Is sourdough bread healthy? A top dietician delivers her verdict

If you’ve ever found yourself wondering: ‘is sourdough healthy?’ you’re definitely not alone.

No longer just confined to hipster breakfast spots, sourdough bread is firmly integrated into cafes, restaurant menus, and supermarket shelves across the country.

Whether you’re a brunch enthusiast, a coffee shop fiend or just someone who likes to jazz up your morning toast every now and again, at some point, you’ve probably opted for sourdough bread.

With a distinctive chewiness and taste, and the opportunity to add on a wide range of fun and fresh toppings (we can’t say no to a thick spreading of mashed avocado…) sourdough can form the foundations of a tasty breakfast, lunch, or mid-afternoon snack.

You might be tempted to assume that sourdough found its feet in 2020, when lots of us turned to making our own sourdough starters to cure lockdown boredom. Truthfully, though, sourdough’s popularity has been on the rise for a while now, with studies showing that its global market value jumped from $298.7 million to $2.4 billion in 2018.

Crucially, sourdough’s popularity comes in part from its perception as a healthier bread option. Bread is often demonized as an absolute no-go option when you’re trying to eat healthily. But, if we’re being honest, there are lots of breads out there that are both tasty and nutritious.

What is sourdough bread made of?

Traditionally, sourdough only uses three ingredients: flour, water, and salt. As such, it’s particularly appealing to those looking for bread that isn’t laden with extra artificial ingredients.

Not only that, but sourdough is slow-fermented, a process which breaks down gluten and makes it easier to digest. Unsurprisingly then, for those looking to make healthier choices that are easier on the body, sourdough is a popular one.

If you’re still struggling to break free from the idea that carbs = bad (not true, by the way), we’ve pulled together some of the science around sourdough bread to make its effect on your body that’s a little bit easier to understand .

Is sourdough bread healthier than regular bread?

The first place to start when comparing sourdough to regular bread is the potential health benefits that come with its preparation methods.

The fermentation process involved in making sourdough is what distinguishes it from a lot of other types of bread – it’s also something that brings with it some extra health advantages.

Studies have shown that the fermentation of plant-based foods, including sourdough bread, enables the enrichment of B12 and improves in vitro protein digestibility.

In addition, some of the lactic acid bacteria strains that form the foundations of sourdough are probiotics, which have the potential to improve gastrointestinal health.

And sourdough isn’t any less tasty on the healthier side, with fermentation it also produces amino acids which add extra taste, despite decreasing the salt content in the bread itself – ideal!

preview for Make A Better Bread With This Beginner-Friendly Sourdough Bread Recipe!

Is white sourdough bread healthy?

Registered dietician – and gut health specialist – Laura Tilt offers her take.

‘In the UK, white flour is fortified with calcium, iron, vitamins B1 and B3, so white sourdough is a source of these and also carbohydrates – and all these nutrients form part of a healthy diet.

‘However, white sourdough is lower in fiber than wholewheat varieties… If you are choosing white sourdough, try making starchy foods in your other wholegrain meals,’ she adds.

Sourdough bread does have some health benefits, but certain types of sourdough are better than others.

Sourdough made with wholewheat flour is generally healthier than that made with white flour, especially refined white flour.

If it’s made using whole grains, your bread will be higher in fiber and additional nutrients, especially when compared to white bread, which can often be overly processed or use additional artificial ingredients.

If you’re unsure about the kind of sourdough you’ve picked up from the supermarket shelf, take a look at the ingredients listed – look for 100% wholewheat or wholegrain, and avoid too many excessive artificial additives like emulsifiers or preservatives.

Is sourdough bread good for weight loss?

Laura gives us some helpful reminders here.

‘All foods can be part of a weight loss diet – it’s about balance and portion size. If your goal is weight loss, choosing foods that are nutrient dense (meaning they contain lots of nutrients in proportion to the energy / calories they provide) is helpful. You might for this reason choose wholegrain sourdough or serve it with something nutritious like eggs or nut butter and fruit.’

Not only that, but that sourdough bread is higher in fiber than some other types of bread makes it stand out when it comes to potential ties with weight loss. High levels of fiber in diets have been linked to weight loss, with fiber rich foods usually helping you feel and stay full for longer.

Of course, eating sourdough bread alone won’t cause weight loss. But, as part of a balanced diet, it has the potential to provide you with some important nutrients that can ultimately contribute to weight loss.

Important to remember if you’re looking to make healthier choices is that what you top your sourdough with matters. If you’re looking to create a healthy sourdough breakfast option, for example, you might steer clear of chocolate spread and opt for a nut butter instead.

Can you eat sourdough bread everyday?

Straight from the expert’s mouth: ‘Sourdough is rich in carbohydrates which should make up around 50% of our energy intake every day, so there’s no problem with eating sourdough daily – it’s delicious and I often do! Remember though that to get all the nutrients we need to stay healthy it’s helpful to eat a wide variety of different starchy foods.

‘Our gut microbiome benefits from eating a variety of grains and plant foods too so if sourdough is a favorite try different toppings (peanut butter, tahini and banana, ricotta and strawberries) or different varieties of sourdough – a rye & wheat or a seeded variety to benefit from the different nutrients that these foods provide.’

Good news for sourdough super-fans!

Benefits of sourdough bread for people with IBS

The fermentation process used to make sourdough bread can mean that it is a little easier to digest for those who usually have difficulty. The lactic acid bacteria in sourdough produce an enzyme called phytase, which breaks down and ‘pre-digests’ phytic acid – believed to contribute to bloating and flatulence – during fermentation, making it easier on the digestive system later on.

In fact, one study conducted in patients with IBS found that sourdough bread was less likely to lead to digestion issues, gas, and bloating, than unfermented, non-sourdough.

Laura explains that ‘There’s also research showing true sourdough is digested more slowly than regular white bread which may help balance blood glucose and energy levels. The levels of FODMAPs (short chain carbohydrates which can trigger gut symptoms in people with IBS) are also lower in breads made using traditional sourdough fermentation so sourdough may be less likely to trigger bloating.’