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Is Sourdough Healthy?

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With Sourdough being all the rage in recent years, the question comes up, Is Sourdough actually healthy? To answer the question, we need to dig into what sourdough actually is and what it does to bread dough during the process of making bread.

To dig into this topic, I want to breakdown what sourdough is and what the process of making sourdough bread actually does to the dough.

bread dough rising in a bowl

What is Sourdough?

In simple terms, sourdough is yeast. Unlike conventional yeast, sourdough is wild yeast and lactic acid that is captured during a fermentation process. The wild yeast is found on the flour, in the air, and on the utensils you use.

The lactic acid is the bacteria that builds up during the process and gives sourdough it’s signature tang.

sourdough starter bubbling in a glass jar

The process of making a sourdough starter is simple. It is flour and water that ferments over several days which captures the yeast and builds up the bacteria. https://therosehomestead.com/how-to-make-a-sourdough-starter/

Once a sourdough starter is active, it will rise the dough. The process of rising dough with sourdough starter is called fermentation.

During this fermentation process, the sourdough starter feeds on the flour of the bread recipe and builds up carbon dioxide which in turn builds up the air bubbles that makes the bread light and airy.

Dough with air bubble from fermentation

What is Fermentation?

Fermentation is the process of building good bacteria and yeast by feeding the sourdough starter.

This is done each time you feed the starter and allow it to become active and bubbly. It is also done when you add a little starter to a bread dough recipe and allow the starter to feed on the flour in the dough.

The fermentation process is also used in making yogurt, kombucha, milk kefir, and sauerkraut.

Is Sourdough Healthy?

The good news is that the process of making sourdough bread does make the bread healthier than bread made with conventional yeast. Let me explain.

When you allow a sourdough recipe to ferment for many hours, the process breaks down the gluten and in a sense pre-digests the dough.

This can make the bread more tolerable for those who have a sensitive stomach after eating wheat bread.

This process also makes the nutrients more available to the body when consumed.

Whole grain kamut sourdough bread sliced on a cutting board

Now, for maximum benefits you need to:

  1. Ferment the dough for at least 12-24 hours.
  2. Ideally use freshly milled flour. Since the process makes the nutrients more available, you want to use a flour that is high in vitamins and minerals. Store bought all purpose flour has been sifted of the bran and germ which hold this nutrition.

You may be wondering if Sourdough is gluten free. The short answer is no but here’s an article I dedicated to this topic:

wheat berries in a wooden cup in hand

Let’s briefly talk about flour choices when making sourdough bread.

I always recommend using freshly milled flour for the many health benefits and the flavor it imparts to the bread.

However, I understand that this may not be an option for all.

Here are a few things to consider when deciding which flour to use in your sourdough bread:

  1. Is it bleached? Bleached flour can be counterproductive in sourdough. The process of bleaching can inhibit the growth of the bacteria and yeast in your sourdough recipe.
  2. Is it organic? Certified organic flour will be free of pesticides and is an overall great choice for bread products.
  3. Is it all-purpose or bread flour? It is important to use flour that is not self rising. Self rising flour has added leavening agents and may not behave well in sourdough bread applications.
Slicing bread on a cutting board.

In conclusion, sourdough bread is healthier than quick rise breads. The fermentation process not only adds good bacteria to the bread, but, also breaks down gluten and makes nutrients more easily digested.

The process of making sourdough bread also adds tremendous flavor!

Add in some freshly milled flour and you have a “super” bread of sorts. Full of flavor and nutrition.

How long does sourdough need to ferment to be the healthiest?

Sourdough that has been fermented for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours is best. If you have wheat or gluten sensitivities, fermenting closer to 24 hours will be the most digestible bread.

Does sourdough get more sour the longer it is fermented?

Yes, sourdough continues to develop flavor as a result of the fermentation process. The longer and cooler the ferment, the more sour. The warmer and quicker the ferment, the less sour it will be.

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