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What's The Difference Between Rye Bread And Sourdough Bread?

Rye bread and sourdough bread have often been pitted against each other; however, they are both considered to be very healthy choices of bread when compared to normal white wheat flour bread. They both have a good nutrition profile, and you can get many benefits from eating them. But what is the difference between rye bread and sourdough bread? 

A round bread with flour sprinkled, along with a rolling pin and a wooden spoon.

Rye bread is made using rye flour; rye is a type of grain that is broken down to make rye flour. Sourdough bread is made from a sourdough starter. This starter is made from water and flour that is left for a few days to develop yeast and ferment. 

These loaves of bread are made from different things, but do they have different health benefits? And where can you get these healthy loaves of bread from? Let's go through all the nutritional information and benefits for both these types of bread, as well as where you can get them, so you can decide which one is best for you

The Difference Between Rye Bread And Sourdough Bread

Sourdough bread and rye bread are both healthy bread that are great alternatives to the standard commercial loaves of bread that you can buy at any grocery store. Both of these bread have multiple benefits to them that make the switch from commercial bread to these loaves of bread an easy decision, especially for bread lovers!

Adding rye bread or sourdough bread to your diet makes eating healthily easier; you can still make a quick and easy sandwich for lunch and be assured that you and your family are getting some good nutrients from their food. 

What is the actual contrast between these two loaves of bread? Are they the same, or are they actually different? As some people use the term rye bread and sourdough bread interchangeably, knowing the differences can be a challenge.  

FACT: There is a difference between rye bread and sourdough bread, they offer many different benefits and should be eaten according to each individual's food criteria.

What Is Sourdough Bread?

Sourdough bread is made from a substance that is called a starter; this starter is generally made from white wheat flour and water. This flour and water mixture attracts natural yeasts that are in the air which leavens the bread, instead of using yeasts that have been commercially produced. 

This process of attracting natural yeast usually takes a few days to complete and once it is done, the sourdough starter will need to be fed every day to keep the yeast alive. Once this starter is active, as long as it gets fed properly, it can last for years and sometimes even decades.

If you are interested in making your own sourdough starter, this kit from Amazon is good value and quite helpful!

When it is baked, sourdough bread itself has a very unique sour taste due to the good bacteria called lactobacillus bacteria that live in the sourdough starter. Sourdough bread also generally takes longer to rise than rye bread; this means that it takes a bit longer to make.

NOTE: If you want to make your own sourdough start we have our own recipe and use it as our active sourdough starter on a regular basis.

What Is Rye Bread?

On the other hand, rye bread is made from rye flour, a type of grain flour. Rye bread can also range from being made with a mixture of white wheat flour and rye flour at different quantities, or it can be made entirely with rye flour. 

Rye flour contains a lower amount of gluten compared to normal white wheat flour. Gluten is generally what makes loaves of bread rise, so the more rye flour in the bread the smaller and more dense the loaf of bread will be. Rye flour can also be milled flour or unmilled flour, depending on where you get it from.

REMEMBER: Sourdough bread is made from a starter that consists of white wheat flour and water, and it can take a long time to get this starter ready for use. Rye bread is made from rye flour, which is a grain flour that generally comes ready to use. 

Which Bread is the Healthiest?

Both rye bread and sourdough bread are very good for you and are considered to be healthy alternatives to normal commercially produced white wheat flour bread. However, there is a lot of competition in the health bread industry, with each bread trying to make itself the top healthiest bread. 

Rye bread sliced with rye in a bag and scattered.
Both rye bread and sourdough bread are really healthy bread, but they will each suit the different needs of different people

NOTE: This industry competition can make it difficult for everyday people to understand each type of bread's benefits and which one would suit them the most. 

If you have gluten intolerance, then both of these types of bread are already better for you to consume compared to bread made with white wheat flour. However, depending on your intolerance severity, one bread may be better for you than the other. 

