According to the website, today is National Sourdough Bread Day. The holiday commemorates the bread that, in the US at least, is associated with the gold rush and the western part of the country. The website relates that the bread was popular with prospectors during the California Gold Rush—so much so that “sourdough” was a nickname the locals bestowed upon the hopeful gold panners that made their way through the territory.

According to food historians, sourdough isn’t as old as bread itself—that dates back to about 14,500 BC, University College of London scholar Dorian Fuller told the BBC. However, it does reach back very far indeed. 

As Michael Gaenzle, a microbiologist based at the University of Alberta in Canada writes in the Encyclopedia of Food Microbiology, "One of the oldest sourdough breads dates from 3700 BCE and was excavated in Switzerland, but the origin of sourdough fermentation likely relates to the origin of agriculture in the Fertile Crescent and Egypt several thousand years earlier", which was confirmed a few years later by archeological evidence.”

In fact, as shared in the Sicard and Legras paper “Bread, beer and wine: yeast domestication in the Saccharomyces sensu stricto complex,” the use of the yeast we associate with a huge hunk of the breads consumed today (especially those procured from grocery stores and retail bakeries) didn’t come until more than a millennium and a half after sourdough’s arrival on the scene.

La Brea Bakery is one of the producers celebrating sourdough today. The company has passed along insights from Mia Syn, a registered dietician, on some of the reasons why this particular bread is worth having a holiday named after it and being lauded throughout the year.

Sourdough is better bread

“While whole grain bread often gets all the nutritional glory, sourdough bread shouldn’t be discounted,” Syn points out. “The long and slow fermentation process not only helps break down gluten and anti-nutrient phytic acid, making the bread easier to digest for some people compared to breads made with regular dough, it also results in increased nutrient bioavailability. Not only that, but the fermentation process results in a lower glycemic index bread which means a slower and steadier increase in blood sugar levels after consumption.”  

Sourdough naturally possesses a unique flavor

“There is more to love about sourdough than its unique sour flavor and visual appeal,” she says. “Its potential health benefits beat out breads made with regular dough, and it often has a longer shelf life because of its acidity, helping to reduce food waste. 

La Brea’s sourdough is made with simple ingredients

“La Brea Bakery is unique in that they use their very own signature sourdough starter in every single loaf made using only flour, salt, water, and wild yeasts from the skin of organic grapes, and ferment their bread for at least 10 hours allowing more complex flavors and textures to develop," Syn comments.

Breads are good for you

“The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that healthy adults consume around 5 to 10 ounces of grain foods per day depending on their age, sex, and activity level,” Syn states. “Grain foods are important sources of many nutrients including complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber and several B vitamins which play a key role in metabolism - helping the body convert the food we eat, into useable energy.”