The Unexpected Carb That Could Help Protect You From Cancer

Cancer will affect almost 40% of the population at some time in their lives, according to the National Cancer Institute. Reducing your risk of cancer can involve three choices — preventive screenings to detect cancer early, vaccines that can prevent certain types of cancer, and adopting a healthy lifestyle. A healthy lifestyle includes limiting alcohol, quitting smoking, avoiding second-hand smoke, protecting your skin from ultraviolet light, and keeping your weight down.

It shouldn't be a surprise to know that a healthy diet can not only help you lose weight but also protect you from cancer. Some unexpected foods might help prevent cancer like avocado, MCT oil, and whey protein. What about carbs? The MD Anderson Cancer Center says that the phytochemicals found in berries, broccoli, and tomatoes help your body fight cancer. An unexpected carb that might help in your fight against cancer is sourdough bread because it's higher in antioxidants than other breads.

Sourdough's fermentation increases cancer-fighting nutrients

Sourdough bread is healthier because it's made somewhat differently than traditional bread. While you don't need store-bought yeast like traditional bread, sourdough requires a starter made from flour, salt, and water. This combo needs to ferment for a few days to activate the natural yeast and good bacteria.

The cells of your body can become damaged if there are too many free radicals and damage from free radicals has been linked to cancer. Antioxidants scavenge your body to neutralize these free radicals, and the National Cancer Institute says that observational studies have found mixed evidence for antioxidants in reducing cancer.

Even though unfermented whole grains have antioxidants like tocols, phytosterols, and phenolic compounds, it's this natural fermentation process in sourdough bread that boosts its nutritional value, according to a 2020 article in Molecules. Fermentation breaks down the cell walls of the whole grain to make these antioxidants more available for our bodies to absorb.

The lactic acid bacteria used to ferment flours made from wheat, soybean, barley, amaranth, and rye flours might also release more of the peptide lunasin, according to a 2012 study in Nutrition and Cancer. Lunasin has been used to treat cancer, high cholesterol, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Other unique benefits of sourdough bread

Although there isn't any clinical evidence that links sourdough bread to lower cancer risk, sourdough bread has other health benefits unique from other breads, according to a 2023 review in Frontiers in Nutrition. While French bread, whole grain wheat, and white bread have glycemic indexes over 70, sourdough rye comes in at 53, which is lower than a sweet potato. This means sourdough bread is less likely to cause a quick spike in your blood sugar. Sourdough has also been linked to lower insulin levels.

Resistant starch feeds the bacteria in your gut, and the byproduct is butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid that reduces inflammation and supports your immune system. Depending on the baking procedures and fermentation process, sourdough bread tends to have slightly more resistant starch than other breads. Sourdough also has a lower pH than other breads, which means it has less phytate. Phytate is a plant compound that binds with minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and iron so your body can't absorb these nutrients.