As sourdough bread is made with a starter that uses white wheat flour, if your intolerance to gluten is quite bad, then you may want to skip the sourdough bread and go for the 100% Rye bread, which has a smaller amount of gluten in it

Each of these loaves of bread has other benefits apart from helping those with gluten intolerance to enjoy a nice sandwich. Here are each bread's benefits so you can make an informed decision on which will be the best bread for you.

Benefits of Rye Bread

# 1: Rich in Fiber

Rye bread is quite high in fiber, and it also has an impressive nutrient profile. In just one slice of rye bread, you can get a good amount of:

  • protein
  • fiber
  • selenium
  • manganese
  • thiamine
  • niacin
  • riboflavin
  • copper
  • vitamin B6
  • folate
  • iron

These are by far not the only vitamins and minerals, but these are the ones that have the highest concentration in the rye bread slice. Other vitamins and minerals you can get from rye bread that is present in much smaller amounts:

  • zinc
  • phosphorus
  • pantothenic acid
  • calcium
  • magnesium
  • other micronutrients

#2: More Filling

Rye bread is also more filling than normal white wheat flour bread, which will keep you fuller for longer and not affect your blood sugar levels as much. 

#3: Good for the Heart

Rye bread may also improve your heart health. Some recent scientific studies have connected the regular intake of rye bread and a lower level of heart disease risk factors.

#4: Helps Lowers Cholesterol Levels

These studies have also shown that rye bread can help lower cholesterol levels, especially in men. It can also reduce the amount of LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) by up to 14% in men and 12% in women when rye bread is consumed on a daily basis

This cholesterol-lowering effect is most likely due to the high soluble fiber content in rye bread. This type of fiber is an indigestible fiber that forms a gel-like substance inside your digestive tract that can help remove the cholesterol-rich bile from your body and your blood, effectively lowering your cholesterol

#5: It Helps Control Blood Sugar

Rye bread may also aid in blood sugar level control; this is due to the high level of soluble fiber in the rye bread that helps to slow down digestion and the absorption of carbs and sugar, which can lead to a gradual rise in your blood sugar levels. 

FACT: Rye bread also has phenolic compounds in it like caffeic acid and ferulic acid, which could slow down the release of insulin and sugar into the bloodstream; this can further aid in blood sugar level control. 

#6: Good for Digestion

Rye bread also assists in digestive health; the high levels of fiber will help to keep the bowels regular and easier to pass

Some other studies have also shown that rye bread fiber may help increase the levels of short-chain fatty acids in your bloodstream. These fatty acids have shown a link to many other benefits in the body, such as:

  • lower blood sugar levels
  • weight loss
  • protection against colon cancer
Sliced rye bread with nuts and seeds baked in.
Rye bread has many nutritional benefits

Benefits of Sourdough Bread

The levels of nutrition of sourdough bread usually depend on the type of flour that was used to make it; it could be either refined or whole grain flour. 

DID YOU KNOW? One medium slice of sourdough bread can contain a good amount of fiber, proteins, folate, selenium, sodium, thiamine, niacin, manganese, and iron. 

Even though sourdough bread is made with the same flour as many other types of bread, the fermentation process that happens improves the nutritional value of the bread in many different ways. 

#1: Rich in Minerals

If whole grain flour is used to make sourdough bread, then it would contain a good amount of minerals like:

  • phosphate
  • zinc
  • potassium
  • magnesium

In normal bread made with whole grain flour, the absorption of these minerals may be hindered by the presence of phytic acid. 

FACT: Phytic acid is considered to be an antinutrient as it tends to bind itself with minerals, which reduces the body's ability to absorb them. However, the bacteria that is found in sourdough called lactic acid lowers the pH of the sourdough bread, and this lower pH helps to degrade the phytic acid

A lower level of phytic acid in the bread means that your body can absorb the minerals unimpeded, which makes sourdough bread more nutritious compared to other bread.

