Is Sourdough Bread Healthy?
Here at EatingWell, we love our carbs. And while all carbs are not created equal, nutritious whole grains deserve a regular spot on your plate for a variety of reasons. In fact, whole grains, like quinoa, barley, oatmeal and popcorn, contribute valuable nutrients to your diet and can even help you lose weight. Many types of bread are packed with nutrition and can be part of a healthy diet, including sourdough bread. We dove into the research to find these impressive health benefits of sourdough bread.
Whether you buy sourdough from the store or make your own, it has a pretty impressive nutrition profile. Most sourdough isn't made with whole-grain flour but if you make it at home you can use whole-wheat flour for your bread. Here is the nutrition for one slice of sourdough bread, per the USDA:
- 84 calories
- 3g protein
- 0.75g fat
- 16g carbohydrates
- 1g fiber
- 7% DV iron
- 10% DV folate
What sets sourdough apart from traditional bread is that it is made by fermenting flour and water, rather than adding yeast to create a leaven. According to a 2019 review in Nutrients, the fermentation process helps to unlock B vitamins in the bread, and even enables the enrichment of vitamin B12 in plant-based foods (B12 is found primarily in animal-based foods). Additionally, sourdough is usually made with fortified flour so it delivers iron and folate, which are important before and during pregnancy.
4 Health Benefits of Sourdough Bread
Not only does sourdough bread deliver a tangy flavor that's perfect for toast and sandwiches, but it's good for you, too! Here are four science-backed benefits of sourdough bread.
1. Is Good for Your Gut
The fermentation process for sourdough bread can lead to an increased number of prebiotic- and probiotic-like properties, which help improve gut health, according to a 2021 review in the journal Microorganisms. Look for sourdough bread made with whole grains, which are higher in fiber than processed grains, giving your bread additional gut-friendly benefits.
2. Can Lead to Better Digestion
Even though sourdough bread is not gluten-free, a 2021 review in the journal Foods found that sourdough consumption might help improve the digestion of gluten. The fermentation process for sourdough alters the enzymes in the wheat and might potentially help counteract adverse reactions to gluten. While it's too soon to recommend sourdough bread to people with celiac disease (who cannot tolerate gluten), people who feel sensitive to gluten may want to talk to their healthcare provider or a registered dietitian to see if they might be able to enjoy sourdough bread without the adverse effects.
3. Promotes Healthy Aging
Whole grains and bread, like sourdough bread, are a staple of the Mediterranean diet. Some research has pointed out it could also be a crucial food to help promote healthy aging. A 2019 review in the journal Nutrients found that fermented grain-based products, like sourdough, have antioxidant, anti-hypertensive, anti-diabetic, and FODMAP-reducing qualities.
4. Can Help Keep Blood Sugars in a Healthy Range
Eating carbohydrates naturally causes our blood glucose to rise as we digest them, but rapid spikes and drops in blood glucose can increase the risk for chronic illnesses, like diabetes. We get those big spikes from eating simple carbohydrates, like sugar and refined grains, especially when they're not paired with protein and fat (two nutrients that slow down digestion).
How foods affect your blood glucose is quantified by glycemic index and glycemic load. Glycemic index refers to how much your blood glucose rises two hours after consuming a food, whereas glycemic load indicates how quickly the blood glucose spike occurs. According to a 2019 editorial review in Aging Clinical and Experimental Research, sourdough bread has a lower glycemic index and glycemic load than white bread and whole-wheat bread that is not fermented. Whole-wheat sourdough is higher in fiber, which additionally lowers the strain it puts on your blood glucose.
The Bottom Line
Sourdough has made a comeback—and for good reason. It's packed with nutrients, healthy carbs, protein, fiber and vitamins like folate and iron. It can improve digestion, lower chronic disease risk and even promote healthy aging. Whether you buy it from a local bakery or make some yourself, including sourdough bread on your menu will allow you to reap its flavorful benefits.