THIS type of bread is easiest to digest and better for blood sugar than most breads
Bread gets a lot of bashing these days, especially in light of ‘low-carb’ or Paleo diets. And there is good reason for it—bread (even whole grain bread) contains gluten, and contributes to inflammation in the body–especially the gut, and even the healthier ‘whole grain’ versions of bread can increase the blood sugar levels dramatically. Gluten free bread is just as bad or worse, with its highly refined grains and starches. However, one particular type of bread is far healthier and easier to digest and it’s been around for centuries.
Sourdough bread is made in an entirely different way than commercially prepared breads and gluten free breads. Sourdough is a fermented bread, which makes it easier to digest and less likely to spike blood sugar levels. Sourdough bread is actually one of the oldest ways of baking bread, and is thought to to have been prepared and baked in ancient Egypt around 1500 BC. Sourdough bread is still hugely popular in the Mediterranean and Middle East, as well as the San Francisco area of the United States.
Most breads use baker’s yeast to help the dough rise, but traditional sourdough recipes use ‘wild yeast’ and lactic acid bacteria. Lactic acid bacteria is the same type of beneficial bacteria found in fermented foods such as yogurt, pickles, kombucha, sauerkraut and kimchi.
Sourdough uses a ‘starter’ made of fermented wild yeast, lactic acid bacteria, flour and water. The sourdough starter begins to ferment the sugars in the dough, changing the molecular structure, and breaking down its components, creating lactic acid and lactobacilli.
More Nutrition in Every Slice
Phytic acid is a substance in nuts, seeds and grains. Phytic acid or phytates are considered ‘anti-nutrients’ because they bind with minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc, making them unusable in the body, creating mineral deficiencies in those who eat large quantities of nuts, seeds and grains. This is especially true for vegetarians and vegans. It also binds with niacin, creating a B-vitamin deficiency called pellagra, which is especially noticeable in developing countries.
Probiotic lactobacilli contains the enzyme phytase, which breaks down phytic acid, making the sourdough bread easier to digest, and rendering the nutrients and minerals easier to utilize in the body. This study shows sourdough bread fermentation reduces the phytate content by 24-50% over conventional yeast bread. Studies show that the lactic acid in sourdough can actually release more antioxidants during fermentation. Sourdough fermentation also tends to increase the folate levels in the bread as well.
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 ones are added back in.
Easier to Digest Even if Gluten-Intolerant
Many people are gluten sensitive or gluten intolerant. This means they are sensitive to the gluten molecule or protein in most breads. When sourdough bread is fermented, the fermentation process helps to dissolve the proteins and peptide bonds in the gluten. The enzymes in the bread dissolve albumin, globulin, prolamin, and glutalin. These enzymes also produce a type of alcohol that will dissolve water-insoluble protein bonds. This breaking down of these proteins 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 celiac disease should probably still avoid sourdough bread-if made from wheat. Gluten free sourdough is an option however, for those who are extremely sensitive to gluten.
Keep in mind though, that not all sourdough bread is made the same way, and depending on how long it ferments, and how long it is kneaded, can make the difference between a tummy ache from gluten and no tummy ache.
[I have genuine celiac disease and am pretty sensitive, but when traveling overseas, I have found I have been able to eat bread from Peru, some parts of Europe and Nepal, so I may have to try this out and see what happens].
Better Blood Sugar Control
One of the big negatives about eating regular bread, even the ‘whole wheat’ or ‘whole grain’ variety, is the blood sugar effects. People are often shocked to hear that whole wheat bread increases blood sugar to a higher level than sucrose does. In fact, eating two slices of whole wheat bread is not too different than eating a candy bar!
The good news is that sourdough bread may have a better effect on blood sugar and insulin levels than whole wheat bread, though the reason for this is not yet fully understood. Researchers theorize that the fermentation process must alter the carbohydrate molecules, which in turn slows down the speed at which the sugars enter the bloodstream. Several studies compared the glucose response of participants with sourdough bread and regular bread with baker’s yeast. Participants showed lower blood sugar and insulin response overall with the sourdough bread.
Make Your Own Sourdough
Much of the sourdough you buy in stores is not genuine sourdough and therefore will not contain the nutrient benefits that real sourdough contains. You can easily make your own sourdough at home, but remember it takes time to produce a high quality sourdough starter.
Once you have your starter, you ‘feed’ it daily and let it grow for 5-7 days. Do not rush this process. Here are a few sourdough bread recipes from various websites:
- Basic Sourdough Bread
- Artisan Whole Grain Sourdough
- 12-Grain Raisin Sourdough
- Multigrain Sourdough Sandwich Bread