Gretchen Lidicker is a writer, researcher, and the author of the books CBD Oil Everyday Secrets and Magnesium Everyday Secrets. She has a degree in biology and a masters in physiology with a concentration in complementary and integrative medicine. She's been featured in the New York Times, Marie Claire, Forbes, and Travel & Leisure.
I’ve always had an interesting relationship with carbs. I’ve tried cutting them out completely — which left me cranky, weak, and tired — and I’ve tried going gluten-free in favor of carbs like oats and rice, which didn’t seem to do anything at all. On the flip side, when I eat too many carbs, I feel sleepy, bloated, and generally no-so-well.
I’ve been experimenting with the right balance of carbs for years and finally, I’ve found the perfect balance. Eating a high-protein breakfast (such as a couple of hard-boiled eggs and a handful of almonds) followed by a lunch that incorporates some type of healthy carbs (like sweet potato or quinoa), and then a low-carb dinner seems to be the perfect combination of macronutrients for me.
This is good news for my energy levels and digestion, but it also means I miss out on a lot of delicious breakfast foods; mainly, scrambled eggs and toast, which is one of my all-time favorite meals.
But when I move to Australia for three months this year I said **** it and ate all the eggs on toast I wanted. And I didn’t do it halfway, either. I ate scrambled eggs with a big, thick piece of sourdough toast and either a slice of avocado or a few pieces of smoked salmon every morning for months.
And guess what? I felt great. Looking back, I give sourdough bread a lot of credit for this. It’s got health benefits above and beyond those of normal bread. Now of course, sourdough is found everywhere, not just in Australia, but that’s where I was introduced to it. Let’s go a little deeper to understand what it is that makes this bread different.
Why Sourdough is Healthier than Other Types of Bread
If you love bread, get excited, because sourdough bread is the reason why it’s incorrect to label all bread as “unhealthy.” True sourdough begins with a starter — think of this as the base from which the bread is made. A sourdough is starter is fermented and contains both yeast and a bacterium called Lactobacillus. As the starter ferments, more healthy bacteria colonize the dough until it’s essentially a probiotic-rich food.
If you’ve ever tried fermented sourdough bread, this won’t come as a huge surprise since it has that famously tangy flavor that’s also characteristic of Greek yogurt, kefir, and other bacteria-heavy foods. Due to this, studies have shown that consuming sourdough has a beneficial effect on the gut microbiome.
These bacteria are part of what makes sourdough bread one of the healthiest (and enjoyable!) carb choices for me and may, at least in part, explain why there’s wasn’t even a hiccup in my digestion when I started eating sourdough daily.
Sourdough bread and blood sugar: What you need to know
Experts also suggest that the prebiotics and probiotics in sourdough help degrade the gluten, which makes it easier to digest for those sensitive to the gluten protein. As the authors of a study published in Food Microbiology in 2009 wrote: “The changes…leading to improved nutritional quality are numerous. They include acid production, suggested to retard starch digestibility, and to adjust pH to a range which favors the action of certain endogenous enzymes, thus changing the bioavailability pattern of minerals and phytochemicals.” In other words, it makes the nutrients in the bread more easily available to your body.
Sourdough also has a lower glycemic index than other bread, which is why I suspect I was able to eat it for months on end with no consequences when it comes to my energy levels. Studies have shown that sourdough bread is associated with improved glucose balance. That’s because sourdough bread has a lower glycemic index, which means eating it doesn’t create a spike in blood sugar like other types of carbs and sugar. Additional studies have shown that sourdough can release antioxidants during fermentation, which just piles other health benefits on top.
As you can see, there are more reasons than one to opt for sourdough bread over your favorite rye, honey wheat, or brioche. I learned a lot about healthy living in my months in Oz, but personally, consistently choosing sourdough is the one thing I’m doing differently on the regular.