Why I Love Sourdough So Much

Why I Love Sourdough So Much - Purposeful NutritionI really do love sourdough, true sourdough, the kind that is fermented in my kitchen for 24 plus hours before baking, the kind that does not have any baker’s yeast in it, only wild yeasts caught in my kitchen. I love the sour taste but even more I love the health benefits and the ease of preparation. When overwhelmed with my daughter’s gluten free diet 2 years ago, I read a book that changed my life in the area of bread. It was The Vintage Remedies Guide to Bread by Jessie Hawkins. She brought me hope of some normalcy in the midst of the huge changes in my life. Since that time I have become very comfortable with using sourdough in many different ways. Sourdough bread is now the only kind of bread my family eats and I even have a gluten free recipe now for my oldest daughter.  I have also learned to make many other baked goods sourdough, like donuts, chocolate cake, and pretzels.

Phytates and Phytic Acid

True sourdough bread involves a sourdough starter and ground grains and these are fermented together for 12-36 hours (or more).  While this fermentation is going on the lactobacilli which are present in the sourdough starter produce lactic acid and this acid helps to provide the right conditions for the enzyme phytase to break down or hydrolyze the phytate in the dough.  Phytate is present in grains and it binds with minerals in the grain so that the body is unable to use them.  But if the phytase is present to deal with the phytate, it is no longer able to monopolize the nutrients and the phytate becomes harmless to the body.  There are several studies reported by  Jessie Hawkins in her book that relate to this.  One found that 70% reduction of the phytic  acid increased the amount of useable magnesium in the baked bread.    Another study found that sourdough bread, in contrast to other breads, increased the availability of iron absorption.  1

Glycemic Index

Breads made with sourdough have a much lower glycemic index than other breads and grains because the lactobacilli ferment the maltose, a sugar present in the wheat.  The acids produced also reduce the glycemic response in the body after consumption.  The bread is not absorbed quickly thus slowly down the rise of blood sugar.  Another study reported in Jessie Hawkin’s book supported this if the sourdough was able to ferment 8-12 hours or longer.  A second study found that the glycemic index was able to be lowered down to 40, a level that is usually considered to be low.  2

 Gluten  Hydrolysis

One of the most exciting things about sourdough is that it can be a safe baked good for gluten sensitive individuals because the sourdough medium hydrolyzes, or breaks down the gluten and gliadin proteins into amino acids that are not harmful.  In 2002 an Italian study was done and found that the lactobacilli can neutralize the protein that attacks the intestinal lining of those with celiacs disease.  A questionnaire and physical exam  after consumption of bread that had soured for 24 hours found no reactions against this bread.  Additional studies have been done since that time and similar results were found each time.   Another study simulated a contamination with gluten of a gluten free sourdough bread  and again the amount of gluten was reduced from 400 ppm to less than 20 ppm. 3   This does not mean that celiac patients can immediately eat 24 hour plus fermented bread but it does open possibilities.  Those with a gluten intolerance though (as several of my family members) have some great options in front of them. 

Recommendations for eliminating gluten

Try to keep gluten content below 30-35% of the grains and let the sourdough rise 24-48 hours to remove all traces of gluten.  If you choose to use a gluten starter you can be pretty confident that mixing that with 100% gluten free flours should result in a completely gluten free loaf.  Again this has not been tested by me in a lab, so make your own decisions.

There is also the option of making a gluten free starter and gluten free bread.  I have a recipe here for one made with quinoa and flax which is what one of my daughters eats.  She has a significant intolerance to gluten and we have decided not to risk anything with her.  But making a quinoa based starter and bread has allowed her to enjoy bread again and also fills her up as she continues to grow and need those extra nutrients. 

Other Benefits

  • Potential Antihypertensive affect as ACE inhibitors are manufactured by the lactobacilli can lower blood pressure.
  • Increased Shelf life.
  • Increased antioxidants which can help to prevent cancer.
  • Improved nutritional profile over other breads with increased B vitamins and amino acids.

And as I mentioned at the start of this post, sourdough bread is really easy to make once you learn to think differently about making bread.  It is not quick but it is easy.    You can find many of my recipes at my sourdough page here at Purposeful Nutrition.   If you want to really research and understand this topic further I highly recommend The Vintage Remedies Guide to Bread, from which I have done all my research for this article.  My affiliate link is below for this book.   And if you have a sourdough recipe  to share please join us   at the Healing With Food Friday blog hop here on this site as well.

So have you tried sourdough bread?  What do you think?  If you don’t make it regularly, why not?



1  Vintage Remedies Guide to Bread, pg. 95.

2  Vintage Remedies Guide to Bread, p. 98

3.  Vintage Remedies Guide to Bread, p. 104

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  1. says

    I love sourdough bread and have always wanted to make my own starter! I have found several recipes to make starter and I think I will do it today!!! Though no one in my family is gluten intolerant, it’s good to know the facts about how sourdough will actually neutralize the gluten and make it harmless to humans! Thanks for the incentive! :)

    • says

      I do believe that eating our baked goods sourdough will help to prevent many of the creeping gluten intolerance that seems to be happening with people. Glad I could encourage you in the journey.

  2. says

    I do love sourdough. I have tried making breads in the past… but never sourdough. Of course, there are all the good memories of visiting San Francisco and eating their delicious sourdough!

  3. says

    Great post. It’s been a while since i’ve made my own sourdough, as I’ve been avoiding since trying to stick to gluten free. love that you include GF options!! Congrats on being chosen as a featured post on this week’s Wildcrafting Wednesdays! I hope you’ll join us again and share more of your awesome posts.

