Can bread be healthy?

It’s Real Bread Week from 20-28 February – highlighting the traditional practices of breadmaking and the fact that bread can be a healthy staple food choice when made in the right way, using the best ingredients.

Much of the bread sold today is mass produced and includes lots of unnecessary ingredients, including genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and ‘E’ numbers, but this was not the way that bread was made historically – using traditional ‘hand’ manufacturing techniques and a few simple ingredients.

Sourdough bread in particular is known to have gut health benefits, as it involves long slow fermentation using a starter that contains both wild yeast and lactic acid bacteria, which:

  • is a slow process that increases nutrient availability 
  • increases acidity, which helps to support digestive enzyme production and digestion in general
  • changes the way the sugars (carbohydrates) in the bread are formed, increasing resistant starch content, which is slower to digest and slows down the blood sugar response

In addition, many sourdough bread recipes contain high fibre flour, have no preservatives or emulsifiers and retain the phytonutrients (micronutrients known as polyphenols) in the cereal grains.

Making your own sourdough bread is the best way to ensure all these benefits, but can be a tricky process the first time you try it and will take time to get it right – alternatively, you can buy your sourdough bread from a specialist baker, but there is nothing to beat home-made.

You will need a sourdough starter (which you can make yourself or get from a friend or store that already bakes sourdough), strong bread flour of your choosing, salt and water.

You will also need time and patience – it takes 2-3 days to get to the finished loaf, but is definitely worth it.

Here are links to two useful and user friendly recipes and methods to help get you started:

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