Sourdough vs Whole Wheat Bread – Which Is Healthiest?

It’s undeniable for decades that whole wheat bread is the healthiest bread available. But now there is a new top on the list — and it came 3rd spot in Google’s global trending recipe searches in 2020. I’m talking about none other than… Sourdough bread! Well, it’s not really new, it’s an old favourite that’s soured in popularity. Many people believe that in a sourdough vs whole wheat competition, sourdough is much tastier and better for you.

So, are these two bread types comparable? Is sourdough healthier than whole wheat? And are there any better options available?

Sourdough bread is much better for us than conventional bread. It has a low Glycemic Index, increased nutritional value, and better digestibility. Whole wheat bread, on the other hand, has more health benefits. It has higher fibre content, lower-calorie count, and is packed full of nutrients.

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So I’m curious to know if whole wheat bread is that much healthier for my body, that’s why I’ve conducted some research and I’m eager to share it with you. Below are the nutritional benefits each bread has to offer and a comparison between them. I also included a quick guide that will help you choose which one is better for you for dietary needs.

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Is sourdough bread healthy?

Sourdough bread has a similar nutritional profile to other types of bread. But it has a few unique properties that make it more nutritious.

1)  It has a lower Glycemic Index than conventional bread

We all know that making sourdough bread requires a very long fermentation process. This method reduces the amount of starch and sugar in the bread, which is why sourdough bread has a lower Glycemic Index.

Sourdough bread has a GI of 53 — making it a low-glycemic-index food. Lower GI food means it will make you feel full for longer and help you maintain a steady blood sugar level. Later on, we will see its comparison with wholemeal bread.

2) Increased mineral absorption

The extended fermentation process of sourdough allows us to absorb nutrients better. Minerals like copper, iron, magnesium, and zinc are absorbed easily when eating sourdough. There is also a high level of antioxidants that straight-dough loaves of bread do not have. This is due to the presence of lactic acid in sourdough.

 3) There is more resistant starch

Resistant starch is a fibre that has been recently discovered to be beneficial to our health. It can help us with many health factors such as:

  • Improved insulin sensitivity
  • Lower blood sugar levels
  • Reduced appetite

Sourdough’s fermentation process increases the resistant starch content of bread by about 6%. But sadly, this is far from the amount that whole wheat bread can provide.

4)  Probiotics make it easier to digest

Sourdough bread contains probiotics which are non-digestible fibres. This is a type of fibre that feeds the good bacteria in our gut. And of course, having a healthy gut means a healthy body! The presence of probiotics also makes sourdough bread easier for the body to digest.

Why is wholemeal bread good for you?

Now, let’s look at wholemeal’s overall benefits. Let’s also find out why it’s the healthiest bread for most people.

 1) It has a higher fibre content

Wholemeal bread has significantly more fibre than regular bread. This is because it contains the bran component of wheat, which is the primary source of fibre.

Fibre is beneficial to our health as it can keep us feeling full for longer and help improve our blood sugar level. A single slice of wholemeal bread provides around 2g of fibre.

 2) It has a lower Glycemic Index than regular bread

If you want to keep your sugar level stable, wholemeal bread is a better option than regular bread. Wholemeal bread contains a GI of around 50, while regular white bread can have a GI of 70 or higher.

3)  It is rich in B Vitamins

Along with fibre, wholemeal bread is rich in a variety of B vitamins that are essential in our body. These include:

  •  Vitamin B1 (Thiamin) enables our body to use carbohydrates as energy
  • Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) helps break down proteins, fats, carbohydrates. It also maintains our body’s energy supply.
  • Vitamin B3 (Niacin) plays a role in converting the food we eat into energy that keeps our nervous system healthy.
  • Vitamin B9 (Folate) makes healthy new cells in our body.

4)  It has resistant starch

Resistant starch is not commonly found, but whole wheat bread can have up to 14% of it. When we consume resistant starch, our bodies produce short-chain fatty acids which play an important role in our health.

Nutritional comparison between sourdough and wholemeal bread

After looking at the benefits of each bread type, let’s see how they compare to each other. Below is the table I made to make it easy for us to see its difference:

  Sourdough Bread(100 grams)Wholemeal Bread(100 grams)
Carbohydrates57 grams41 grams
Fat1.8 grams3.4 grams
Fibre2.4 grams7 grams
Protein10 grams13 grams
Sugars2.6 grams6 grams
Calories289247
Glycemic Index5350
Resistant Starch6%14%

Based on the data above, here are some of my conclusions. You can also use this as a guide on which bread is more suitable for your health needs:

Why whole wheat bread is better for you than sourdough

In many ways whole wheat bread is better than sourdough:

  • It has a higher fibre content which means a better option for us to increase our intake of fibre. Sourdough bread has a little fibre so wheat bread is the clear winner when it comes to fibre content.
  • More resistant starches. Wheat bread contains all the bran that makes it higher in resistant starch. The data above shows that it is far higher than sourdough bread.
  • It contains fewer calories, carbohydrates, and sugars. Whole wheat bread has fewer carbohydrates and sugars (thus fewer calories) than sourdough bread. This is due to the higher fibre and bran content present in whole wheat bread.

Why sourdough is better for you than whole wheat bread

Importantly sourdough bread is much better at absorbing minerals. I find it amazing that even though whole wheat bread contains more minerals, they are not well absorbed by our bodies. With sourdough bread, despite having fewer minerals, we actually benefit more as our bodies can absorb them better.

Sourdough vs whole wheat – Which is best?

Both bread types come in their own individual benefits and advantages. But if you ever need to choose one, which do you think is the best?

While both types of bread have a low glycemic index, whole wheat outperforms sourdough in fibre and resistant starch levels. But, because of sourdough’s bioavailability, it is a more nutritional powerhouse than other bread. I’d choose sourdough over whole wheat if I was looking for the healthiest bread.

Ending thoughts

I’m fascinated by the health benefits of both whole wheat and sourdough bread. So, instead of picking just one, why not go for WHOLE WHEAT SOURDOUGH BREAD? If you want to get the benefits of both breads, it’s an excellent choice.

If you’d like to make one for yourself, you can try this recipe from The Perfect Loaf. You can also explore my beginners guide to sourdough bread baking and basic wholemeal bread

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2 Comments

  1. Hi. First of all, i’m so thank you for sharing these helpful informations. It’s so great and meaning for me. I am just a home baker but I’m so caring to about the effect of bread on our body. So I have a question?
    1. Is this comparison between white sourdough bread with whole wheat bread that fermented by commercial yeast?
    2. How do you think about bread that slow dough method by yeast (like use poolish, biga or any method that slow fermentation dough)? Is that has same nutritional benefits with sourdough bread?

    I look forward to hearing from you.
    Thank you so much.
    Linh Chi

  2. Hi Linh Chi! Thanks so much, it’s an important issue!

    1. Yes – sorry if that wasn’t clear!
    2. It’s much better for you than fast made bread. People who can’t eat commercial bread due to digestive problems often find eating slowly proofed bread is fine. Yet the lactic bacteria etc. in sourdough make it superior to either yeast-levaned method.

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