Bread has a reputation for being unhealthy and the cause of stubborn belly fat. But if you love carbs, you don’t have to give it up entirely! Sourdough bread may be the exception to the rule because its unique fermentation process unlocks health benefits for your gut, lowers blood sugar, and helps prevent age-related diseases.
While sourdough looks like a standard loaf of crusty bread, it’s definitely in a league of its own — especially it it’s whole wheat sourdough. The tangy and sour taste make it vastly different from the mild flavor of regular white bread. This distinct flavor is due to being made with a “starter” known as levain — which is a flour and water mixture that’s fermented by wild yeast. This is different than commercial yeast because it’s found in the air (yep, it’s floating all around you right now!), so it’s a more natural leavener.
The fermentation process also produces lactic acid bacteria, which contains prebiotics and probiotics that are good for our body. Together, the fermentation and good bacteria are what put sourdough in the same class of gut-healthy foods like sauerkraut, kefir, and kimchi.
You might be surprised that a type of bread can boost our gut health, but a study published in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology backs this up. Researchers compared the effects on gut bacteria for a group of mice fed a diet containing sourdough bread versus one that went without it.
After four weeks, they found the prebiotic and probiotic qualities of sourdough increased the function of necessary gut bacteria like bacteroides and clostridium. These types of gut bacteria help with functions such as regulating your stools to providing vitamins and nutrients to your intestine. Similar to pieces of a puzzle, they’re all needed to maintain a healthy gut — which a slice of sourdough bread can help with!
By now, we’re all aware of how popular the Mediterranean diet has become for improving health and increasing longevity. Research published in Aging Clinical and Experimental Research emphasizes this with findings that older adults from southern regions in the Mediterranean often eat whole wheat sourdough as part of their regular diet.
Researchers explained that whole grain sourdough bread is rich in fiber, which in turn protects those who eat it from age-related diseases like coronary heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. It also works to reduce inflammatory markers and boosts insulin sensitivity with its slow digestion rate. This is true for sourdough bread that isn’t made whole grain flour because it still contains the fermented levain, which also causes a more gradual absorption process.
Taking longer to breakdown in our body also helps stabilize blood sugar. University Health News Daily points out that sourdough has a lower glycemic response than more processed breads, such as store-bought white or wheat bread, thanks to its fermentation process. This prevents your blood sugar from spiking as your body digests the bread.
You can easily find sourdough in the bakery aisle alongside other breads, like baguettes and rolls. Storing it in a bread drawer ensures that it keeps its pillowy soft texture during its four day shelf life.
According to Healthline, a medium-sized slice of sourdough contains about 162 calories, 32 grams of carbs, and around two to four grams of fiber. When eating it on a daily basis, it’s good to keep track of how many slices you’ve consumed and make sure the calories don’t add up too quickly. Enjoying it in moderation will help you get all the perks without overdoing it!