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4 Great Reasons to Eat Sourdough

There’s much more to sourdough than just great-tasting bread; in fact, there are a number of surprising health benefits, so that you could be giving your body, as well as your taste buds, a real treat. Some interesting research is emerging to suggest that eating sourdough could be a very smart move indeed, but before you rush off to the supermarket, it’s important to realise that not all sourdough is equal.

Sourdough or Sourfaux?
Traditional sourdough bread is made with flour, water and salt and undergoes a lengthy fermentation process which involves lactic acid bacteria and naturally occurring wild yeast which has been cultivated in a sourdough starter. Anyone who has ever made sourdough will know that it’s a process which requires patience and planning while the dough undergoes a series of transformations. It’s this long, slow fermentation which is at the heart of the health benefits of sourdough.

Unfortunately the term ‘sourdough’ is not protected and this means that loaves which have not been through this process can still be labelled as sourdough. A recent Which? investigation showed that 80% of loaves in our supermarkets are not authentic sourdough, but contain a range of different agents, such as baker’s yeast, vinegar or yoghurt, to speed up the production from process to a couple of hours, instead of a couple of days.  Make sure you choose your sourdough with care, because these supermarket shortcuts eliminate all the health benefits you’ll find in a genuine sourdough loaf.

Why Sourdough?
Here are 4 great reasons why you should take the time to make or to source a genuine sourdough loaf:

Sourdough bread beats the bloat
When it comes to bloating, all bread is not equal! Many people find it hard to digest commercially produced bread because it seems to cause IBS symptoms, such as bloating and wind. It’s easy to blame wheat and/or gluten for this, which may explain the significant increase in the number of people who think they have a food intolerance. However, in many cases, it’s more to do with the speedy production process of the bread which leaves a lot of work for our digestion, due to the high FODMAP content.

FODMAPs are certain types of carbohydrate which are hard for the body to break down and which can cause bloating, wind and other IBS symptoms. The low FODMAP diet can be very effective for IBS, as it focuses on eliminating these trigger foods, including wheat. However, the long slow fermentation process involved in making sourdough bread breaks down these carbohydrates in the wheat, so that your digestion doesn’t have to work so hard which helps you avoid these unpleasant symptoms and allows you to enjoy bread again.

Sourdough bread makes gluten more digestible
Gluten is a protein which is found in wheat, rye and barley and which some people find very hard to digest, leading to unpleasant digestive symptoms. Gluten intolerance is a symptom of the auto-immune condition coeliac disease, but non-coeliac gluten sensitivity is now becoming increasingly recognised.

The advantage of authentic sourdough for anyone with gluten sensitivity1 is that the lengthy fermentation process pre-digests the gluten, breaking down some of the indigestible proteins and literally making the bread easier to stomach. Some initial studies in Italy have demonstrated that fermenting dough over 48 hours can significantly break down the gluten – another good reason to avoid the speedy supermarket sourdough!1NB: Anyone with coeliac disease or a diagnosed allergy should always seek medical advice, but those with a sensitivity to gluten, may find that sourdough could be the answer.

Sourdough bread is higher in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants
Wholegrain flour is naturally  rich in  B vitamins, vitamin E and a range of minerals and antioxidants and these are stripped out when the flour is refined, which is why white bread is so often artificially fortified. The advantage of sourdough is that the slow fermentation process appears to improve the bioavailability of these important nutrients, which increases their concentration and makes them easier for the body to absorb.

Sourdough bread will keep you going for longer
The longer your dough is fermented, the greater the proportion of soluble fibre in the bread. Sourdough is also high in resistant starch which passes through the gut without being digested. This combination of soluble fibre and resistant starch generates a feeling of satiety which keeps you fuller for longer. Lengthy fermentation also increases the levels of organic acids in the bread which slows down the breakdown of the carbohydrate in the body, helping to stabilise blood sugar levels and promote sustained energy.

How to Make Sourdough
Making sourdough requires a combination of patience, exactitude, love and care, but you’ll be well-rewarded when you produce a beautiful loaf. I was taught to make sourdough by Vanessa Kimbell, who is a world-renowned expert with a unique understanding of the nutritional implications of the fermentation process. There is no better place to start than with a trip to her Sourdough School, so that you can learn the basics in a supportive and nurturing environment.

If you’d rather learn at home, Vanessa is launching an online Sourdough Club with a series of video tutorials to help you learn via a step-by-step process. Treat yourself or a loved one to an amazing injection of health and sign up for a course in 2019. Sourdough isn’t just bread, it’s a way of life and you’ll never be short of friends if you can make a great loaf!