Flavor differences alone are reason enough for many home bakers to choose sourdough starter over conventional yeast as their bread leavening preference. If you then factor in the health findings associated with sourdough baking, the reasons for its use start to look especially compelling.
Studies suggest that the microbial and enzymatic activity of sourdough fermentation improves the digestibility of bread and increases the availability of nutrients. Sourdough breads also have a lower glycaemic index than non-sourdough breads which may account for its increased tolerability by those with wheat allergies.
On a lighter note, Matthew Evans, writing for the Sydney (Australia) Morning Herald, observes that “people who craft sourdough breads would make great parents”. This conclusion was drawn from the experience of local bakers who demonstrate extraordinary care and commitment to their starters. One professional baker he interviewed, having nearly lost his starter a couple of times, admitted to taking his starter on holidays and trips but now entrusts it to close friends or his parents while away from the bakery.
So the next time you eat yourself into a stupor on fresh baked sourdough bread, you can enjoy an extra measure of satisfaction (or at least lessen your degree of guilt) in the knowledge that sourdough baking provides both biological and sociological benefits.