Top 10 Reasons to Eat Sourdough Bread

matt-breadJust about everyone has an affinity for some kind of bread, and most of us have heard of a reason or two why we maybe shouldn’t eat slice after slice of it. While there is some validity to the bread-bashing, sourdough made from your own unique starter of wild yeast and bacteria often defies the negativity, and it does so purely by its nature. The crafting of sourdough is an ancient art, and one of which we’re pretty fond–for a few (or 10) reasons.

1. Sourdough often has a lower glycemic index than that of other breads–meaning, it doesn’t spike blood sugar as dramatically. This is because it depletes damaged starches within it, simply by its fermentative nature.

2. Sourdough bread contains the bacteria Lactobacillus in a higher proportion to yeast than do other breads. More Lactobacillus means higher production of lactic acid, which means less of the potentially dangerous phytic acid. And what does that mean? More mineral availability and easier digestion!

3. Easier digestion is made even more possible by the bacteria-yeast combo working to predigest the starches in the grains. Predigestion by sourdough = less digestion for you.

4. Sourdough preparation is more lengthy (soaking, rinsing, etc.), and this longer prep time results in the protein gluten being broken down into amino acids. Again, this translates to easier and more pleasant digestion, sometimes even for those who are sensitive to gluten.

5. Acetic acid–which inhibits the growth of mold, is produced in the making of sourdough. So, sourdough naturally preserves itself. Pretty neat considering the toxic preservatives thrown into the food supply today.

6. The fermentation process increases the content of beneficial bacteria in the bread AND the gut. Healthy gut bacteria = happy body.

7. Additionally, these bacteria control yeast population in the gut, so yeast overgrowth and infection is less likely to occur.

8. The integrity of sourdough is so complex that it contains a host of goodness in terms of nutrients. In sourdough, you can find vitamins B1-B6, B12, folate, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, vitamin E, selenium, iron, manganese, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc and potassium (okay – some of these in fairly tiny amounts)–in addition to uniquely balanced proteins and fatty acids. Whoa! This is in contrast to most commercially produced breads, which maintain only a fraction of their original nutrient content after all the processing they undergo.

9. Sourdough bread made with wild yeast, bacteria, and whole grain flour is the oldest and most original form of leavened bread. It truly is an ancient art that is crafted in harmony with nature. It’s only natural that we eat it as opposed to other breads.

10. Sourdough bread is typically made from wheat.  The  inulin and oligosaccharides contained in human milk, chicory, Jerusalem artichoke, burdock root, asparagus, garlic, onion, leek, banana, wheat, barley and rye (gluten containing grains) are excellent sources of fuel for good bacteria in the gut (aka prebiotics).

Another good reason is the FLAVOR. Tangy and distinctive, it will undoubtedly leave you wanting another bite. What’s your favorite reason to eat sourdough?

78 thoughts on “Top 10 Reasons to Eat Sourdough Bread

  1. I think this is a great post! My only question is regarding #6 and #7. Is there any way to preserve the beneficial bacteria from being destroyed during baking? It is my understanding that they are destroyed at any temperature above 100 degrees, or so?

    1. I recently read a book, The Probiotic Revolution, that is all about probiotic research and in it the author used the term “meta biotic” quite a bit. If I understood it correctly, it sounds to me like even when good bacteria is no longer alive, it still feeds the good bacteria in our gut and thus becomes a meta biotic instead of a probiotic. Hopefully I am remembering that correctly. I believe that fiber is also a prebiotic…? Whole wheat sourdough bread is rich in fiber. Anyway, meta biotics and pro biotics are beneficial in a very similar way. That combined with the enzymes that are present in sourdough bead (which was not talked about in this article as far as I can tell), it is very gut friendly even if the actual live bacteria is cooked to a temperature that it is not longer actively growing.

      1. Thank you Brandy. I have been looking for studies showing the efficacy of heat-killed probiotics. Not just for sourdough but for tempeh.

