The recent demonization of gluten led many people to believe they are intolerant to gluten, while they actually aren’t. However, those who find it hard to digest common bread made with commercial yeast can opt for an alternative that is flavor-rich and easier for your digestive tract to process: that is the sourdough bread people have been doing for millennia.
Image Credit: bbc.com
Gluten sensitivity has recently become a disease feared by many people, and in most cases it is “diagnosed” by the patient himself. The trend of avoiding gluten is not based on scientific evidence: while most people are not intolerant to the demonized protein, they rush to buy gluten-free this and that as soon as they hear it can be dangerous to some.
A major contributor to the global illusion is the companies that promote gluten-free products (to make money, of course) and make people believe it is a healthier option worth buying. Nowadays, you can even buy gluten-free shampoos and gluten-free coffee. Impressive stuff.
Nothing new under the sun
Baker’s yeast started to gain popularity in the 60s. Before it was introduced in commercial bakery, the gluten issue did not spring up or at least was rare. Now that everyone is bombarded with ads of gluten-free products, the protein’s reputation is tarnished.
There are two kinds of gluten sensitivity: celiac and non-celiac. Those with the celiac version have no option but to avoid gluten in any form. Patients suffering from the non-celiac version usually have milder symptoms and can enjoy bread using an alternative.
The alternative is the sourdough bread: not the one sold at supermarkets and called so because of the sour flavoring, but the real sourdough bread that humans have been baking since the very beginning.
The wild yeast which sourdough bread gathers from the environment is different from the one used in commercial bread. The sourdough starter boasts a large number of enzymes, lactobacillus, and bacteria. This combination works together to make the substance easier to digest. As a bonus, the enzymes present in it make the otherwise indigestible minerals available for absorption. The yeast in the starter is responsible for making bread spongy, as they release CO2.
The thing is, the fermentation processes that occur in the starter result in the breaking down of gluten. The longer the process, the better it is for those with non-celiac sensitivity. The key to this transformation is hydrolysis: the difficult-to-process protein is transformed into amino acids.
It remains unknown why some people cannot digest gluten, but one of the studies related to the issue suggest it could have something to do with fructan. The substance is not bread-specific, as it is found in other foods too (like bananas, for instance), and many patients with gluten sensitivity have their symptoms reduced by avoiding fructan-containing products. In sourdough bread, fructan is destroyed in the course of fermentation.
Substituting common bread with its sourdough version can be a healthier option for many people, and it could be thrilling to bake your own bread, since feeding the starter is a quest by itself. You will have to grow and feed it yourself for a week or so – the process is not difficult, but the result is usually magnificent.
Sourdough bread has a distinctive flavor, and the very fact that it has been baked for millennia makes it especially good.