Sourdough VS Whole Wheat Bread | Why Whole Wheat Wins

Sourdough vs whole wheat bread

Last week we had a look at the differences between rye bread and whole wheat bread and concluded that there is very little that separates the two nutritionally. This isn’t exactly the case when examining sourdough vs whole wheat bread, however. As delicious as sourdough bread may be, it doesn’t quite stack up to whole wheat in terms of nutrition. Let’s have a closer look.

As it turns out, the biggest difference between sourdough vs whole wheat bread is that the latter contains more fiber, protein, and minerals, making it a nutritionally superior choice. Sourdough, on the other hand, has a lower GI and a more robust flavor.

That said, there are a few more details you may want to take into consideration. Let’s dig in.

What’s The Deal With Sourdough?

Sourdough is a type of bread that is made using a fermented mixture of flour and water as a leavening agent as opposed to active dry yeast, which is typically used to make bread.

Sourdough bread

The benefit of using the fermented mixture — known as sourdough starter — as your leavening agent is that it allows a greater variety of yeast to cultivate, which adds more of a rich and robust flavor when compared to regular wheat bread.

The active dry yeast that you typically purchase in stores only contains a single type of yeast, which gives the bread a one-dimensional flavor.

Not only is sourdough more flavorful than whole wheat bread, but it also tends to be chewier and has a soft, airy texture as well.

Culinary Use

Possibly the greatest practical difference between sourdough vs whole wheat bread is how they’re used.

Whole wheat bread is typically consumed as a health food and requires that you sacrifice flavor and texture in exchange for the nutritional benefits that come with eating it.

Sourdough, on the other hand, is not typically thought of as a health food. It’s more of a comfort food instead, which lends itself to more culinary uses.

Some of the ways in which sourdough bread is used include:

  • Made into bread bowls for soup
  • Sliced and used to make gourmet sandwiches
  • Diced into cubes for dipping in fondue
  • And more

Sourdough bread can essentially be used in all of the ways traditional white and whole wheat bread is used.

Whole Wheat Bread

Whole wheat bread is a type of bread that is made using whole wheat flour, which includes the entire grain– both the germ and the bran.

Wheat bread slice

This is different from traditional white bread varieties, such as sourdough, which uses refined flour.

The benefit of making bread with whole wheat flour is that it includes added nutrients, such as fiber, protein, and various vitamins and minerals. This lends itself to many health benefits.

The downside, however, is that whole wheat flour tends to have a tougher, grainier texture than bread made with refined flour.

It’s important not to confuse 100% whole wheat bread with bread that is merely labeled “wheat bread” or “grain bread”. Bread that is truly whole wheat will say “100% whole wheat” on the label.

Sourdough VS Whole Wheat

Now that we’ve gone over the practical differences between sourdough and whole wheat bread, let’s have a look at some of the other ways they differ, starting with their nutrition content.

Nutrition Facts

The table below compares the nutrition facts of a single 28-gram slice of sourdough bread with an equal serving size of whole wheat bread:

Item Sourdough Whole Wheat Bread
  Sourdough slice Wheat bread slice
Serving Size 1 Slice (28 g) 1 Slice (28 g)
Calories 70 69.2
Total Carbohydrates 13 g 11.5 g
Dietary Fiber 0.5 g 1.9 g
Sugar 0 g 1.6 g
Total Fat 0 g 0.9 g
Saturated Fat 0 g 0.2 g
Protein 2.7 g 3.6 g
Sodium 135 mg 132 mg
Potassium 2% DV
Calcium 0% DV 3% DV
Iron 4% DV 4% DV
Magnesium 6% DV
Vitamin A 0% DV
Vitamin C 1% DV 0% DV
Vitamin E 1% DV
Vitamin K 3% DV
Sources linked in item names

While both bread varieties have their nutritional differences, they also share some positive attributes, including:

  1. They each contain a similar amount of calories per slice.
  2. They’re both low in fat— saturated fat in particular, which is a “bad” type of fat that can raise LDL cholesterol levels, according to the American Heart Association.
  3. They both contain a modest amount of iron— a mineral that helps transport blood in the oxygen.
  4. Each contains a fair amount of protein and fiber in relation to its caloric content (more on that later.)

Whole Wheat Bread Contains More Fiber Than Sourdough

One of the greatest nutritional advantages that whole wheat bread has over sourdough is that it contains roughly four times as much fiber per serving.

Fiber is an indigestible carbohydrate that helps remove waste from the body. It can also help manage blood sugar levels, lower cholesterol, and even help with maintaining good bowel health, says Mayo Clinic.

A single slice of sourdough bread only contains half a gram of fiber, whereas a slice of whole wheat bread will provide you with 1.9 grams.

It Also Packs More Protein

Not only does whole wheat bread have more fiber, but it also packs more protein as well.

Proteins are the building blocks of life. They consist of amino acids that, when broken down and metabolized, will build and repair muscle tissue and can even help boost metabolism.

Protein is extra important for athletes and fitness enthusiasts alike– especially those following vegan, vegetarian or plant-based diets as it can be tricky to come across if you don’t consume animal products.

Incorporating whole wheat bread into your diet can help you reach your daily protein goals though. A single slice of it delivers 3.6 grams of protein, whereas an equal serving size of sourdough only contains 2.7 grams.

Whole Wheat Bread Contains More Vitamins & Minerals

Another advantage that whole wheat has over sourdough bread is that it contains more vitamins and minerals, including:

  • Calcium: a mineral that helps build strong bones
  • Magnesium: a mineral that helps regulate muscle and nerve function
  • Vitamin E: a fat-soluble antioxidant that helps protect cells from free radical damage
  • Vitamin K: a group of compounds that helps the blood clot

Sourdough Is Lower On The Glycemic Index

Not all of the nutritional advantages favor whole wheat bread. One area where sourdough gets a leg up on whole bread is when it comes to the Glycemic Index.

The Glycemic Index (or “GI” for short) is a scoring system from 1 to 100 that rates foods based on how much they spike blood sugar, which can be a useful tool for diabetics. The higher the number, the greater the blood sugar spike.

As it turns out, the GI of sourdough bread is 54, which classifies it as a medium-GI food.

Whole wheat bread, on the other hand, has a GI of around 71, which classifies it as a high-GI food.

Similarities Between Sourdough And Whole Wheat Bread

Now that we’ve gone over the nutritional differences between sourdough vs whole wheat bread, let’s have a look at some of their similarities.

Storage & Shelf Life

When it comes to storage protocol and expected shelf life, both bread varieties are to be treated the same.

Both sourdough and whole wheat bread should be stored in airtight packaging and kept at room temperature or below– preferably out of sunlight.

Homemade bread, or fresh bread from a bakery, can expect to last for up to 4 days. Store-bought bread tends to contain more preservatives and often comes in more efficient packaging, therefore it lasts a little longer– usually up to 7 days.

Pet Safety

If you’re wondering if sourdough and whole wheat bread are safe for your four-legged friends then you need not worry. According to the American Kennel Club, whole wheat bread is safe for dogs when eaten in moderation.

Likewise, sourdough bread is also safe for dogs when eaten in moderation. However, it’s important to ensure that the bread is cooked. Dogs should not have raw sourdough or sourdough starter though, says the Chewy website.

The Bottom Line

In conclusion, there’s much to consider when choosing between sourdough and whole wheat bread. The latter is more nutritionally advantageous, but sourdough is tastier and has more culinary uses. The real question is whether you want to prioritize health and nutrition or good taste.

This post was contributed by a member of the PBF writing staff. is an online publication for learning about plant-based food and nutrition.

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