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Love Your Body: Benefits of Eating Sourdough

A fresh loaf of homemade sourdough bread rests on a cutting board

The good bacteria found in fermented foods provide protection against illness. These good bacteria serve as the first line of defense against bad bacteria, inflammation, and gastrointestinal distress. Instead of an apple a day, we should be chanting “one to two fermented foods a day, keeps the doctor away.” With any dietary practice, moderation is key. These foods are nutrient dense offering a multitude of good bacterial agents in just a spoonful. It is also beneficial to consume a variety of fermented products to develop a broad spectrum of bacterial agents. A person’s diet should not rely solely on the probiotics in any one fermented food. Think fermented vegetables, fermented fruits, fermented dairy, fermented condiments, fermented beverages and even sourdough bread. Yes, carbohydrates are not bad and can also be a source of probiotics.

Sourdough bread supports our gut health

Traditional sourdough is made with wheat flour, water and salt. And, sourdough bread can be easily converted to a gluten-free recipe for those with gluten intolerance. The bacteria found in sourdough bread support your body’s microbiome. This type of food, like other fermented foods, is a gentle way to support your gut health. (Keep in mind, over the counter supplements are typically a more concentrated source of bacteria which may cause stomach upset and dysbiosis. These negative side effects are less likely when consuming bacteria through naturally fermented foods.)

A close up of all the nooks and crannys seen in a slice of bread

Sourdough bread is nutrient dense

Bacteria isn’t the only benefit found in sourdough. It also includes prebiotics which serve as the food source for the bacteria. These indigestible fibers likely help the individual digest the food. Sourdough offers more than just bacteria and fiber. It is a nutrient dense food including amino acids (the building blocks of protein), B vitamins, selenium and iron.  The best part is that studies note that these nutrients have greater bioavailability compared to their non-fermented wheat bread counterparts (1). Besides the nutrients found within the food, a healthy gut will increase the absorption of nutrients found in other foods including magnesium and zinc. There is additional data that the lactic-acid bacteria found in sourdough bread may reduce inflammatory responses found in people suffering from allergies and autoimmune conditions (2). Unlike other bread products which are loaded with added sugars and have limited amounts of fiber, sourdough bread has a lower glycemic index and glycemic load. This means the blood sugar level rises slower and remains lower than those food items with high glycemic load and index. The fermentation process aids in this beneficial response.

Three jars with various fermented foods in them, including pickles, beet eggs, and sauerkraut

How can you gain the benefits of sourdough bread?

Fermenting at home is simple but does require time and a few essential ingredients. For those who want to reap the benefits without the preparation process, go to your local health food store. You will find a variety of ready to eat or ready to drink fermented foods: sauerkraut, kimchi, beets, onions, yogurt, cottage cheese, chutney, hot sauce, kombucha, kefir and sourdough. Top grade products will be identified as fermented and organic or non-GMO. Avoid pasteurized foods because they will not have the live bacteria which benefit the gut microbiome. However, if you want to save some money and practice the art of cooking, you can easily implement fermentation at home. I think the best place to start is sourdough. Afterall, who doesn’t like a piece of toasted or warm bread with butter or olive oil? This process will also teach you patience and make you grateful for the final product.

A woman's hands massage a dough on a flour-covered cutting board

Making sourdough bread at home

The key to sourdough bread making is allowing the flour and water to work together to produce microbes and ferment. It is this process that provides the sour flavor and light spongy texture of sourdough. Sourdough bread making is a commitment. The starter will take anywhere between 5 to 10 days to prepare. However, once you make the starter, you can continue to use it and grow it for future loaves, rolls, waffles, etc. With the starter on hand, it is always available for a scheduled baking session or impromptu bake off. The starter can live in the kitchen and be perceived as a household pet. Don’t forget to name it! I have tried a variety of recipes and even taken sourdough cooking classes. In honor of February, show your body some love and try sourdough. I think it’s time for you to go on your own sourdough adventure. 



This article was guest-written by:

Emily Luxford, gut health and autoimmune dietitian nutritionist
Emily Luxford, MS, RD, IFNCP, CLT

Emily Luxford is a functional dietitian nutritionist helping patients navigate gut health, diabetes, obesity, malabsorption disorders, and autoimmune diseases, along with complex illnesses such as immune dysfunction syndromes, myofascial pain, depression, vertigo, headaches, and cancer. Learn more about her and her services at


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