Sourdough bread health benefits don’t get a lot of press. In fact, sourdough bread gets lumped in with all of the other kinds of yeasty wheat products that many health nuts are trying to avoid. But it is much different.
In general, there are lots of reasons to avoid wheat. For one thing, it spikes blood sugar. That can lead to insulin resistance, weight gain, and diabetes.
Other effects you might get from eating wheat bread include:
The problem is that modern wheat isn’t the same stuff your grandparents ate. In fact, they probably wouldn’t recognize it. And neither do our bodies.
For the last hundred years or more agribusiness has been cross-breeding wheat with other grasses. Today’s wheat is bred to produce much more gluten. That’s the root of many of our modern health problems.
Gluten is a sticky protein. Food manufacturers love it because it’s stretchy. It makes fluffy, chewy baked products like white bread, muffins, bagels, and cakes.
But gooey gluten also gums up the microvilli lining your small intestine. These little “fingers” help your body digest food. Some of them are designed to absorb minerals. Others absorb fats or proteins. When microvilli stick together it causes gas, bloating, and acid reflux.
Every time you eat gluten, it breaks down the microvilli.
Experts believe this new gluten is responsible for a 400% increase in celiac disease just in the past 40 years. But you don’t have to be diagnosed with celiac disease to have a problem with gluten. Gluten sensitivity is estimated to be 6 to 20 times more common than celiac disease.
If you are sensitive to gluten, the standard recommendation is to avoid wheat products. But there is one type of bread you may be able to eat – sourdough.
Sourdough is different from other breads. It is a naturally leavened and has been around for thousands of years as opposed to bread leavened with yeast which was discovered in a French chemist’s laboratory about a hundred years ago.
According to traditional Chinese medicine expert, Paul Pitchford, in his book Healing with Whole Foods, any flour and water mixture standing in a warm place will start leavening. But sourdough and yeast are agents which accelerate that process.
Pitchford lists some of the sourdough bread health benefits over yeasted breads as follow:
1. Yeasted breads have been associated with stomach bloating and indigestion in some people.
2. It takes longer for sourdough to proof and during that longer process the cellulose in the flour is broken down and nutrients are released into the dough making them more available to be absorbed by the body.
3. Sourdough contains probiotics, in particular, lactobacillus, which populates the intestinal flora, improving digestion and elimination.
4. The natural fermentation in sourdough bread neutralizes the phytic acid which is contained in all grains and which can interfere with the body’s ability to absorb minerals. Yeasted breads on the other hand retain about 90% of their phytic acid.
In addition to these sourdough bread health benefits, one Canadian study has concluded that sourdough bread may have less of an impact on blood sugar levels.
Other benefits to eating sourdough bread are the tangy flavor and chewy texture. For the best choice, look for sourdough bread made from heirloom wheat rather than the modern hybrids.