Bread is probably one of the foods that has been most changed over the years. Gluten content has been increased to make a lighter, larger loaf. Even whole grain bread contains gluten, and this gluten can contribute to inflammation in the body, especially the gut, and increase blood sugar levels dramatically… In fact, some blood sugar tests have shown that 2 slices of “whole wheat” bread can spike blood sugar as high as an equivalent amount of calories of pure table sugar.
Gluten has become such a problem in modern diets that we now have gluten free bread but this bread can often be just as bad or worse as it is highly refined.
As a nutritionist I often ask people to give up bread altogether for a while to see how they respond. Most people are amazed at the results. However, some people struggle to give up bread long term.
If you would like to experience the benefits of not eating bread feel that you would have difficulty omitting it from your diet altogether you may want to consider a different type of bread, one that is healthier and easier to digest and the type of bread that our ancient ancestors would have eaten.
This bread is sourdough bread and it is made in an entirely different way to the commercially prepared breads and gluten free breads. Sourdough is a fermented bread, and the fermentation process makes it easier to digest and less likely to spike blood sugar levels, while also making the gluten in sourdough bread easier to digest than your standard loaf.
The earliest sourdough bread is thought to date back to 3700 BC[i] Sourdough bread is popular in San Francisco after it’s methods for baking were brought to this area of the United States by French bakers during the gold rush. It’s also still popular in France as well as other Mediterranean countries.
The ingredients that makes sourdough different is the use of wild yeast and lactic acid bacteria. Lactic acid bacteria are the same type of beneficial bacteria found in fermented foods such as yogurt, pickles, kombucha, sauerkraut and kimchi. Wild yeast is used in cultures all over the world in food preparations. For example in Sudan, kisra is made with fermented dough, in Ethiopia they make injera (teff), in Ghana kenkey, in India idli breakfast cakes, made with rice, beans or chickpeas, and the Turkish make bona `( a ferment drink) generally with wheat, maize, sorghum, or millet
Benefits of wild yeast
The wild yeast gives sourdough its distinctive flavour, but it also provides many other benefits:
- The bread stays much longer than factory baked bread and doesn’t require any extra preservatives to prevent mould.
- Lactic acid helps decrease the levels of phytic acid in wheat by as much as 50%. Phytic acid interferes with the absorption of some nutrients so this reduction can make a huge difference to the bread being easier to digest and the nutrients are then easier to absorb by the body.
- Increases the amount of folate in the bread
- Because of its natural fermentation, sourdough also possesses a variety of bioavailable nutrients. It is rich in B vitamins, B1, B6, B12, folate, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, vitamin E, selenium, iron, manganese, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc and potassium, along with its well-balanced proteins and fatty acids. By contrast, many commercially prepared breads are so low in nutrients, that less-than-desirable synthetic vitamins are added back in, and those are more poorly absorbed by us.
- Easier to digest even for those who are gluten intolerant. When sourdough bread is fermented, the fermentation process helps to dissolve the proteins and peptide bonds in the gluten. This means that gluten sensitive people are often able to eat sourdough bread without a reaction. While gluten tolerance varies from person to person, those with true coeliac disease should still avoid sourdough bread if it’s made from wheat or rye.
- Better blood sugar control. The reason for this is not fully understood. One hypothesis is that the fermentation process must alter the carbohydrate molecules, which in turn slows down the speed at which the sugars enter the bloodstream.
Unfortunately, not all commercially prepared sourdough is genuine sourdough and therefore will not contain the nutrient benefits that real sourdough contains. Other factors that affect the quality of sourdough include the length of time for which it ferments, and how long it is kneaded. If you want to buy sourdough, I would recommend buying from an artisan bakery where you can ask about how the bread is prepared.
But why not invest a little time in understanding how your food is made by making your own sourdough. Here are some useful links for sourdough recipes:
As a final note please remember that sourdough is still made with wheat and so should still be eaten in moderation.
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[i] The Encyclopaedia of Food Microbiology, Michael Gaenzle