True Cellular Formulas Team - March 9, 2023

Have Your Bread and Digest it Too...

Why Store-Bought Bread is OUT, and Fermented bread is IN!

You may have heard sourdough is healthier, but do you know why? The bread debate is multifaceted, but today we highlight some of the top reasons you want to swap your big-chain store-bought bread for low and slow, traditionally fermented sourdough.

The Low-Down on Dough

Although bread has been demonized in many diets, this staple food continues to make its way onto the plate of Americans.[1] Look no further than the ketogenic trend to see that although the carbohydrates in flour have eliminated bread from the keto diet, low-carb alternatives using nuts and other substitutes have led to keto-friendly “bread.” One thing is certain: people love bread, so understanding what makes a healthier option is vital. 

Bread is a staple food prepared from a dough of flour and water, usually by baking. Although there are many “bread” alternatives on the market today, we will focus on good old-fashioned bread made from a base of dough of flour and water. Understanding which bread is healthier isn’t complicated when we simply dissect the simple ingredients.

1. Flour

You should note two things to make healthier choices when choosing your flour. The first is deciding whether to buy bread made of flour containing gluten. Although the gluten-free trend has become popular, most people are not actually allergic to gluten (known as celiac disease).[2] The bigger issue (which leads to point two) is the glyphosate used to grow the crops (especially wheat) which turns into the flour made to bake bread.[3]

Glyphosate is a herbicide and is the active ingredient in cancer-causing products like Roundup by Monsanto.[4] This ingredient is associated with various health concerns, including the degradation of the gut’s tight junctions.[5] Messing with the gut’s ability to digest and absorb food properly, we begin to see more intolerances and allergies (which are more about intolerance to glyphosate, as opposed to gluten). 

So firstly, identify if you are gluten-intolerant or not. Still, either way, buy only bread made from certified-organic flour to ensure that the herbicides found in conventional flours don’t lead to gut disruption!

2. Water

Water is often a forgotten ingredient when making informed, healthy bread choices, but remember: not all water is created equal. Tap water contains various chemicals, including chlorine and remnants of toxins like heavy metals, hormones, and pharmaceuticals.[6] Choosing a bread company that uses properly filtered or spring water is best. This is also important since properly fermented bread uses live cultures. To ensure your gluten is more properly digestible (see point 3!), chlorinated tap water cannot destroy live cultures![7]

3. Fermentation

Bread is traditionally fermented, a slow process that yields fresh bread that must be consumed within a few days. Modern breadmakers tried to fast-track this process using chemical leavening agents. Dough that does not require fermentation is called "quick bread" by commercial bakers.[8]

Traditionally fermented bread increases digestibility and lowers the glycemic index.[9-10] The fast-tracking process of mass-producing bread in factories is harder to digest and has a higher glycemic impact.[10] 

The bread’s digestibility comes down to how well fermented it is and which ingredient was used to make the dough rise. Two common options for raising the dough are natural yeast (sourdough starter) and baker’s yeast (commercial chemical leavening agents). 

Natural or wild yeasts are alive like those used to make sourdough starters. They are made from fungus, and the live culture breaks down the flour’s sugars, creating the fermentation process and making it rise.

Levening agents like baker’s yeast are made from ingredients like baking soda, baking powder, and cream of tartar. They contain various additives, including reducing agents such as L-cysteine or sodium metabisulfite and oxidants such as potassium bromate or ascorbic acid.[11] These agents create a chemical reaction to help the dough rise but don’t result from live cultures used to ferment dough traditionally. They are also linked to various health conditions, including Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).[12]

Traditionally fermented sourdoughs take longer because the live cultures break down the sugars and make the bread easier to digest. With a short shelf life and a culture that has to be kept alive, these traditionally fermented bread aren’t the kinds you find on the shelves at a big supermarket. When in doubt, you can almost always assume the bread being sold en masse in huge chain stores like Wholefoods, Panera, Walmart, and Sam’s Club are not real sourdough. Even brands that use all the keywords (even claiming to be “authentic sourdough”) aren’t.[13]

Learning to Spot Fake Sourdough

It should be clear that when it comes to bread, opting for naturally fermented sourdough is key when it comes to bread. That being said, in a world of greenwashing, there is an ever-increasing amount of deceiving wording to make people think they are buying real sourdough when it isn’t. These days, “sourdough” is bought from anywhere, but a local bakery is essentially sour-flavored bread.

When identifying real sourdough from a fake, the big key is looking for “sourdough starter” as the ingredient other than flour, water, and salt. The wording for the sourdough starter varies from brand to brand, but you should be able to notice a clear indication of a cultured starter as the leavening agent.

