Why is sourdough low FODMAP?

Jan 5, 2019

I realized that I’ve written about EATING sourdough bread before on the blog (a lot, actually), but never really gave a good explanation as to why I COULD. So here we are! A few months ago, we — I never know what word to use here — incubated? grew? started? a sourdough starter, and so far it’s been producing some amazing food. But before I start posting all these recipes so you too can have freaking delicious BREAD! and PIZZA! and not even feel miserable afterward, we need to clear up a few things.

How sourdough works

So first, a quick explainer on what sourdough means. It all starts with a sourdough starter or culture. Also sometimes referred to as the “mother” or “levain” (remember my pizza adventures in Italy). The starter is simply flour and water which, after a few days at room temperature starts to ferment. Technically speaking, naturally present yeast & bacteria start eating the sugars in the flour. It’s a little more complicated than that (this is a good explanation if you wanna nerd out more), but all you really need to know is that the byproduct of all this is carbon dioxide gas.

So you keep the starter alive by feeding it more flour and water regularly, and then when you want to make bread or anything else, you add a bit of the starter to a bread-amount of flour & water (plus other ingredients, depending on what you’re making). Over a period of several hours to a day or more, the bacteria & yeast eat the large amount of flour you’ve given them, and the carbon dioxide makes the bread rise!

A few notes

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This process is pretty slow, as it takes awhile for the natural yeast to product enough carbon dioxide to make the dough rise. This is why humankind created the yeast you can buy in stores — this stuff acts faster and gives you a rise in an hour instead of a day.

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If you follow the low FODMAP diet and/or have read any of my earlier posts, this talk of fermentation sounds familiar! If you need a refresher, this post about FODMAPs should do the trick.

Why is sourdough low FODMAP?

As you know, FODMAPs are fermentable carbohydrates. And the reason why I avoid them is that they ferment in my gut, releasing carbon dioxide and causing horrible bloating! BUT, the process of naturally leavening bread with a sourdough starter means that the yeast break down the carbohydrates that my body cannot, and ferments them for me so it doesn’t happen in my gut! 😅 Preferable all around, right? Also if you remember, gluten (< read if you don’t remember) is not the problem for people like me with IBS — is those darn carbohydrates. Which means the only problem with wheat flour is it contains fermentable carbohydrates… you see where this is going? I can eat wheat flour (also rye and barley, the other FODMAP-containing flours) as long as it’s naturally leavened with a sourdough starter because the yeast breaks down the FODMAPs!

Why does this matter?

Remember also from my gluten post that gluten is quite literally the “glue” that holds everything together in a dough. I’ve tried — and successfully made — passible wheat free pizza and cinnamon rolls (but never bread) by adding vital wheat gluten into gluten-free flours (the irony I know). But you’ll never really be able to create that same stretchy, thin, strong dough that you could achieve with wheat flour.

I mean be honest. Which would you rather eat? (Ok not fair because the one on the right was made in a 900 degree oven in Italy… but you get the point)

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BUT. Now that the world of wheat flour is open to me again, GET READY! We’re on a rampage of making bread and pizza… and maybe even cinnamon rolls.

Plus, I got a pizza STEEL for Christmas and I can’t wait to make pizza with it. It weighs 23 pounds so if I do a few squats with it in between baking pizzas that means I can eat more right? (JK, it will also have been in a 500 degree oven and that’s a bad idea kids!)

Getting started with a starter

For the curious: if you’re interested in getting yourself a sourdough starter, I highly these instructions from The Perfect Loaf! This is what I followed for our starter and they’re super thorough. Plus, I’ve been following all his recipes for the things we’ve been making so expect to hear more!

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