Top 10 Reasons To Eat Real Sourdough Bread — Even If You’re Gluten Intolerant

by Ann Marie Michaels on March 31, 2009

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Jack Bezian of Bezian's Bakery Home of Los Angeles Sourdough Bread

This post is part of Real Food Wednesdays. Visit Kelly the Kitchen Kop for more stories about real food.

The other day I went to the farmer’s market in Santa Monica and spent some time talking to Jack Bezian of Bezian’s Bakery, the home of Los Angeles Sourdough. I say “spent some time” which makes it sound like twenty minutes or so, but the truth is I must have talked to him for a a couple of hours.

The man is a font of fascinating information about health, nutrition, probiotics, gluten intolerance, and fermented foods. He’s been baking traditional sourdough bread since 1966. I’m not talking about the fake stuff you find in grocery stores — this is bread made from a living sourdough starter.

Most modern bread is made with baker’s yeast. Sourdough starter is the traditional way of making bread. It’s how everyone used to make bread before they had commercial baker’s yeast. There are many advantages to eating naturally fermented bread instead of modern bread made with yeast.

Let me share with you some of the things baker Jack Bezian teaches about real, traditionally prepared, naturally fermented sourdough bread — and why it’s so much healthier for us than yeast bread.

First of all, the real sourdough they bake at Bezian’s Bakery is probiotic, like kefir or yogurt, containing multiple strains of beneficial microflora. Bezian’s Bakery has a very slow process of baking which allows the bread to ferment for several days up to a month. This helps to promote the growth of more probiotic organisms.

These probiotic microorganisms:

1. Digest and assimilate (properly absorb) the foods you eat. Without adequate beneficial microflora in your gut, you can’t absorb nutrients in the foods you are eating.

2. Are necessary in order to maintain a healthy intestinal tract.

3. Contain uniquely balanced proteins, fatty acids, cellulose, minerals, and innumerable other nutrients our bodies need.

4. Provide vitamins B1 through B6 from lactobacillus and B12 vitamins from wild yeast. Wild yeast multiplies aerobically. This is because they have oxygen in them (not free radical oxygen ions) that feed your blood cells and not cancer cells. Most plant proteins including grains, seeds, cereals, beans, nuts, and some grasses form gluten. However, sourdough microflora has all the amino acids available, without the protein that forms gluten.

5. Depletes damaged starch in bread, thus diabetic people should not get insulin shock. It is a misconception that whole wheat is better than white flour for diabetics (the Glycemic difference is only 1%).

6. Produce acids, which will break down and remove some of the glutens from the bread. Acids do not allow mold and most bad bacterial growth. Alkaline with high pH allows mold growth and toxins. Mold ferments at a higher pH, allowing bad bacterial growth and the secretion of toxins. The absence of acids is abnormal, even animals have acid stomachs to kill bad bacteria.

7. Offset the effects of phytic acid, which robs your body of precious minerals.

According to Wikipedia:

Phytic acid is found within the hulls of nuts, seeds, and grains. In-home food preparation techniques can reduce the phytic acid in all of these foods. Simply cooking the food will reduce the phytic acid to some degree. More effective methods are soaking in an acid medium, lactic acid fermentation, and sprouting.

Phytic acid is a strong chelator of important minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc, and can therefore contribute to mineral deficiencies in people whose diets rely on these foods for their mineral intake, such as those in developing countries. It also acts as an acid, chelating the vitamin niacin, which is basic, causing the condition known as pellagra. In this way, it is an anti-nutrient. For people with a particularly low intake of essential minerals, especially young children and those in developing countries, this effect can be undesirable.