    2. I believe the purpose of a wood-fired brick oven is to create a crust totally around the loaf. This crust acts to prevent the inside of the loaf from becoming too hot. Thus not all the microbes in the sourdough loaf are killed. The remaining beneficial microbes repopulate over the next few days rendering an even more nutritional loaf of bread. I have made sourdough starters when using a piece of sourdough bread so I do not believe all the microbes are killed in the oven.

    3. The Bread Geek explains what happens in her book, The Art of Natural Yeast. Basically, when the good bacteria feel threatened they put off spores that are dormant during the baking process, but will grow again once in a hospitable environment. Including in your gut.

        1. Cookus, I am trying to find that exact question. Hopefully someone can link us a research paper that shows how much probiotics are still in the bread. It seems like this would be an easy one to study. The spore theory is intriguing. I might have to look into that more.

    1. It depends on what trigger the wheat sensitivity. If it is poor quality white flour, then homemade sourdough bread is quite a different (more tolerable) animal.

    2. Hi Melody – if you’re looking for wheat-free, you might want to give our breads a try sometime. They’re all 100% rye (yes, totally wheat free), sourdough (36 hour fermentation), non-GMO, all natural and handmade. Our breads are imported from Latvia and are available online or at Whole Foods Markets in the metro NYC and Boston areas. – Margita

      1. Thank you Margita. I will look for your bread, as I’ve been looking for a wheat free, non-gmo, sour bread.

    3. I have made a very successful sourdough using einkorn flour. Einkorn is low gluten and I have wheat and gluten intolerance. Since the einkorn sourdough my digestion has improved considerably.

    1. The sourdough helps increase and reinforce our body’s absorption of cereal grains. Particularly good in breaking down the gluten to make it more digestible. The sourdough decreases the acidification from eating bread and spoils less rapidly (I can attest to that – since I make a loaf every week). I am unable to find research about the precise quantity of probiotic that remains in the bread. Anyone else?

      1. I am beginning to research that now. My gut instinct is to say none to very little. The fermentation did its job and the bacteria is killed when cooked. I imagine it will be in conflict as well…since freezing MK is also in question too. Some say freezing kills it others say it survives.

        Wondering if you got any further with this on your end since this is almost a year old?

  2. even if the cells don’t survive the over, i bet making your own sourdough increases the healthy flora of the baker’s gut since they are working with live bacteria. ;)

  3. Yes, Karre! I agree.

    Shel and Anna- 100 degrees F is the generally accepted cut-off temp for bacteria to remain alive. So, I am not sure the exact probiotic content that may remain post-baking. I think the big thing with this type of homemade sourdough is that the fermentation process allows the good bacteria to thrive and destroy the bad stuff while additionally preventing yeast overgrowth. I am inclined to say that this promotes better gut health even with the heat consideration. Again, though, I’m not sure how much remains alive through the baking process.

  4. Did you ever make a video on how to make this bread? I have tried and tried and failed. I am thinking of getting a bread machine can you or anyone recommend one? I have been looking at a Oster….

    1. Buy a cup of “organic” flour. Add half a cup of warm water. Keep this in a glass jar. Let it stand on your counter for a few days. You will see bubbling. Add more flour and water (two parts flour, one part water). You now have a sourdough starter. Don’t try this with supermarket flour. You can now use supermarket flour to feed your starter but you will never make a starter with it.

      1. Starter is not hard if you start with the right ingredients and do it right. As Walt said, use organic flour, but also remember to use bottled or filtered water. The clorine in our tap water will inhibit the growth of the good yeast and bacteria. I was able to make a very active starter first try with organic whole wheat flower from Hodson mills (but probably works with any organic brand), you can buy at Wallmart for like $2.95 for the small bag. I have read Rye works even better than whole wheat. I didn’t have access to Rye at the time though. Only start it with whole wheat/Rye though, better to feed with All Purpose unbleached white. Whole wheat has the husks in it, which has natural yeast on it already, but also has more of the stuff that encourages bacterial growth, including the bad stuff, while the good yeast tends to prefer the white part of the flower as food. Remember to discard half the starter in weight, and add back the discarded half as food (half water, half flower) every 8 hours or so until your starter doubles in height and is very bubbly when time to feed again. by that time you can refrigerate and feed only once a week or so, keeping up with the discard half, add back half as food rutine. its best to measure by weight, as you get more consistent results.

