The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Sourdough health benefits

sourdoughnut's picture

Sourdough health benefits

Hi folks, I've been looking at this site for a while, but this is my first post. I've been reading more and more about the health benefits of sourdough and was wondering if those benefits are negated by the addition of small amounts of commercial yeast if the ferment / proof times remain long. Are the health benefits due to the type of yeast or the length of process?

Thanks much

Ford's picture

I believe the health benefits are your knowledge of what is going into your bread, your satisfaction of making something that tastes good, and the exercize you get from making the bread.  Use the manual method of kneading and get your exercize.


Mukoseev's picture

My understanding, limited as it may be, is that most, if not all, commercially available breads and pastas, for that matter, are made with bleached flour.  The "chemicals" left behind from the bleaching process are at best not needed and at worst extremely toxic and harmful, specifically alloxan.  So, if you're baking with unbleached flour, sourdough or not, you are way ahead of the game health wise.

G-man's picture

I would absolutely love to see some solid scientific theory that sourdough is better than commercially yeasted breads. I've only seen a few obviously biased articles written by individuals who stand to benefit directly from their own claims.

I believe that you can control your health by using whole ingredients that you control as much as possible from source to table. If you look at commercial bread, it usually contains a huge list of ingredients, many of which are chemicals. When I make sourdough, I add flour, water, and salt. Sometimes I'll add some raw sugar for the caramelization if I'm making it for friends.

I would love some pure science to show me that sourdough is truly healthier, like I said. Until then I just like knowing what I'm eating and where it came from.

Ford's picture

"If you look at commercial bread, it usually contains a huge list of ingredients, many of which are chemicals."

My friend don't knock "chemicals".  Everything, you included, is made of chemicals.  Table salt, sea salt, kosher salt, etc are chemicals, primarily sodium chloride, NaCl.  Your raw sugar is primarily sucrose.  Water is hydrogen oxide.  No need to go on.

An old curmudgen, who used to be a chemist,



G-man's picture

Absolutely. I tried my best to make it clear that I was expressing a feeling not founded very deeply in fact. I didn't mean to offend at all, and I apologize for doing so! I work in a lab and many of my coworkers, some of whom are good friends outside work, are chemists.

However, since my intention was not clear, I feel compelled to defend my position. While most (all?) of the chemicals and compounds found listed as additives are derived from food sources, I believe those chemicals and compounds are more likely to be better for you when they come as part of the food they are derived from.

Yes, raw sugar is primarily sucrose. It also has proteins and other sugars as well, something you won't find in highly refined table sugar. I'll give you kosher and table salt, but sea salt also has minerals other than NaCl.

The difference, to me, is the difference between taking an Omega-3 supplement like a capsule or spoonful of cod liver oil, and eating some salmon or walnuts. Yeah, I'll get omega-3s by taking the supplement but even though they contain the same fatty acid (another chemical compound, yes?), salmon and walnuts sure taste better.

If given a choice between eating spinach and swallowing two handfuls of pills containing the chemical compounds found in spinach, I'll take spinach every time. And if given a choice between eating bread containing sodium stearoyl lactate (a preservative derived from lactic acid) and my home made sourdough, which probably has the same stuff that didn't go through a lab somewhere, I'll take my own stuff.

Ford's picture

Hello G-Man,

I took no offence at your statement, but I did tweek you about the use of the word chemical.  So many people think that "chemicals:" are bad and fail to realize that the universe is made up of chemicals and only chemicals.

I agree with you in saying the vitamins and minerals are probably better for you taken in their natural state.  If you eat a balanced and varied diet, you are, in most cases, getting all the vitamins, minerals, and other "suppliments" that you need.

I make the bread my wife and I eat.  It is mostly sourdough, but I also make salt rising bread and, occasionally, a bread using commercial yeast.

Resident Conservative Curmudgeon,


timbit1985's picture

If we are going to be curmudgeonly, it should be noted that water is actually dihydrogen monoxide. Most chemical naming conventions specify the amount of each type of atom found in a molecule, not just the types of atoms.


Since we are being technical, sucrose would be: α-(1R,2R,3S,4S,5R)-glucopyranoside (pronounced alpha-one-r-2-r-3-s-4-s-5-r-gluco-py-ran-oh-side).


I remember reading in an article a few years ago that the benefits of sourdough (white) come from the organic acids present in the levain.  I haven't seen research done on the health benefits of wholewheat sourdough, but I am sure it exists somewhere.



AZBlueVeg's picture

Of course. However, just because everything is comprised of chemicals in one form or another doesn't mean that we should be including unneeded chemical ingredients in our food and bread. For instance, I recently grabbed an "artisan" loaf of crusty bread at my local Fry's grocery store. You would think from the way it was packaged and how it looked that it was a true artisan bread. One look at the ingredients, however, proved otherwise: Enriched Unbleached Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, reduced iron, Thiamin, Mononitrate, Riboflavin, folic acid), water, yeast, soy oil, salt, wheat gluten, corn flour, diacetyl, tartaric acid esters of mono-diglycerides, acetic acid, guar gum, calcium sulfate, lactic acid, ammonium sulfate, monoglycerides, canola oil, ascorbic acid, potassium iodate, enzyme, hydrolyzed wheat gluten, Azodicrbonamide (ADA), olive oil.

I think it's pretty clear from the above list that store bought bread is full of nonsensical ingredients that don't need to be there. You are what you eat!

oceanicthai's picture

This thread would be helpful for you maybe?


Submitted by umbreadman on July 11, 2007 - 11:09pm.

I've learned this from


I've learned this from Hamelman's book. He describes nutrient availability in whole wheat flours and the relationship with sourdoughs in the section about flours and such.

There are lots of nutrients, primarily minerals I believe, contained in the wheat's bran layer, but very little are available for absorbtion by the digestive system. The reason is the prevalence of phytic acid in the bran, which limits absorption of minerals but also, i've recently found out, acts as an antioxidant and has other health benefits. So in this case, yes whole wheat does contain more nutrients, and yes, they are less available to the body, though the culprit also has some health perks.

Hamelman notes that the trick to unlocking the minerals and such in the bran is the sourdough culture. He claims that organisms in the culture, specifically the bacteria if I remember correctly, break down phytic acid in the flour, freeing the minerals to be absorbed.

 (Note, this is an excerpt from the thread and umbreadman wrote it, not me.)

oceanicthai's picture

I would love to hear what my bread hero Debra Wink would have to say about this.

Mebake's picture

Sourdoughnut, it is not the type of yeasts that render a bread healthy, rather, it is the lactic acid bacteria that is present in a starter culture. metabolysis of Carbohydrates by bacteria into compounds that have less glycemic index (less sugar spike in blood) is what makes a sourdough healthier, by making the bread less intimidating to your pancreas.


nicodvb's picture

This is an aspect that always made me curious.

Part of the starches are converted by amylases to sugars (dextrins, glucose and maltose). Glucose has ... well, a hi GI. Maltose is even worse (106 GI). Unless dextrins have a super low GI how can a sourdough bread have an overall lower GI than a yested bread if there are more simple sugars available?

Am I missing something?


And anyway, do LB release amylases? I thought that they don't. As far as I know only yeasts release some sugar enzymes (invertases, zymases, etc) that act only on mono- and disaccharides, not on starches.

Please, can someone shed some light on this point?