One red flag for spotting fake sourdough is when bread contains many ingredients. Unless the ingredients are flavoring (like rosemary and salt), there is no reason for your traditionally fermented sourdough bread to contain anything other than flour, water, and sourdough starter. So when the label reads “yeast” or any kind of additives like oil, guar gums, vinegar, or sugar, you can assume it’s a fake.

Another thing to look out for is how long the dough was fermented. At a minimum, real sourdough should be fermented for 4-6 hours, but up to 48 hours. The more time it spends fermenting, the easier to digest.

A short shelf-life is the final trick to spotting a fake sourdough. Bakeries sell bread the same day; that’s it. Some bakeries will sell discounted “yesterday” loaves, but that should tell you how sensitive real sourdough bread is to becoming stale. Many of the additives included in packaged fake sourdough increase the shelf-life and softness of the bread at the cost of your health.

The Naughty List

  • Panera sourdough
  • Walmart brand sourdough sandwich bread
  • Cook's Gluten Free™ Bread Sourdough Gluten Free
  • ROCKENWAGNER BAKERY Sourdough Bachelor Loaf
  • 365 by Whole Foods Market Sandwich Bread, Sourdough 
  • Rudi's Rocky Mountain Bakery Gluten-Free Sourdough
  • Target’s Sourdough Sliced Tuscan Bread - Favorite Day
  • Sam’s Club Member Mark Sourdough Boules 
  • Central Market Sourdough Loaf
  • Pepperidge Farm Farmhouse Sourdough Bread
  • Oroweat Fork-Split Sourdough English Muffins
  • The Rustik Oven Artisan Sourdough Bread
  • Great Value Sourdough 
  • Marketside Bake At Home Sourdough Loaf

The Good List

The “good” list is so short; we essentially don’t have one. The only brand of bread that delivers nationally and is found in grocery stores that fit the mark of real sourdough is Izzio Artisan Bakery. Other than that, you’ll likely have to buy your sourdough from a real bakery. Some bakeries will deliver to local organic stores, but you rarely find the good stuff at major chains.


Sourdough bread can be a staple of a healthy diet if it’s real sourdough. Real sourdough is slowly fermented, breaking down the flour to make it more digestible and with a lower glycemic index. Learning to spot a real from a fake isn’t hard when you know how, but odds are you’ll buy the real stuff from a local, organic bakery.

  1.  Published by Statista Research Department, and Jun 23. “U.S.: Usage of Bread 2011-2024.” Statista, 23 June 2022, 
  2. “Gluten Intolerance: Symptoms, Test, Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity.” Cleveland Clinic, 
  3. Samsel, Anthony, and Stephanie Seneff. “Glyphosate, pathways to modern diseases II: Celiac sprue and gluten intolerance.” Interdisciplinary toxicology vol. 6,4 (2013): 159-84. doi:10.2478/intox-2013-0026
  4. Zhang, Luoping, et al. “Exposure to Glyphosate-Based Herbicides and Risk for Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma: A Meta-Analysis and Supporting Evidence.” Mutation Research/Reviews in Mutation Research, vol. 781, 2019, pp. 186–206., doi:10.1016/j.mrrev.2019.02.001. 
  5. Seneff, Stephanie, et al. “Glyphosate and the Gut.” The Weston A. Price Foundation, 27 Aug. 2021, 
  6. “Drugs in the Water.” Harvard Health, 1 June 2011, 
  7. “Water Disinfection with Chlorine and Chloramine.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 17 Nov. 2020, 
  8. Grant's Bakery. “Bread: The Most Important Thing in Human History.” Grant's Bakery, 
  9. Rizzello, Carlo Giuseppe et al. “Sourdough Fermented Breads are More Digestible than Those Started with Baker's Yeast Alone: An In Vivo Challenge Dissecting Distinct Gastrointestinal Responses.” Nutrients vol. 11,12 2954. 4 Dec. 2019, doi:10.3390/nu11122954
  10. Demirkesen-Bicak, Hilal et al. “Effect of Different Fermentation Condition on Estimated Glycemic Index, In Vitro Starch Digestibility, and Textural and Sensory Properties of Sourdough Bread.” Foods (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 10,3 514. 1 Mar. 2021, doi:10.3390/foods10030514
  11. Admin. “Modern History of Bread - 20th Century UK.” Federation of Bakers, 12 Jan. 2017,
  12. Costabile, Adele, et al. "Effect of Breadmaking Process on In Vitro Gut Microbiota Parameters in Irritable Bowel Syndrome." PLOS ONE, vol. 9, no. 10, 2014, p. e111225,
  13. Sarah Pope “How to Spot Fake Sourdough at the Store (Panera Too!).” The Healthy Home Economist, 17 July 2022, 

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