Bread and Digestibility

Bread is made with flour, water and salt, and another important ingredient: time. Typically bakers choose between bakers’ yeast and sourdough to raise their dough. New research shows that this choice may impact more than taste only. The extra time taken to make the sourdough and bread can even bring additional health benefits.

Researching Digestibility

First up, what makes sourdough different from regular bakers yeast? Sourdough is a natural leavening ingredient made from flour and water. In sourdoughs, a culture of natural yeasts and lactic bacteria thrive. The presence of these living microorganisms during the fermentation of the dough positively impacts the flavour complexity and the texture of the bread. They convert the carbohydrates and proteins in the flour into lactic acid,  acetic acid, and CO2, or in simpler terms: they convert the carbohydrates and proteins in the flour into taste and volume.

New research indicated that sourdough fermented bread can even be easier to digest too, and that this is due to the longer fermentation process. (1)  In principal, our body needs hours to digest flour; following sourdough fermentation the sourdough bread has already started a part of this digestive process. This causes more vitamins, minerals and amino acids to be released and helps new flavours to develop. Furthermore, the research demonstrated that sourdough bread gives your body quicker satiety feeling (1).

Our Sourdough Librarian Karl De Smedt met up with sourdough-expert Professor Marco Gobbetti to learn more about the benefits of sourdough. Prof. Gobbetti compared the digestibility of three breads; one with just bakers yeast, one with both sourdough & bakers yeast, and a third with just sourdough. The conclusion? “Sourdough fermented breads are more digestible than those started with baker’s yeast alone.”  Gobbetti goes on to explain, “We demonstrated in a unique way, by examining the emission of gas during digestion, the transit of the bread in our intestinal track, and the absorption of nutrients, like free amino acids, that the sourdough bread was more digestible then all the other types of bread.”

  • In Gobbetti’s study the sourdough fermented breads had a lower ‘GI-index’: A low GI-index food means it releases its energy more progressively over a longer period of time and requires less insulin. In other words: our body needs more time to absorb slow sugars, meaning we don’t feel hungry again as quickly. (1).
  • Interestingly, even though people feel “full” for a longer time, sourdough bread doesn’t occupy the digestive system for a long time and therefore does not make the digestion process a long and laborious affair. (1).
  • The sourdough breads in the experiment delivered a higher ‘Free Amino Acids’ content, for a longer period of time than regular breads. Free-form AAs are single amino acids, which need no digestion. They are, in essence, pre-digested and ready to form the enzymes needed for optimal food digestion and the development of proteins. (1).

It is clear that science is helping us to better understand the benefits of natural fermentation. The benefits of long fermentation and sourdough on health will gain better understanding, and consequently gain traction. Following Puratos’ Health & Well-Being commitment to “provide consumers with outstanding products that help them enjoy a healthy diet and fulfil their well-being needs” we started developing a product range that supports the digestive health of the final consumer. We have called this new product range the “Happy Gut” range and expect all bakery products that become part of this portfolio to contain gut health promoting compounds (fiber for example), which support consumers’ gut health status.