Why sourdough starter
Why sourdough starter? It is the all natural way to ferment grains before they are consumed so our body can access all the vitamins and minerals in those grains.
Grains contain phytic acid which is the principal storage form of the mineral phosphorus, a vital mineral for strong bones and teeth. However, because the phytic acid in grains is in a form of phytates, a molecule which our bodies cannot readily absorb, much of it is removed as waste and up to 80% of the phosphorus is not available to us. Not only this but the phytates bond with other minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc and removes them from our bodies. This explains why some people who follow a diet loaded with grains, cereals and commercial bread have high tooth decay. This effect of leeching minerals from your body is even present in raw muesli, which is generally considered a healthy breakfast [soaking the raw muesli overnight is a way to minimize this problem].
The phytates in grains also inhibits enzymes such as pepsin and trypsin in our bodies from breaking down proteins and starch into sugar. This is why people complain about feeling bloated and develop a bloated belly from consuming too much commercial bread. These undigested gluten build up in the body can eventually become toxic resulting in many illnesses because the digestive system has been compromised. The digestive system in our bodies contain 70 – 80% of our immune cells that fight diseases.
The wild yeast in sourdough starter breaks down the phytic acid so our bodies can absorb vital nutrients
When we use sourdough starter to make bread, we are introducing wild yeast and bacteria to our grains/flour. The long fermentation process which can take anywhere from 4 – 18 hours is what makes the final bread a living food that allows our bodies to absorb the complex B vitamins, Vitamin E, magnesium, iron and fibre which are rich in the grains.
The wild yeast and bacteria break down the phytic acid thereby releasing these vitamins and minerals for easy absorption. Fermentation is the key to consuming grains in a way that is beneficial for us. Many gluten intolerant people are surprised that they can eat properly fermented gluten bread and cake without any problems.
Use only freshly ground grains
Grains that are freshly ground gives the final seal of approval for the perfectly nutritious bread. Grains are made up of three parts; the bran, the germ and the endosperm. The bran is the multi-layered outer skin of the edible kernel. It contains important antioxidants, B vitamins and fibre. The germ is the embryo which has the potential to sprout into a new plant. It contains many B vitamins, some protein, minerals, and healthy fats. The endosperm is the germ’s food supply, which provides essential energy to the young plant so it can send roots down for water and nutrients, and send sprouts up for sunlight’s photosynthesizing power. The endosperm is by far the largest portion of the kernel. It contains starchy carbohydrates, proteins and small amounts of vitamins and minerals.
Grains lose their nutrients quickly after the outer shell (the bran) is broken. In commercial milling the bran and germ is removed from the flour because the germ gets rancid very quickly once the outer shell is broken. The bran is sold off as food for livestock and only the endosperm is ground into flour. I grind my own flour and I don’t remove the bran and germ as done commercially. In an airtight container in a cool pantry the flour should be good for up to 3 months and in the freezer for up to 6 months
In the 1900’s in the United States the local mill in each community ground only enough flour each day to meet the demands of the people in the area. The flour could not be stored for long, and the people were, for the most part, eating fresh whole-wheat flour every few days. In 1873 there were 23,000 commercial mills in the United States. After the industrial revolution, this decreased and today there are only around two hundred commercial mills in the United States.
With this industrial revolution we also saw the advent of the common instant or dry yeast which most people use today, saccharomyces cerevisae. It was a strain of wild yeast which Louis Pasteur isolated and managed to commercially create in a laboratory and package for home and commercial use because it is predictable, reliable and fast-acting.
The problem with this is that wild yeast comprises a multitude of strains and each one complex in its own way. So to isolate just one strain to facilitate commerce and industry and getting people hooked on fast, instant and consistent results came with the price of poor health. You will also notice that Louis Pasteur is the father of the pharmaceutical industry. While this industry may be needed for many people, it’s encroachment upon food is detrimental to health. All drugs have side effects and the best way to cure your own body is to strengthen the immune system with the right food.
Sourdough starter has been the only leaven used to make any bread at all until just 150 years ago before instant yeast was introduced to the world.
Grains have much to offer us in terms of health. It has been consumed for hundreds of years by all our forefathers and in Biblical times the breaking of bread was significant as Jesus Christ called Himself the bread of life. From Egyptians to Indians to Westerners bread has always been a staple diet. Yet today it has been demonized and called bad for health and people are advocating a gluten-free diet. The answer is not to go gluten-free but instead prepare grains through proper fermentation to allow our bodies to fully benefit from them.