        The recipe I used was to start off with 4 oz wheat flower and 4 oz water. leave 24 hours, then discard 4 oz. add 2 oz flour, and 2 oz water. Ferment 8 hours, discard 4 oz. add back 2 oz flour, and 2 oz water, ferment 8 hours, discard 4 oz. Keep this up for about a week and then your starter should be sufficiently aged and bubbly to use in baking. To use the starter, what I do is when its time to feed, instead of discarding the 4oz, i transfer to another container. feed my original starter, and place back in fridge where it will stay for about a week more until time to feed again. in the “discard” starter container, I add 2oz water and 2oz flour same as normal, and leave out on counter to ferment for 8 hours. then instead of discarding half as usuall, i double whats already in there. right now we have 8 oz starter. so I will add 4 oz water and 4 oz starter. this will give me 16 oz when time to feed again. I repeat this until i have enough starter for my recipe and then use it in recipe about 4-6 hours after I last fed it, when it is most active.

        These times seem to work for my house which is usually at around 79 degrees in the summer. the time would need to be adjusted depending on the temerature, humidity, etc in your area. Go by visual more than time. when starter has doubled and then starts to go back down is when it is time to feed.

    2. Forget the bread machine… Making bread is easy…it just needs time. Since I was using the recipe commercially and needed consistency, we added a small amount of yeast to kick start the sourdough. Also, please note that it is important to refresh the starter once a week or it loses potency. Assuming you have starter( the Mother in my recipe) from below, here is a foolproof recipe:
      Daughter Ingredients
      Mother 9
      Water 18
      Unbleached or whole wheat flour 56
      1. Mix ingredients and let rest for an hour or more. Use for starter.

      Starter Ingredients
      Unbleached or whole wheat flour 164
      Daughter starter 105 ( the entire amount)
      Water 102

      1. Mix starter ingredients in large bowl or bin. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
      Dough Ingredients Grams
      Unbleached Flour 508
      Starter 306 ( the entire amount)
      Lukewarm Water 286
      Instant yeast 5
      salt 13

      2. Mix starter with water and yeast until water turns milky and starter is distributed throughout.
      3. Add remaining ingredients and mix.
      4. Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface and knead for a minute or so until dough is soft supple and tacky but not sticky. Let dough rest for 5 minutes. Stretch and fold dough and then flip it over and tuck into a ball. Let dough rest 10 minutes and do stretch, fold and flip again.
      5. Refrigerate dough overnight in covered container.
      6. Before baking, let dough rise at room temperature for about 45 minutes.
      7. Shape dough, slash and place on greased sheet or in greased pan. Let rise until just over lip of pan. Alternatively, bake in Dutch oven with cover on and cornmeal in bottom of pan.
      8. Preheat oven to 400◦ and bake. Mist with spritzer in first few minutes of baking. Bake 10 minutes then rotate pan and continue baking for 10 minutes until loaf is light brown and internal temperature is 200◦ (90◦) in center.

      All measurements are in grams because it is easier to make a consistent product.

