Sourdough bread: Nutrition or puffery?

Some bakeries stretch the definition of sourdough

Today, sourdough bread is at the epicenter of a gastronomic phenomenon that has conquered palates and shelves around the world. With its unmistakable flavor and exceptional nutritional values, this bread has experienced an impressive boom. However, behind the façade of natural fermentation and tradition are hidden realities that deserve a deeper analysis.

What is sourdough?

To fully understand sourdough bread, it is essential to delve into its essence. In simple terms, sourdough is a preferment – a piece of dough fermented in advance of baking –  composed solely of wheat flour and drinking water, subjected to a natural acidifying fermentation.

Its main objective is to ensure the correct fermentation of the dough. It's a tradition that dates back millennia, to a time when bread was more like a crushed cookie than what we know today.

The nutritional benefits of sourdough bread

Sourdough bread not only stands out for its unmatched flavor, but also for its nutritional benefits. During natural fermentation, probiotics and prebiotics are generated that facilitate digestion. Its broad variety of bacteria and yeasts makes this bread tolerable even for those who are gluten intolerant.

This bread represents a return to simplicity and natural processes in baking, moving away from the additives and industrial processes that characterize other types of bread. The result is a healthier product that is easier for the body to assimilate.

The abuse of the term "sourdough"

The increase in demand for natural products has led to excessive and inappropriate use of the term "sourdough." Bakers of all sizes have jumped on the bandwagon of this trend, leading to confusion in the market. Under the label of "sourdough", products are marketed that do not actually meet the standards of this type of bread.

It is important to highlight that making sourdough bread is a process that requires time and dedication. Natural fermentation takes at least twelve to sixteen hours in refrigeration, which limits production and increases costs. Unfortunately, some bakers take shortcuts, adding yeast and giving the appearance of authenticity to rustic bread, which constitutes consumer fraud.

The "Sourdough" label as a marketing tool

The term "sourdough" has become a powerful marketing tool for bakeries of all sizes, from small specialty shops to industry giants. Products labeled as "sourdough" are often sold at considerably higher prices than their commercial counterparts. It is necessary to ask what is really behind this distinction.

The regulation of sourdough bread

In countries like Spain, fraud related to sourdough bread reached a critical point that required the implementation of specific regulations. Measuring acidity was introduced as a key criterion for determining whether a product could be labeled as "sourdough bread." This was done with the intention of ensuring that the nutritional benefits of sourdough were present in the bread.

In contrast, in Mexico, there is no similar regulation. The U.S. has a vast array of food regulations but a quick search found none specifically focused on sourdough.