Sourdough is an incredible way to make an easily digestible bread that just tastes delicious. This article will show you why sourdough is not only delicious but healthy, too.
What is Sourdough
Before ready-made yeasts were sold in supermarkets, a well-fed sourdough starter was an invaluable tool in many kitchens. It was passed down for generations and was the traditional method of dough making.
Sourdough uses a natural pre-dough to ferment dough of any kind. During fermentation, a so-called pre-digestion takes place by the wild yeast microorganisms. What sounds unappetizing at first has a useful effect for us: For our digestion, the grain – which tends to be more difficult to digest – becomes more digestible.
Nutrients in Sourdough
Sourdough contains many nutrients that can support your body in various processes.
Vitamins B1, B2 and B6 regulate the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins and fats. They are important for nerves, brain and muscles. Especially vitamin B6 is needed for growth. The heart, brain and liver depend on vitamin B6 to perform important functions.
Folic acid is needed for the formation and growth of blood cells and our DNA. It is especially important for pregnant and breastfeeding women, as it contributes to healthy fetal development.
Vitamin E is known as a good antioxidant for cell protection. It can help our body to defuse free radicals. These are produced during natural processes in our metabolism. But also when we are exposed to harmful substances like cigarette smoke.
The main function of iron is to transport oxygen through the bloodstream to our cells. Oxygen is needed to maintain cellular functions. In addition to animal foods such as meat and offal, bread and cereals have high amounts of iron.
We absorb sodium mainly in the form of table salt. A sodium deficiency can cause fatigue, headaches and difficulty concentrating. More common than a deficiency, however, is an excess of sodium. High-salt foods such as meat, sausage, cheese, and even bread put you at risk for high blood pressure if eaten in excess. Don’t worry, you don’t have to give it up completely. The recommendation is six grams of salt a day. This corresponds to about one teaspoon. The good thing about homemade bread is that you know how much salt you are adding. Also make sure to always drink enough water.
Phosphorus is also contained in sourdough. It is involved in the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins and fats and serves primarily as a source of energy. It is also a component of DNA and of bones and teeth. In the blood, phosphorus serves as a regulator of the acid-base balance.
Effect of Sourdough on our Body
All cereals contain phytic acid. In our digestive system, phytic acid forms insoluble bonds with important minerals such as iron, magnesium, and zinc. As a result, we can no longer absorb the minerals and they are excreted unused. Fermentation simply breaks down this phytic acid, increasing the usable mineral content of the grain. Since both phytic acid and minerals are contained in the marginal layers of the grain, this is especially true for whole grain pastries.
The structure of gluten, which is included in many grains, is also changed by this very fermentation. Thus, people who are sensitive to gluten can often tolerate sourdough bread quite well (celiac disease excepted).
Another more positive effect of sourdough is the value of protein. The fermentation of the grain increases the content of the essential amino acid lysine. This makes sourdough bread a more balanced staple food with a better protein profile.
The probiotic paradox
Since we bake the dough before eating it, we no longer consume the microorganisms alive. So why go through all that trouble? It has been shown that even dead microbes can still have a positive effect on our health: This effect is called the “probiotic paradox.” It shows that the mortal remains of microorganisms are recognized in our gut. Thus, they can still have a regulating effect on the immune system and counteract inflammation.
As such, baking with sourdough has many benefits and should not be missed in a balanced diet – be it in the form of gluten or – as in my case – gluten-free.
With a little time and love your dough will get a wonderful taste and provide you with important ingredients.
IN CASE YOU WOULD LIKE TO DIVE IN A LITTLE DEEPER
If you are a science nerd like me, you may want to dive a little deeper into the topic and do your own research. As such, listed below please find a selection of research articles to provide some more “food for thought”. This list is by no means complete but hopefully a starting point for further reading.
Sorted in descending order by publication date:
Sourdough Microbiome Comparison and Benefits
Lau SW, Chong AQ, Chin NL, Talib RA, Basha RK.
Published: 2021 June 23
Sourdough Fermentation Degrades Wheat Alpha-Amylase/Trypsin Inhibitor (ATI) and Reduces Pro-Inflammatory Activity.
Huang X, Schuppan D, Rojas Tovar LE, Zevallos VF, Loponen J, Gänzle M
Published: 2020 Jul 16
Fermented Foods: Definitions and Characteristics, Impact on the Gut Microbiota and Effects on Gastrointestinal Health and Disease.
Dimidi E, Cox SR, Rossi M, Whelan K.
Published: 2019 Aug 5
The probiotic paradox: live and dead cells are biological response modifiers
Clifford A Adams
Published: 2010 April 20