The long fermentation process of sourdough bread helps to improve the texture and flavor, which makes it very popular! This increases the number of people that consume more fiber and nutrient-rich food, helping the population become healthier.  

#2: Good For Your Gut

Sourdough bread is filled with prebiotics and probiotics. Prebiotics are a form of non-digestible fiber that actually feeds the good bacteria that live in your gut. While probiotics are beneficial bacteria that can be found in certain foods.

Both probiotics and prebiotics aid in digestion; making sourdough bread easy for your body to digest. Regular consumption of Sourdough bread may improve your overall gut health

#3: It Helps Control Blood Sugar Levels

Sourdough bread can also help control your blood sugar levels in these two ways:

  1. Fermentation of sourdough bread lowers the glycemic index (GI) of the bread, which slows down the rate at which the sugars enter the bloodstream. 
  2. The lactic acid bacteria in the sourdough bread produce organic acids during the fermentation process. These organic acids may help delay the stomach from emptying, which could prevent a blood sugar spike

As you can see, both rye bread and sourdough bread have good benefits to them, the choice is up to you which bread will suit your needs better. 

Sourdough bread, sliced with a sourdough starter in a jar near by.
Sourdough bread made with a starter has tons of prebiotics and probiotics

Where Can You Get Rye and Sourdough Bread?

Rye bread and sourdough bread are quite easy to get your hands on nowadays, you can go to just about any health food store, and you will find it stocked either in a fridge, freezer, or with freshly baked goods.

This is nice because they offer a wide variety of different rye and sourdough bread, and you can purchase them fresh or frozen. Buying a frozen loaf will help the loaf of bread last longer as you just take one or two slices out at a time and defrost those while the rest stays frozen. 

If you do not have a health food shop close to you, look for a specialized baker who also offers rye and sourdough bread at their bakery. This will allow you to have freshly baked bread at any time, and then you can decide to either freeze the bread loaf yourself or keep it fresh if you think you can get through the loaf before it starts to go off or grow mold. 

Rye bread and sourdough bread can be found at certain local grocery shops in the baked goods section. However, they may be tricky to find and you do not necessarily know the quality of the bread that you will get from them. 

TIP: If none of these shop options appeal to you, then you can try and make your own rye or sourdough bread at home; this will give you the freshest bread that you can get.

You are able to make your very own sourdough starter from flour and water; just keep in mind that this will take some time to mature to the point where it can be used to bake your bread. 

To bake your own rye bread, you can buy some rye flour from a health food shop or see if a specialized baker close to your home is willing to sell it to you. Another super easy option is to order from Amazon, I really like this rye flour.

Can You Mix the Two Types of Bread Together? 

You can get a bread loaf that has the benefits of both rye bread and sourdough bread all mixed into one loaf; this is called sourdough rye bread

Making a sourdough rye bread loaf makes the fermentation process of the sourdough go faster, which allows the bread to be made in less time. This bread mixture also adds a very unique and tasty flavor profile to any sandwich; this can be a nice change from just your standard rye or sourdough loaf.

Using sourdough with rye makes the loaf of bread less dense with a light and fluffy texture. If you have been battling with your sourdough bread getting too hard, you won't have to worry about that with a sourdough rye bread loaf as the rye helps the bread to stay soft for a longer period of time.

NOTE: Sourdough rye bread mixes the nutritional profile of both kinds of bread, making it an even more nutritious bread for you to eat. 

Sourdough loaf, partially sliced.
Both sourdough and rye bread are packed with nutrients


Both sourdough bread and rye bread are very healthy and good for you because they a packed full of different nutrients and health benefits; plus, they make an excellent substitute for normal white wheat flour bread. 

So, whether you are watching your weight or you are just trying to improve your overall health, then either one of these types of bread would be a good choice for you to add to your diet. 

Are you interested in fermented drinks? Learn how to ferment kombucha in my article here! Or you can make your own sourdough focaccia with this recipe!

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