That organic living is a conscious health choice
In a body-benefit battle of the breads – whole grain versus white flour – the undisputed winner has always been whole grain. We know that heavy refinement strips the nutritional value from grains. Most of the fibres, proteins and micronutrients go missing. What’s left is a fluffy powder that produces pillow-like loaves, perfectly suited for sandwiches and soaking up sauces. While pleasing to the palate, the perks end upon swallowing. Within the system, refined flour’s fast-absorbed carbs impact blood sugars more and support digestion less.
In light of these harsh truths, health-conscious consumers have ceased consuming their beloved white breads and rolls. That is, until researchers revealed some of the lesser-known plus-points of sourdough…
Traditional sourdoughs use all the same refined flours of their white flour peers, so their nutrition information panels hold a close resemblance, as well. However, sourdough’s unique preparation sets it apart. Instead of a baker’s yeast, sourdoughs rely on the flour’s naturally-occurring (or ‘wild’) yeasts and lactic acid bacteria to rise. Simply combining water and flour, kneading it into dough, and letting it sit at room temperature creates the ideal environment for the microbes to ferment the mixture and leaven the bread. The lactic acid bacteria leave a characteristic sour or tart taste from which sourdough’s name was inspired.
Turns out, this added fermentation step offers some desirable wellness advantages. Studies suggest that sourdough may be gentler and even helpful for the GI tract. Just like other fermented foods – yoghurts, kefirs, miso, natto, kimchi – sourdoughs provide probiotics – the beneficial bacteria understood to promote gut health. Likewise, the fermentation lessens the bread’s the gluten content. This strong and elastic protein contributes useful structure and texture, but it can be a challenge for the digestive system. So, a reduction in gluten can alleviate the belly’s effort to break down the bread.
Blood sugar levels seem to fluctuate less after eating sourdough breads, too. Scientists aren’t yet sure why, but a handful of studies show better glycemic and insulin responses. Some suspect that the more acidic dough moves through the GI tract more slowly. The bread’s sugars are, therefore, less quickly absorbed into circulation. Others assert that fermentation changes the composition of the carbohydrates, themselves.
Lastly, while sourdoughs customarily use white, refined flours, it is possible to apply the same technique to whole grain flours. This practice provides the best of both worlds. Yet it earns other bonus points, too. The fermentation degrades some of whole grains’ inherent plant compounds (called phytates), which helps to unlock the nutrients in the grains, making them more accessible to the body when eaten.
So, whether you hope to top-up your whole grain bread or tuck in to a white flour slice with greater peace of mind, go ahead and give sourdough a go…