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Sour Dough Bread

The Health Benefits Of Sour Dough Bread©

written by: Pastryitems.com (copyright 2014)

Sour dough bread has numerous health advantages over modern yeast bread. In fact, many health experts believe that sour dough bread is the most nutritious and healthiest bread available, even when white flour is used to make it. To emphasize this point, sour dough bread made with white flour is more nutritious and more healthy than whole wheat bread made with dried baker's yeast. This may seem surprising and even counter-intuitive to many but the health advantages of sour dough bread are due to the wide diversity and type of microorganisms (both bacteria and yeast) used to make sour dough bread versus the single species of yeast used to make modern yeast bread.Old-style artisan sour dough bread is made with a sour dough "starter" that serves as the leavening agent. This starter is essentially a thick soup of flour, water, wild bacteria, and wild yeast. The bacteria and yeast in the starter are obtained by simply leaving out a flour and water mixture in a warm place over time. The wet flour attracts the wild bacteria and wild yeast species in the ambient air. Once these microorganisms find this substrate, they will begin to utilize it to grow and multiply. There are literally dozens of species of Lactobacillus bacteria and Saccharomyces yeast species in the air that are attracted to the flour and water substrate. However, the exact species composition that end up in a starter will vary somewhat between geographic locations and climates because different bacteria and different yeast will be present in different places. 

A sour dough starter created and maintained in San Francisco will have a different assemblage of bacteria and yeast species than a sour dough starter created and maintained in Texas. However, the collection of bacteria and yeasts in the different sour dough starters will also be somewhat similar because only certain types of bacteria and yeast are attracted to wet flour and can survive by eating the flour and living in this substrate. For example, you'll get Lactobacillus species of bacteria in both San Francisco and Texas but the actual species and the numbers of each species may vary. This is why a a sour dough starter that is found to be particularly good will sometimes be passed down from generation to generation.

One of the primary health advantages of sour dough bread is the fact that is loaded with beneficial probiotics. In fact, a single slice of traditionally made sour dough bread will have a much higher diversity of probiotics than almost all brands of yogurt sold in the United States. While these yogurts may have two to five species of probiotics, a slice of traditionally prepared sour dough bread will contain have dozens of probiotics. Eating sour dough bread will fill your gastrointestinal system with beneficial probiotics in much the same way as eating traditionally prepared kimchi or sauerkraut. Probiotics allow you to more easily digest your food and obtain nutrients that would be otherwise be unavailable to you. They also help you maintain a slightly alkaline internal environment which confers a whole cascade of health advantages.

Individuals with Celiac Disease or gluten sensitivity will be happy to hear that you may be able to tolerate sour dough bread, as long as it is made in the traditional style. The living Lactobacillus bacterial species in sour dough bread essentially pre-digest gluten. The gluten molecule is made of two proteins, gliadin and glutenin. It is actually the gliadin part of the molecule that most people with a gluten sensitivity have a problem with. This is because their immune system recognizes gliadin as a foreign substance and attacks it. However, the Lactobacillus bacteria in old-style sour dough bread breaks down gliadin within four hours of fermentation. If you have Celiac Disease or a gluten sensitivity, look for sour dough breads that have a stronger sour taste because these breads will have been fermented longer and will contain less gliadin.

Sour dough bread is also the best bread for diabetics to eat. The Lactobacillus bacteria make the absorption of the bread a much slower process. This means that old-style sour dough bread has a lower glycemic index than modern yeast breads. Foods with a lower glycemic index do not raise blood sugar as much because the glucose obtained from the breakdown of food is released more slowly into the bloodstream. For diabetics, this means they can enjoy foods that is often on the "avoid" list such as pizza, bagels, and sandwiches as long as they are made with old-style sour dough bread.

Over the last few decades, scientists and nutritionists have discovered that people who eat a lot of grains are often deficient in essential minerals like iron, magnesium, zinc, copper, and phosphorous. This was a real mystery until it was discovered that substances called phytates, found in high quantities in wheat, interferes with the absorption of these minerals in the human body. In fact, phylates are very powerful chelators, binding with these minerals and quite literally moving them out of the body before they could be absorbed. While phytates are also found in beans, nuts, and other plants, they are more highly concentrated in wheat, especially the bran portion of the wheat. However, when sour dough bread is traditionally prepared, the Lactobacillus bacterial species neutralize more than sixty percent of these phytates. However, in modern yeast bread, these Lactobacillus bacterial species are absent, and therefore, most of the phytates remain in the finished product. This means a person eating sour dough bread can obtain more nutrients out of the wheat than the remaining phytates remove. However, this is not so for a person who eats modern yeast bread, and thus, mineral deficiencies can set in. 

It should be pointed out that phylates are actually a double-edged sword and do confer some important health advantages as long as they are kept at low levels. They are anti-inflammatory and can help chelate toxic heavy metals out of the body. Recent research indicates they may also stop the proliferation of cancer cells. Therefore, traditionally made sour dough bread seems to offer the right balance of phylates whereas modern yeast bread puts too many phylates into the body so they end up causing more harm than good.

The next time you are asked in a deli what type of bread you'd prefer for your sandwich, tell them no thanks to all forms of modern yeast bread. Instead, order a good crusty sour dough roll made in the time honored bread making tradition dating back around 3500 years. Likewise, if you are planning to learn how to bake your own fresh bread at home, it would be more healthy (and more tasty) to learn how to make sour dough breads using a sour dough starter with dozens of beneficial wild bacteria and wild yeast. Those packages of dried yeast contain only one species of yeast, and more importantly, they contain no beneficial Lactobacillus bacterial species that make leavened bread far more healthy for you and your family.
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