    3. Don’t get me wrong, I love making bread by hand. But as for bread machines, you can’t argue with 15 minutes prep and fresh, delicious bread 3-4 hours later! With a delay timer! This changed my bread from being a special occasion, when I had time, to being an every day event and no more store bread. I use an Oster, it was a gift that just keeps on giving! I also use my own starter, not the recipe in the Oster book. Equal parts by weight organic rye flour and spring water. Even filtered tap water killed my starter :( The starter is so strong I have to keep it in the fridge except when feeding from the second day of its life. It is disappointing that for the machine you still need to use store bought yeast, because of the timing, but I think my sour is very strong … actually I have had trouble with it trying to break out of the machine, so I think I will cut down on the store bought yeast. Definitely the bread is still sour, and it is so delicious, I can’t go back! Using rye flour or white flour to make more ‘starter’ before adding the ingredients to the machine seems equally delicious. I use brown sugar instead of white when making a more rye-ish bread. For special occasions of course by-hand will always be special, and for those who just have the time or can make the time. For me, the bread machine has been life changing and has allowed me to make sourdough part of our everyday lives. So happy!

      1. Hi Jess. Have you tried setting your machine on ‘dough’, shaping it in a pan, proofing it, then baking it in your oven? I’ve been doing that for years and I make an excellent 2/3 whole wheat+. Thanks for prompting me to use a sourdough starter in my machine!


  5. Ohhhhhh- donation. Will do – can I buy the bread making DVD if I donate 25? Bargaining for bread success – or does it have to be at the level mentioned.

  6. I’ve just started my very first sourdough starter. I am no expert but have been reading up on this. One thing for sure is that there is much to be learned about many different types of bread, flours, grains and methods. I shall always be at the learning stage because there is always more to learn. I have been baking bread for a little while now starting with wholegrain wheat, advancing onto other more ancient grains such as Spelt, Einkorn and Khorasan. Now I’m venturing into sourdough territory. From my limited knowledge I think the bacteria would all be killed off in the baking of the bread however you still benefit when it comes to ‘gut’ health because the bread is easier to digest due to the bacteria having ‘started’ the process and there are more available nutrients. Food intolerances causes inflammation and inflammation causes disease. Obviously with food it starts in the stomach. Eat good food and, in this case, a better bread will create a better environment in your gut and a better environment = a healthier balance of good bacteria. Is it right to say that it would be more of a prebiotic as supposed to a probiotic? I would think so in a round about way. But what we can all agree on is, its healthier and delicious. Well my Spelt sourdough starter is up to day 2 and can’t wait to try it out. One can use any type if flour just make sure it has good gluten and it isn’t bleached.

  7. I live in the Dallas area. I have a pretty old sour dough starter that I made from scratch 15 years ago. It is a wee bit temperamental. I only use it every couple of weeks and I refrigerate it the rest of the time. It does need refreshing for 2 days prior to my planned baking day. If not, the flour becomes very slack and almost wall paper texture. It appears as if the sourdough is very greedy and hungers for the proteins in the wheat.
    Also I can’t make a big batch and freeze it. Again the greedy sourdough gobbles up the goodness and leaves me with wallpaper paste. So I bake all I make the day I make it – and freeze the bread after it is made.
    Also when I make a large batch of dough, refrigerate it and then tear pieces off for baking each day, the sourdough starter again is greedy. So I save the sourdough starter for the days when I plan to bake just one loaf and to have no leftover dough for future bakes.

    1. Maybe. I think the jury is still out. Read Michael Pollan’s information on sourdough in his new book Cooked.

  8. All I know, I’ve been reading up on sourdough bread, and have since started a sourdough starter…….there are no additives or chemicals, sugar, salt, high fructose corn syrup…… to be better for me…plus the taste is phenomenol!!

  9. I have a question………I have my starter ready, How much starter do you need to make a loaf of sourdough bread?

  10. A great book to learn how to make sourdough bread is Tartine Bread. It gives you step by step with pictures from how to make your starter to making sourdough bread and other recipes.
    I have been using this book for a few years now and have now started making sprouted grain sourdough bread. You can also use sourdough in other recipes such as pancakes, cakes and muffins.

