as chocolate and cinnamon.

There are also sourdough versions of the following baked goods:

  • pizza
  • hot cross buns
  • bagels
  • fruit buns
  • panettone
  • focaccia
  • panmarino, a classic Italian rosemary bread
  • spelt, or einkorn bread
  • pita bread
  • pumpernickel

Traditional sourdough bread uses strong white flour. However, people who have celiac disease or who eat a gluten-free diet can make sourdough bread using ingredients such as brown rice flour, psyllium husk, and flax seeds.

Usually, sourdough bread recipes are suitable for vegans, but some recipes and breads in grocery stores may contain milk.

Manufacturers make sourdough bread with different types of flour and ingredients, so the nutritional profile can vary.

The table below shows the total amounts of nutrients in a 60-g portion of organic sourdough bread. A portion of this size has 150 calories.

NutrientAmount
protein6 g
fat0 g
carbohydrates29 g
fiber1 g
sodium280 milligrams

Sourdough bread is a healthy bread that may be easier for people to digest than other types of bread. The fermented starter culture contains beneficial bacteria and yeasts.

People with digestive conditions such as IBS may find that sourdough bread causes fewer symptoms than regular bread. Sourdough bread may also be beneficial for people who want to lose weight.