Sourdough Bread



I would like to take this opportunity to write about sourdough bread, the process it goes through to make and all its benefits.

Sourdough is basically the fermentation of dough with naturally occurring bacteria and yeasts.

By using this natural leaven in the baking process the bread will retain the integrity of the grain and because of the fermentation help your body to better absorb its nutrients.

I have been eating sourdough rye bread for about 2 and a half years now and although I am gluten intolerant I have had no adverse side effects.

Why I chose the 100% rye sourdough and not the wheat version is that the rye grain contains a lesser amount of gluten and I thought it would be the better choice under the circumstances.

I am not saying that this sourdough bread is for everyone with gluten issues, but the fermentation process does seem to break down the gluten protein enough for me to tolerate it.

So depending on how sensitive you are to gluten you too might be able to tolerate this delicious and nutritious bread.


What are true sourdough breads


True sourdough bread is made by only using three ingredients namely water, flour, and salt.

The water and flour are fermented into lactobacilli starter cultures of which portions are used with added salt and baked at very low temperatures for long periods of time.

This process not only maintains the nutritional content of the bread but also helps to neutralize the phytic acid and thus breaks down the gluten content to make it more digestible.

The longer the levain or natural leaven is fermented the more it breaks down the gluten protein and the easier it is for your body to absorb all the breads nutrients.

It is best to get sourdough bread from a farmer’s market because the commercially bought types often list bakers yeast or some other additives as part of the ingredients and therefore are definitely not true sourdoughs.


An overview of the sourdough bread that I eat


I buy my sourdough bread from the from a bakery called “The Loaf” here in Johannesburg South Africa.

All their breads are traditionally made with premium stone ground flour and natural leaven which are then baked in wood-fired ovens.

The whole process from beginning to end takes approximately 72 hours giving the antinutrients and gluten ample time to break down properly and release those beneficial nutrients into the bread.

The steps involved in this process are that they make a levain from a flour and water mixture which they then allow to ferment for 24 hours.

Thereafter they mix a portion of this levain with more flour and water to make the starter and also let that ferment for a further 24 hours.

When they are ready to bake they use a portion of the starter and mix it again with flour and water, but this time also add a bit of salt to form the dough known as the sourdough.

It is then proved twice which is the final rise and fermentation process before baking the bread in a wood-fired oven.

Studies have shown that long and slow fermentations have been known to reduce phytates up to as much as 90% and I think you could justify putting the above procedure into that category.

So if you live in the Johannesburg area and would like try out some sourdough bread I  highly recommend that you contact The Loaf as these are some of the best sourdoughs that I have ever tasted. 


Stone ground flour and Sourdough bread benefits


Before I get into the benefits of sourdough bread let me talk a bit about the benefits of stone ground flour and how all their nutrients are kept intact during the milling process.

Stone ground flours retain all the bran, germ, B vitamins, vitamin E, chromium, magnesium, manganese and zinc whereas these essential nutrients are lost to a degree in commercial milling.

Because of this, commercially milled flours have to be enriched with synthetic vitamins and minerals trying to replace what was lost by adding chemicals to their makeup.

In stone ground flours the bran, germ, and endosperm are found in their original proportions allowing for better nutrient absorption and therefore do not need to be enriched.

The milling process is slow and controlled so as not to expose the germ to too much heat and causing the fat in it to become rancid which can destroy many of the fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin E.

Stone ground flour is normally coarser than commercially produced flour reducing the chances of nutrient loss when exposed to oxygen for long periods of time.


Good for digestion


The fermentation of sourdough builds up lactic acid bacteria in the bread and upon digestion, it will slowly populate the digestive tract with good bacteria resulting in overall good health.

The longer fermentation of sourdoughs will give you a more stable nutrition as opposed to the commercial breads which could cause irritation of the gut because of the added bakers yeast.

The combined natural yeasts and enzymes that are present in sourdough breads also make it easier to digest and absorb all those beneficial nutrients.


Nutrition of sourdough


The integrity of sourdough bread holds a lot of goodness in the way that the nutrients are maintained in the flour during the fermentation and baking process.

These include B1-B6, B12, folate, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, vitamin E, selenium, iron, manganese, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, and potassium not to mention the proteins and fatty acids.

Ok, so this nutrition is found in small amounts, but when compared to commercial breads which only retain a fraction of their original makeup and that have to be fortified with additives, it makes you think.


Phytic acid reduction


Nuts, seeds, legumes, and grains all store phosphorus as phytic acid, but when this phytic acid is bound to the minerals found in these foods, they are known as phytates.

These phytates that are commonly known as antinutrients have to be broken down in order for us to digest and absorb the minerals within them.

The enzyme phytase which is released during the fermentation process of sourdough breaks this bond and combined with the lactobacillus bacteria makes these minerals available for absorption.


Helps to break down gluten


The lactobacilli that are produced during the fermentation process help in breaking down the gluten protein. This protein is made up of two components namely soluble gliadins and the insoluble glutenins.

It is the problematic gliadins that are partially broken down and not the glutenins which are responsible for the structure of the bread.

So the result of the fermentation process is that the gluten protein is “pre-digested” which makes it easier on the intestinal tract and for the body to absorb.


Natural preservative 


The acetic acid found in sourdough breads adds the flavor to the final product and is also known as a natural preservative.

The lowering of the PH level in the dough during the fermentation process inhibits the growth of mold and therefore helps to naturally preserve the bread.

This extends the shelf life of sourdough bread without the need for any commercially made preservatives or additives.


Final thoughts


I want to emphasize that sourdough bread is not gluten free, but only partially breaks down the gluten protein and therefore is not recommended on a gluten free diet.

I think the reason why I am able to tolerate the rye version is probably because I am either not that sensitive to gluten or that the protein is substantially broken down in the fermentation process.

Rye has got a lot less gluten in it when compared to the wheat and in my opinion is the only option for me when it comes to sourdough bread.

So if you are going to try sourdough bread can I suggest you go with the rye version and also find one that has been fermented for a long time in order to break down the gluten content as much as possible.

I will leave you with this information so that you can make up your own minds whether or not you should try sourdough rye.

Thank you for reading and please feel free to leave a comment below






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