“Probiotic lactobacilli, and other species of the endogenous digestive microflora as well, are an important source of the enzyme phytase which catalyses the release of phosphate from phytate and hydrolyses the complexes formed by phytate and metal ions or other cations, rendering them more soluble ultimately improving and facilitating their intestinal absorption

8. Dissolve proteins by producing protein enzymes, thus loosening multiple peptide bonds so that you can absorb more amino acids into your body. They dissolve four gluten-forming proteins: albumin, globulin, prolamin, and glutalin. They also produce alcohol that dissolves the most stubborn water insoluble protein bonds. These bonds are the reason why so many people have gluten intolerance.

9. Inhibit the growth of bad bacteria by: (1) creating a more acidic environment (2) producing anti-bacterial agents, and (3) absorbing all the B vitamins from their surroundings leaving none for the harmful bacteria.

10. Have most everything needed for optimum nutritional absorption. To absorb calcium, you need magnesium. To absorb magnesium, you need vitamin E, C, etc. Most of these are in the sourdough microorganisms, thus providing optimum absorption.

Bezian's Bakery Home of Los Angeles Sourdough Bread

Here’s the most exciting part: I took this bread home and gave some to my daughter, Kate. Kate normally cannot eat wheat bread, even sprouted bread. But she could eat this bread! She had no reaction like she normally does with wheat bread. Words cannot express how happy this makes me. Now I can make her sandwiches!

Jack told me that their ultra-slow method of making sourdough bread (fermenting it for several days and up to a month) is what breaks it down to the point that gluten intolerant people can eat it.

He told me the story of one of his customers, a celiac. The guy could not eat any bread whatsoever — but when he tried it, he found that he could eat Jack’s bread.

Then he tried making sourdough bread at home. He found that he could eat his own bread that he made, but not his wife’s. He couldn’t understand this — since they were using the same starter, the same flour, the same water. It turns out that the wife was not kneading her bread as long — and this was what made it impossible for the celiac to eat.

So clearly, not all sourdough bread is the same, and the fermentation time and process does matter.

Of course I have to also mention that this bread is wildly delicious. Some of the best bread I’ve ever eaten. And I’ve eaten award-winning baguettes in Paris. Jack’s bread is just as good.

I wish I could tell you that Jack ships his bread all over the country but sadly, I don’t think he does. If you live in Los Angeles, you can get his bread at the following farmer’s markets: Santa Monica (Wednesday market only — he’s not there on Saturdays), Pasadena (Saturdays) and Hollywood (Sundays).

You can try making your own sourdough at home.

I also recommend using sprouted flour. I’m not sure about this but I think if you start with sprouted flour (instead of regular flour) and ferment it with a sourdough culture, you might not have to ferment it as long, since you’re already starting with sprouted flour. For sources of sprouted flour, visit the marketplace.

Don’t forget to visit Kelly the Kitchen Kop for more stories about real food.

Photo credit: Yelp
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{ 176 comments… read them below or add one }

Wayne February 25, 2014 at 11:06 PM

I love sourdough, and it’s the only bread we eat. It is very important to make certain that there is no bromine in the flour used. Bromine is a halide that fools the body’s receptors into thinking that it is the iodine that the body truly seeks. Instead of helping the thyroid like iodine does, bromine slows and damages thyroid function, as does other halides such as chlorine and fluoride. Talk to your sourdough baker, and make sure that iodine is used as the anti-caking ingredient, rather than bromine. (See Dr. David Brownstein)


Ellen February 26, 2014 at 5:32 AM

Wayne, great comment/reminder about bromine. The damage that bromine does to the receptors is to the iodide-symporters which actually transport iodine into the cells SO even if you had iodine, it would be unable to get into the cells. Mountain Dew is a beverage that has brominated oils and many people are being damaged in other ways from it as well. All the more reason to make one’s own bread–as long as one pays attention to the ingredients.


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larisa March 6, 2014 at 12:12 PM

I think it is prudent to mention that gluten intolerance is different from Celiac. With Celiac, you may be asymptomatic, or not have a reaction to Sourdough, but any gluten ingested is attacking your intestines. Gluten intolerance is similar to an allergy, and reaction alone is the issue.