  11. Well, this is very good news, after nearly all foods i ate as a boy are “Dangerous” now.
    I lived for 9+ years in San Francisco…and Glorious Sour Dough was everywhere. It is a very fine bread…we live much farther east now…but still eat San Francisco Sour Dough every week of more. Thank Heaven…A true miracle !! Folks who are “No Breads” people….Stop that, eat some sour dough ! You’ll love it!!

  12. Cynthia, would you mind if I shared your Top 10 reasons on my FB page, website and included in my marketing materials? You’ve managed to lay it all out in a very understandable, ‘user-friendly’ way. Margita

    PS – if you haven’t heard of us yet or tried our breads, I’d love to send some your way.

  13. Dear all, in an italian recipe book for bread from which I made my sourdough starter and bread, it says that if the loaf is over 1 kg in weight some of the bacteria manage to survive the baking in the middle of the loaf (in italian its called the pulcino). It then spreads again throughout the loaf when the bread is taken out of the oven. the book suggests you wait a day before eating the bread to give time for the bacteria to grow again.

  14. Many of the yeasts and bacterias to which you refer will die in the oven when the bread is baked. Yeast will die at around 50 degrees and most bacteria dies at 70 degrees. The internal temp of bread when it is baked is 90 degrees. How can things that are dead (you know what I mean) be helpful to me? I understand the predigestion, breakdown of gluten, natural preservation, etc but once the “live” “good for me” bacterias are dead, they cannot possibly be helping me. In yoghurt where they are live when I eat them, fine, but in bread when they are dead? help?

    1. Another subscriber led me to a study showing that heat-exposed bacteria do have beneficial properties. Seems counter intuitive but there so much we don’t understand yet about this internal universe of bacteria.

    2. have a look here

      it explains ( warning; VERY scientific! ) that even heat killed lactobacilli are an anti-inflamatory food that will help to heal your gut.
      Also many of the byproducts (enzymes, organic acids, vitamins ) from the sourdough culture are really good for you.
      Real sourdough bread is the staff of life; commercial yeasted breads are just toxic, even when they are organic!

  15. Thank you cookus for this fantastic post. We make all of our breads the traditional way, using starters and a long fermentation process for these reasons. Much better for you! Cheers!

  16. Does anyone have written instructions on how to make and maintain sprouted brown rice starter using kefir (and not natural yeast from the air)?

    Also instructions on how to use this starter to make sourdough bread using sprouted brown rice?


  17. Probiotics are not necessarily live bacteria. , think bromelain and papain.
    I think lactic acid and acetic acid. also have probiotic activity.

    The real work of sourdough is the predigestion and conversions done on the gluten.

  18. In 1934 my mother was given some starter dough which had come from the Klondike Gold Rush. We kept it alive for many years to make sourdough bread . It is so good to find it at progressive markets. I use it daily and at 93 give it some of the credit for my excellent health. David

    1. When I read your comment, I literally clapped outloud. and said wowww.

      In my very very italian family we eat nothing but bread and pasta all the time. At 26 I now have health issues due to being fed a bunch of antibiotics. But I was told I must change my diet and bread was the first to go… :( However now that see sourdough might be ok to eat I am thrilled. I’m hoping to learn how to make it, I have just been given a free starter set , and give some to my Nonna. She is 88.

  19. While I love sourdough bread and agree that it has many health benefits (, I don’t agree with all of your benefits.
    6. There aren’t any live Lactobacillus in baked sourdough bread. In the starter/culture, yes. But not in the bread. It’s questionable if there is any benefit to eating good, dead bacteria.
    8. I don’t know exactly what nutrients sourdough bread does provide (it probably depends upon the flour used), but it doesn’t contain B12.

    Question: is the acetic acid only supposed to prevent mold growth? Mine never gets moldy but it seems to dry out quickly. Does that happen to you?

    P.S. I love the taste, too!

