Could sourdough bread be the answer to the gluten sensitivity epidemic?

Could sourdough bread be the answer to gluten intolerance? Photograph: Jon Super for the Observer
“I would bet that if you took a dozen people who claimed gluten intolerance and you gave them Richard’s bread, they’d be fine,” says Michael Pollan in the third episode of his new Netflix food documentary, Cooked.

The bread he is referring to is a sourdough made the old fashioned way, with hours of fermentation and naturally occurring yeast found in the air by a baker named Richard Bourdon in rural Massachusetts. Bourdon and Pollan go on to explain the importance of proper fermentation of grains to aid in digestion. Pollan says a long fermentation process allows bacteria to fully break down the carbohydrates and gluten in bread, making it easier to digest and releasing the nutrients within it, allowing our bodies to more easily absorb them. Pollan hypothesizes that the speeding up of the bread-making process for mass consumption has so radically altered what we know as bread in the last century that it’s no longer as easily digested.

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