CS March 29, 2014 at 12:58 PM

Roman soldiers on station are known to have eaten chicken, duck, petrels, cormorants, herons, spoonbills, mallards, teals, geese, cranes, crows, mussels, hares, deer, foxes, badgers, beavers, voles, wild oxen,Wild boar, fish, pigs and moles (plus others – if they could eat it, they did). In addition they always kept a herd of cattle (both milk and meat) and sometimes kept other animals such as sheep and goats. They also had eggs. Additionally, when away from station a soldier always marched with a good supply of bacon (amongst other things including cheeses). And they are known for taking what they needed from the places they marched through. So how can they have only had sourdough for protein as the sign in the pictures says? What rubbish!


Annie March 29, 2014 at 2:12 PM

Wow Those Soldiers must of been Constipated lol.
No Greens!

Btw, What has happened to our Leader, Anne Marie??
Hope she is Ok…

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Roman Muntener April 2, 2014 at 6:18 PM

Roman soldiers eat only sourdough bread for protein? B.S.! That’s just rubbish. Would like to know where he gets his information from.
Weeks or months of fermentation? More b.s.! I operate a traditional sourdough bakery on a daily basis and I can assure you that fermentation simply stops when there is no more food for the bacteria – sourdough needs to be fed on a regular basis; if there is no flour and water added the sourdough chef simply dies, goes flat, and starts stinking.
Guy reminds me of the Soup Nazi but then, that’s old history.


Annie April 2, 2014 at 8:07 PM

Don’t get so excited.. Maybe he got a bit confused!
It could be the American Settlers coming across the country, and ate allot of Sourdough bread lol..

You have seen those Cowboy movies where there wife’s give them Sourdough bread wrap in cloth before leaving for the cattle drives!! hahaa,,


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Azura October 7, 2014 at 1:29 PM

I just want to remind you guys that, on a culinary level, bread IMPROVES as the dough ferments at lower temperatures. The enzymes naturally present in the flour and the yeasts that you add (from the starter) break down the starch into simpler, sweeter sugars, making the bread bake up darker and more flavorful with deeper, maltier tones. The longer you ferment, the more sour it becomes, but if you’re working with a sourdough anyway, trust me — it’ll be the best, most amazing bread you’ll have if you let it sit for at least three days and up to a couple of weeks.

You can read up on a little bit of the science here:


Ranga December 13, 2014 at 2:59 PM

Do the probiotic bacteria survive the temperatures that involve baking bread? Probably not, and hence negates the entire article…


Ali December 14, 2014 at 2:48 PM

It doesn’t matter whether the probiotic bacteria survives the cooking process or not. It’s not the bacteria that is important, it’s what they do. Good live yeasts and microbes in the slow-rise sourdough not only converts the proteins into far more digestible components, they also generate heaps of nutritional elements, especially B vitamins needed for digestion of the bread. By the time the bread is cooked, they have done their job, and whether they survive or not is irrelevant.

Short-rise and most commercially baked bread has not been proofed (fermented) long enough for the protein conversion and extra elements to be generated, and unproofed grain foods have none of those benefits at all. They rob the body of nutrition rather than supply it. The digestive process uses a lot of nutrition. Any food that provides less – or an incomplete supply – of the nutrients needed for its digestion puts the body into ‘negative equity’. That is why so many people struggle with wheat-based foods these days.

My husband is very gluten intolerant. He turns into Attila the Hun for the best part of a week if he gets glutened. In pain, frustrated, irritable, angry, and brain-fog so thick you can cut it with a knife. Yet he can eat slow-rise bread (cleaned of any loose flour and shaped using olive oil) without any problem at all. The difference is in the way it’s made with the far higher protein conversion and the much higher nutritional elements giving his body the tools to process it properly.

There is a big hype about probiotics, but the benefit comes from the fermentation process within the food rather than within us.


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