    1. 6. we don’t know yet whether the bacteria die. Depends on “who” is in the bread. What the bacteria do to the dough if it is allowed to ferment is remarkable however. Makes the bread more nutritious.
      8. Who said it has B12? Not me. But I do like butter on my bread!
      My bread seems to resist mold well. It drys out some but it gets eaten quickly in our house. We divide the fresh baked bread into quarters. Leave one quarter out and wrap the remainders tightly and refrigerate. Can last quite awhile that. way.

  20. Great article! Regarding the effect on gut bacteria, I have no doubt eating sourdough results in healthier gut flora, if only through greatly improved nutrition. Bottom line: sourdough is good for you! If you will allow a plug, anyone that would like step by step instructions and recipes for sourdough baking should visit my blog at

    1. I have not tried to make sourdough bread with a gluten free flour. I believe it is possible but the texture might be quite different.

  21. the Sourdough is wonderful. the Sourdough makes the breads whole grains be spongy breads at low temperatures. This effect did not occur with any commercial yeast. I’m finding out if provides vitamin B12. I would not be strange that contains B12, because B12 is produced only by bacteria.
    la “masa madre” es maravillosa. la “masa madre” hace que los panes de granos integrales sean panes esponjosos a bajas temperaturas. Este efecto no ocurrió con ninguna levadura comercial. Estoy averiguando si proporciona vitamina B12. No me extrañaría que contenga vitamina B12, ya que la B12 sólo se produce por bacterias.

  22. I have been making sourdough and baking for a longer period in the oven at less than 100 degrees. Comes out perfect except you don’t have a brown crust. You have to do the stab test with a knife to check when it is cooked. Normally just over 1 hour. Happy Baking. Has any one tried the slow cooker.

  23. I think this is a great article. However, I am not a great fan of doing something just because it is ‘natural’ as mentioned in point 9. I find the term ‘natural’ to be devoid of all meaning. Indeed most biological processes (including using dried yeast) could be termed ‘natural’. If you mean ‘natural’ as opposed to artificial, well ‘artificial’ just means using some form of artifice: man made as opposed to produced by our environment. The last time I checked grain did not grind itself nor pour water on itself and lie around for 12 hours until it had risen.

  24. Not to be “nit-picky”, but, the article DOES state that one of the vitamins present in sourdough is vitamin B12. So, now I’m left to wonder if it does or if it doesn’t??

  25. My digestion seems to be an anomaly! I’m mildly wheat intolerant (ie I can eat small amounts without getting sick, but not huge amounts), and my husband gets very bloated after eating normal bread, so sourdough sounded like a great idea. I made my first loaf (from a commercial rye starter) and was blown away by the flavour & texture – and then my stomach was quite literally blown away too!!! I looked about 7 months pregnant, my stomach was gurgling and bubbling, I got acid reflux (I get that occasionally with acidic foods). I only had one tiny piece, and it took 24 hrs for my digestion to calm down. My husband, on the other hand, ate nearly half the loaf and had no issues at all. So, what is with me?! Normal bread doesn’t bloat me, but sourdough does? I have the same reaction to cultured butter (but not to yoghurt?). I am absurdly disappointed, the sourdough tastes so much better, and I’ve read so many good things about it……

    1. you probably suffer from yeast overgrowth like candida albicans.

      Google the “candida spit test” and do it at home to check yourself

  26. Great post! I am curious if anyone has found scientific studies on: measured live probiotic content in baked sourdough bread, and measured scientific study on B12 content? Those are fascinating to me. So far I have not been able to find any studies on measured probiotics in baked sourdough, only on the starter. I am seeing a few people on the inter-webs say that sourdough bread is a good source of probiotics but they have not backed up the claim, and because it doesn’t make sense because of heat baking, I am curious. The spore theory is intriguing, but I would really like to see research backing it.

  27. A lot of interesting comment about making sourdough bread. I would like to know how much salt is used in making sourdough bread and if salt is removed would that be a problem. I have Menieres’ Disease and need to exclude salt from my diet.

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