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I 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
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
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.
- 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