Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Discovery: Naturally Leavened Bread

Soaked grain bread. Mixed grain bread. Sprouted wheat bread. Sourdough bread. Stone ground wheat bread. Cracked wheat bread ...

What kind of bread should I be making?
Which type will be most nourishing?
Which type will be one my family will eat?
What kind of bread did people make thousands of years ago?

These are the kind of questions that have run through my mind time and time again.

Gradually, bit by bit, to those questions, I have come to one answer: Naturally Unleavened Bread (aka Sourdough).

There's a trend that's taking place ... people seem to be catching on quite well to the health benefits of probiotic rich foods. Yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, beet kvass, and kombucha. But have they realized that the wonderful process of lacto fermentation can take place in bread - the very food that makes up a large portion of their diet?

Naturally leavened bread uses a fermented mix of flour and water inhabited by "wild" yeasts (which thrive on the surface of all grains, fruits, vegetables, is in the air and soil) and naturally occurring good bacteria (rod-shaped bacteria called Lactobacillus that convert simple sugars into lactic and other acids) which leaven and flavor the bread dough.

(Sourdough bread doesn't have to taste sour though - unless you purposefully make it so.)

The health benefits of naturally leavened bread are astounding!

This blog entry will continue in 5 sections:

1. Quotes and theories about the benefits of Sourdough bread.
2. Excerpts derived from articles on Sourdough bread.
3. Studies on Sourdough bread.
4. Some thoughts.
5. Overview of the Benefits of Naturally Leavened Bread

Quotes about the benefits of Sourdough:

Basic Popular Theory:

Sourdough bread prep. improves nutrition by:

- pre-digesting starches, making the bread more digestible
- lowering insulin response / improving glucose tolerance
- protecting Vitamin B1 from the damage of baking
- breaking down gluten
- activating phytase to dissolve the phytates, thus freeing up important minerals for absorption[1]

Excerpts from Nourishing Traditions are as follows:

"There are numerous practical advantages to using brewer's yeast (aka baker's yeast, SAF yeast, instant yeast, ect.): the fermentation is more regular, more rapid and the bread rises better. But the fermentation and the acidification is greatly lessened. The bread is less digestible, less tasty and spoils more easily." ~ Claude Aubert, Les Aliments Ferment├ęs Traditionnels

"Baking with natural leaven (sourdough) is in harmony with nature and maintains the integrity and nutrition of the cereal grains used ... The process helps to increase and reinforce our body's absorption of the cereal's nutrients. Unlike yeasted bread that diminishes, even destroys, much of the grain's nutritional value, naturally leavened bread does not stale and, as it ages, maintains its original moisture much longer.

A lot of that information was known pragmatically for centuries; and thus when yeast was first introduced in France at the court of Louis XIV in March 1668, because at that time the scientists already knew that the use of yeast would imperil the people's health, it was strongly rejected. Today, yeast is used almost universally, without any testing; and the recent scientific evidence and clinical findings are confirming the ancient taboos with biochemical and bioelectronic valid proofs that wholly support that age-old common sense decision." ~ Jacques DeLangre

Although I enjoyed and agreed with the quotes from Sally's book I hungered for more information and ran across the material given in the next two sections.

Article excerpts

Sourdough bread enhances the entire immune system. [2]

Fast-made bread is one of the most destructive implementations into the modern diet ... Poorly prepared and poorly-digested wheat is the chief contributor to the current plague of "gluten-intolerance," obesity, diabetes, Candida diseases and many allergenic conditions all of which contribute to the conditions that cause cancer ... Only when wheat is properly fermented is it healthy for human consumption.[2]

The beneficial bacteria found in sourdough bread help control candida albicans, whereas baker's yeast is a pro-candida organism.[2]

It's the fermentation, partly from lactobacillus, that makes eating good quality bread an aid to digestion of all complex carbohydrate foods including other grains, beans, and vegetables. It helps restore the functioning of the digestive tract, resulting in proper assimilation and elimination. [2]

Naturally leavened bread ... helps in the recovery of digestion and proper elimination by the effective action of friendly bacteria.[2]

