When it comes to bread, sourdough is a little bit like the viral “blue or white?” dress debate. People tend to view it one way or the other, and they have trouble seeing it any other way. But it would be a shame not to have your eyes opened fully to the health benefits of sourdough bread.
Admittedly, making your own sourdough bread may yield some Pinterest fails (at least until you get the hang of it!). Fortunately, there are talented bakers devoted to turning people on to the superior taste and nutritional value of sourdough, like Jonathan Przybyl and the team at Phoenix-area micro-bakery Proof. Even better, we experienced the ins and outs of their process, gathering some of Proof’s best tips and tricks to create a nutritious loaf of bread.
So, how is sourdough different than regular bread and what makes it better? First of all, here’s a little-known fact: Sourdough isn’t a flavor of bread; it’s a methodology. Sourdough refers to fermenting dough in a natural leaven — a mixture of grains and liquid inhabited by yeasts and bacteria.
During the slow fermentation of sourdough, the wild yeast and lactobacillus in the leaven break down phytic acid. Since phytic acid is a food inhibitor that impairs the absorption of certain minerals and nutrients — think calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc — the fermenting process is ideal counteract these effects. Plus, some naturopaths suspect phytic acid causes bloating and flatulence, so… there’s the possibility sourdough bread will counteract that.
2. It may help regulate blood sugar.
Another benefit of that slow, super-long fermentation? It’s believed that, during that process, the structure of carb molecules is modified. This reduces the bread’s glycemic index (GI), which slows down the speed of sugar entering the bloodstream.
Thanks to the phytic acid being broken down, mineral bioavailability in sourdough increases. And cheers for that since sourdough is pretty rich in iron, selenium, manganese, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and folate — which benefit the body through things like red blood cell production, immune system protection, nervous system function, and metabolism regulation.
How to find a healthy loaf
Outside of making it yourself, one way you can feel confident your sourdough loaf is healthy is by looking at the label. If you’re buying sourdough from a big box grocer, the odds aren’t in your favor. More than likely, the label will reveal a string of additives and preservatives. Look for a loaf with only a few ingredients. In Proof’s signature loaf of sourdough bread there are only three ingredients, Yup, three.
Proof’s Przybyl recommends starting your sourdough search at the smallest grocer or artisanal bakery in your area. If it’s small enough to have a one-on-one conversation with the person making or selling sourdough to you, you’ll probably be able to buy a healthy loaf.