Many people love a slice of warm, fluffy sourdough bread. You can toast it up with some butter, use it to make a sandwich, or dip it into your favorite winter soup. However you choose to eat it, it’s a type of bread that is full of flavor and fairly easy to make at home. Just ask everyone who took it up as a hobby during 2020.
The flavor of sourdough sets it apart from many other types of bread, and that is achieved through a unique fermenting process. Instead of using a traditional yeast, which is how other bread rises when baking, sourdough is made with a “starter,” which is flour and water combined and left to ferment for a couple of days at minimum.
Because of sourdough’s unique fermentation process, it has long been considered to be potentially healthier than other types of more refined bread—but why? Is there truth to the belief that sourdough is actually healthier than regular bread?
Sourdough may be better for blood sugar management
The short answer is that yes, when it comes to your blood sugar, sourdough may be better for you.
“Sourdough bread may have a slight edge over white refined bread for a few reasons,” says Manaker.
For one thing, sourdough bread is often lower on the glycemic index (GI) than other types of bread, which Manaker claims makes “it a better choice for people who are focused on blood glucose management.”
Sourdough may be better for gut health
The GI is a way of measuring how fast your blood sugar can rise with certain foods using a scale that ranges from zero to 100, with sugar being 100. According to Aging Clinical and Experimental Research, an average sourdough bread has about a GI of about 54, whereas a more refined white wheat flour bread has a GI of 71.
Ultimately, it depends on the individual
Another benefit that sourdough has is that it can help with gut health, again due to the fermenting process.
“Sourdough bread may contain prebiotic fiber, which is the result of the fermentation,” Manaker explains. This can support the live and beneficial bacteria that live in your gut by acting as selective fuel.”
“Selective fuel is important because it means that the prebiotic fiber is used as fuel by certain beneficial bacteria, but not less-desirable bacteria, like E. coli,” she adds.
Unfortunately, some recent research has suggested the health benefits of sourdough may in fact depend on the individual, meaning it may not actually be healthier for everyone.
A small 2017 study in Cell Metabolism looked into the effects of sourdough and white bread on various participants. While some people had better blood glucose management after eating sourdough over white bread, there were also people who saw a higher spike after eating the sourdough.
“To our great shock and surprise, we found no significant differences between the two breads on any of the parameters that we collected,” Eran Segal, one of the leading scientists on the study, reportedly told the the Atlantic.