  4. says

    I’ve been wanting to cut out gluten from my diet for quite a while. But I love bread especially yeast rolls. They are my weakness. So you don’t know how tickled I was to see your post about how to make gluten free or close to it breads. I will be checking out your recipes to see if this may be a way to help me go gluten free without feeling like I’ve lost one of my favorite foods.

    • says

      There is; there is. So glad that you are able to see this. I have a whole sourdough page here at the site with links to all my recipes and other posts related to sourdough.

  5. says

    When I was a young married woman and mother, I made sourdough bread with a starter which I received from a farm wife in the middle of Alabama. I loved the smell of fresh baked bread and the tart taste of sourdough bread, especially slathered with fresh butter. Over the years, I moved away from Alabama and from making my own bread. But after reading what you had to say about the glycemic index, I may just have to start up again.

  6. says

    I always loved the taste of sourdough, it’s long been one of my favorites. But I never did quite know WHY it was good for you. This post was very informative, and I enjoyed reading all about the benefits of eating sourdough. I always make things from scratch when I can, as there is certainly no comparison between fresh homemade goods and store-bought ones! This reminds me that I’ve been meaning to try making sourdough from scratch! I would never have thought of making sourdough donuts, either! But they sound really good!!! Thanks for sharing this great info!

    • says

      You can make your own starter or you can buy a starter from a place like Cultures for Health and follow their instructions or you can find a friend with a starter and get some.

  7. says

    Great post on sourdough. I used to have a starter and used it for several years, but I could never find a loaf my kids would eat, so my hubby and I would eat it all. I need to give it another go!

  8. says

    I’m “attempting” to make bread from scratch this year. Looks like I will have to look up some Sourdough recipes. Thanks for the great article and tips!

  9. says

    I love sourdough, but have yet to try making my own. I’m glad to hear you’ve come across a GF recipe. I’m looking forward to exploring your blog more. I found this post very interesting and informative.

  10. says

    Wow, and to think I loved sourdough just because it tastes good – silly me! Seriously, though, thanks for sharing such great information, I really had no idea. Do you have any starter recipes or recommendations? I love making bread, but have never tried sourdough before. I mostly make mine in the bread machine or stick with “quick breads.”

    Sarah’s Fare recently posted → Eggs in a Nest

    • says

      I guess I didn’t mention that it tastes good as one of the reasons I love sourdough. Maybe I had better amend my post. :))
      I think I am going to work on a post on starters next. I will try and get that up in the next week.

  11. says

    I love Jessie Hawkins! I haven’t read that book yet though. I just started making sourdough, and have been really enjoying it. My 3 year old loves to help me make it. :)

  12. says

    I’ve never made a true sourdough with a starter but I do like to make a refrigerator dough – we use it for bread and pizza. I like your list of reasons to use fermented doughs!

    • says

      Would love to hear how it goes for you when you try it. My hope is to get together a trouble shooting article that will be here for subscribers. Not sure how long that will take me to put together in the midst of many other responsibilities.

  13. says

    The health benefits sound encouraging. While I have never actually made my own sourdough bread, I do enjoy eating it. I make a Yeast bread which my family loves very much. I think bread making in general is a bit time consuming but certainly worth the effort! I am Pinning this article to my Breads board so I can go back and enjoy some of your recipes later.

  14. says

    I’ve steered myself away from sourdough in the last few months because of the taste–somehow I don’t like it recent;y. but with your recommendation, I think I will be re-introducing it, especially for the gluten.
    Thank you for sharing this information. I greatly appreciate it!

  15. says

    This was a great post. My sourdough starter is unhappy in the freezer right now. I need to make more tummy friendly food and your blog looks like a good place to start. Became a subscriber! Thanks!

  16. says

    Thank you for posting the link to your resource–I’m still trying to figure out the gluten thing, and this will help.
    I have avoided sourdough in the past due to the taste, but if it is that much better for me, then I am interested.

    • says

      You have some control over the sourness of the bread by feeding the start more often and not letting it sit out too much on the counter before using. Our bread is not really all that sour. I have also been able to use the same starter in a number of other things like cake and donuts and they don’t seem to be sour at all. There is hope.

    • says

      In the beginning, my whole wheat breads had quite the sourdough bite, but then I learned about using a stiff levain instead of a wet starter. We get a much milder sourdough taste and the nutty flavor of the wheat really shines through.

  17. says

    Thank you for all this information! I’m always thrilled to run across another whole grain sourdough baker. I’ve been experimenting with 100 percent whole wheat wild yeast sourdough for a year now. I haven’t quite got the loaf I want yet, but I’m close.

    I tried another blogger’s 24-hour method early on and it did not work out too well. I will give yours a try and see if I get better results. I am curious about the kneading. I read your basic sourdough recipe and wondered whether you don’t need to knead (Oh dear!) because you have such tremendous elasticity and volume after 24 hours slow rise? That would be wonderful. I’m currently kneading for 20 minutes to develop enough gluten elasticity to get those oven-popping loaves.

    Thanks again for sharing your research about the benefits of sourdough. Excellent info! I shared this page with other whole grain/real food peeps on a Facebook page I manage called Cooking with Whole Grains & Real, Whole Foods. Hope it brings you a hit or two.

    • says

      Thank you so much for visiting and commenting. It is wonderful to hear from another sourdough baker.
      You are right; I don’t need to knead :)) because it really does hold together well. Sometimes my loaves don’t get as high as I want. There is often a challenge with consistency but the taste is always good. I really recommend you get The Vintage Remedies Guide to Bread as it was life changing for me. I think you would really enjoy that book.


  1. […] If you want to get some nutritional value out of your GF baked goods you really need to make them yourself.  And this is where I put in my plug for sourdough.  You use whole grains to make sourdough and they actually have some vitamins and minerals in them plus they are fermented by the sourdough medium so are readily useable in your body.   (See my post on why I love sourdough so much.) […]

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