Welcome back to the “You Should Know About…” series, a collection of blog posts that will pop up every now and again that feature health and wellness tips we can all use to live the most wholesome life we can!
So bread. Yeah that’s right, bread. I think we can all agree that it’s pretty magical. And unfortunately, thanks to a host of low carb, get slim quick diets, it’s gotten a bad rap. What’s up with that? Yes, if you’re gluten intolerant, you should probably shy away from it, but otherwise, try switching up the kind of bread you’re eating, instead of cutting it out entirely. I think we all know about the virtue and health benefits of choosing whole grains, but don’t forget to take another look at the way your bread is made, instead of only what it’s made from.
And that, my friends, is what brings us to sourdough.
If you’re familiar with sourdough, then you’ll have experienced its characteristic taste- a slightly sour, almost tangy and chewy bread with far more flavor and depth than you would ever expect from anything made almost entirely from flour. What gives it these traits is its fermentation process. Unlike “regular” bread, which rises from the addition of yeast (small microorganisms that feed on sugars), sourdough uses a starter, which is made only of flour and water that is left for a number of days so that it can ferment. Once the starter has been created, it’s basically alive with small (good for you!) bacteria that eat sugar and thus help your bread rise, making it like a homemade version of yeast. Pretty crazy, huh?
So why is this important? It all comes down to that crazy fermentation process. For one, the bacteria present in sourdough create more lactic acid, which leads to less phytic acid; this makes it much easier for your body to digest sourdough bread. Digestion is also aided by the pre-digestion of grains that occurs when the bacteria in the starter goes to work on the dough. What’s more, all that beneficial bacteria in the starter eventually winds up in your gut, where it aids digestion, immune function, and mineral absorption while also controlling yeast population so that overgrowth doesn’t occur. And perhaps coolest of all, the extensive process of making sourdough (remember, it takes days for that starter to ferment) causes the gluten to break down into amino acids, which means- you guessed it- easier digestion. But it also means that some gluten intolerant folks are able to eat it as well.
Some other reasons sourdough is awesome: it has a lower glycemic index, meaning your blood sugar won’t spike; it’s got a whole host of beneficial nutrients; it’s naturally preserving, because the acetic acid produced inhibits the growth of mold; it’s one of the oldest forms of breadmaking.
Making your own sourdough is rather time consuming, so your easiest option is likely to buy it. Just be sure to get authentic sourdough (anything from a bakery is a sure bet; if you’re at the grocery store, read the labels). And then be proud of yourself as you partake in the glory of bread, because you know you’re eating something that will make your body happy.