The creation of sourdough utilizes carbohydrates, lowering the carbohydrate level in the dough as it's transformed to the lactic acid. The result of this process means that sourdough bread can aid in ensuring that your blood glucose level remains in line, helping to guard against various diseases especially diabetes. [2]

Sourdough bread increases in nutritional value for days. [2]

Malnutrition, due to undigested gluten (from fast-breads) is one of the major factors that lead to disease.[2]

The sourdough process makes starches more digestible by predigesting them, and it lowers insulin resistance while increasing glucose intolerance. [3]

Sourdough bread is claimed to have a better digestibility than yeast-fermented and non-fermented
breads. [4]

Studies on sourdough bread

Sourdough bread contains anti-fungal properties. [5] & [6]

Traditional way of sourdough fermentation reduces toxicity of gluten in wheat flour. It opens up the possibility of a new therapeutic diet for (celiac) patients. [7]

Prof. Terry Graham studies four types of breads to determine which had the most positive health effects when it comes to carbohydrate metabolism, blood sugar and insulin levels - finding that sourdough bread was the most beneficial. [8]

Fermentation of the sourdough changes the nature of the starches in the bread, creating a more beneficial bread. [9]

Study performed on rats using whole wheat flour, yeast bread, and sourdough bread concludes that sourdough bread is a better source of available minerals, especially magnesium, iron, and zinc. [10]

Sourdough leavening technique is able to improve glucose response in healthy subjects. [11]

A bread biotechnology that uses selected lactobacilli, nontoxic flours, and a long fermentation time is a novel tool for decreasing the level of gluten intolerance in humans. [12]

Sourdough bread has a relatively mild effect on blood sugar compared to other white breads. [13]

Some Thoughts

The two saddest changes ever incorporated into the bread making process were (A) white flour and (B) the invention and use of baker's yeast. It's a big thing to say. But after all the researching and experimenting and experiencing I've done - coming to this conclusion is no biggy for me and it leaves me feeling peaceful and satisfied ... just about the same way I feel after eating my lovely naturally leavened bread. :)

My admiration for and gratitude to Heavenly Father has increased as I make my sourdough bread. It amazes me that that He provided a way for us to make bread, in the proper way, using the method he provided us to do so. Every time my starter gets going and my bread has been made I am enraptured in awe ... I'm sure this effect will dwindle away over time but for now, I'll revel in that awe.

I love this baking principle by Jacques de Langre:

"In baking as in all natural processes, the laws of life must be respected; it is vital for the fermented bread to retain the dynamic character that originally develops within the wheat berry as it evolves toward its germination. Just as the breathing cycle consists of an oxidation, followed by a reduction, the same cycle is reproduced in the five day cycle of the germination of wheat. Natural leavened bread (seeded with wild yeast or natural leaven) also duplicates this cycle: The rising of the dough corresponds to an oxidation (like wheat germ growth), followed by a reduction (during the baking of the loaf) identical to the development of the miniature sprout of wheat. We readily see that of the two methods available for leavening bread, only natural leaven faithfully follows God's laws of the universe."

Sourdough bread is the bread we should be eating because:

It helps maintain healthy food absorption.
It keeps blood sugar levels where they need to be.
It boosts our immune system.
The gluten within it has been broken down - helps prevent gut-related illnesses.
It contains healthy bacteria.
It helps in the prevention of diabetes.
Its process breaks down phytates - allowing for better mineral absorption.
It helps control Candida.
It helps recover poor digestion.
It increases in nutritional value over a period of days.
It contains anti-fungal properties.
It decreases gluten intolerance.
It has the better digestibility than other breads.
It aids in the digestion of other high-carbohydrate foods.
It is the most beneficial bread option for overall good health.
It is in harmony with nature!

Recipes coming next!


  1. I agree with you 100%. I make sourdough bread only now. It has taken a little while for my family to get used to it, but I know it is healthier. Plus I know that I am the one that made the starter and I know what's in it. Thank you for sharing!

  2. It does take some getting used to. But I find that the bread is more flavorful and the process is more exciting - hopefully that will help others to have a smooth adjustment as well. Thanks for the comment.