Although our society is taking steps to become more health conscious, the grocery stores throughout North America (and most of the world) are still filled with baked goods that do nothing more than harm our health and weight. One of these baked goods which almost every household still relies on, and heavily, is bread. And each day people are filling themselves with breads based on white, refined flours, sugars, unhealthy oils, not to mention a slew of different preservatives and artificial additives. Even most whole wheat flour breads fail to come close to being considered healthy as they spike insulin levels like sugar and cause weight problems, while adding little, if any, nutritional value.
The good news is that although still not easily accessible for all, or the popular choice at most grocery stores, a few companies are providing breads that actually have our health in mind. Breads that take seriously what they include, just as much as what they leave out. One of these bread choices are the Organic Sourdough breads from ShaSha Co.
About the ShaSha Co.
ShaSha Co. is an organic bakery company that was started by Shasha Shaun Navazesh who had a dream of opening an authentic artesian bakery. He graduated with a Culinary Management diploma and in 1988 started his artesian bakery in the Toronto area of Ontario, Canada. Over the years ShaSha Co. has continued to grow quickly as more and more people discovered the health difference, quality and excellent taste of the ShaSha Organic Sourdough Breads and products. More information can be found on the ShaShaBread.com site.
From the first time I learned about this company a few years ago and tried their Organic Ezekiel bread, I knew that here was something different – a company that really stood out and was taking health—our health—seriously.
For ShaSha Co., it is not just about baking bread and making a profit, but about being considerate of the body’s nutritional needs and the affect of food ingredients and processing on our health. The company is conscious of not adding ingredients like oils, sugar, dairy, chemical additives and preservatives to their breads. They use scientific research to optimize sourdough bacteria and fungus to replace commercial yeast; boosting lactic acid levels and contributing to greater health, energy, and vitality. This natural fermentation changes the nature of the starches in the bread, creating a more beneficial bread when it comes to digestion and not spiking blood sugars as much, even though they are made using flours.
Although ShaSha Co. specializes in bread, they offer other healthy whole food options including sprouted grains and beans, gluten-free snacks, spelt pizza crust and more. Alongside their bakery, they also have their ShaSha Organic Gourmet Food store located in Etobicoke, Ontario. I had the pleasure of visiting it twice thus far and being pleasantly surprised at the great selection of not just whole, natural and organic food choices, but even some personal care products of a similar quality as well. It is nice again to see a truly health oriented company.
They currently produce 8 breads, which all use the sourdough (natural fermentation) technology and do not contain any added yeast, sugars, oils, dairy or chemical additives and preservatives. However out of the eight breads, six of them contain solely organic ingredients and are the focus of this review. To date, I have had the pleasure of trying all six of them and it is my pleasure to share about each of them with your below.
Organic Ezekiel Bread
Organic Whole Wheat Flour, Organic Whole Spelt Flour, Filtered Water; Organic Sprouted Wheat, Spelt, Lentils, Millet, Barley, Oat & Rye; Organic Sourdough Bacterial Culture, Pure Sea Salt. Full nutrition profile here.
The Ezekiel bread was the first variety that caught my attention and initially attracted me to this company. In my research for healthy bread choices, I learned that if there was such a thing as healthy bread, an “Ezekiel” bread would be it. “Ezekiel” is a name given to sprouted grain and bean breads, that are based on an ancient Bible recipe and are nutritionally “complete”. Having done enough research on grains and flours, I realized the importance of using soaked and/or sprouted grains (and beans even). They digest differently and have more nutritional benefits. For example most people are not aware that diets high in refined and processed grains or their flours, can decrease the absorption of various minerals like iron. Soaking and sprouting a whole grain changes this reaction to make it more favorable for us.
As you can see the ingredients are simple and straightforward, having the best of what should be there, and avoiding all that should not. This bread has a generally mild, neutral taste that can allow it to be used with any food from being topped with nut butters and mashed fruit, to spicy hummus and vegetable foods. Its texture does not include any seed or grain pieces, and each slice offers substantial density. This is not your typical soft, fluffy or spongy bread.
Organic Raisins Spelt Bread
Ingredients: Organic Whole Spelt Flour, Filtered Water, Organic Sourdough Bacterial Culture, Organic Raisins, Organic Sprouted Spelt, Pure Sea Salt, Organic Cinnamon. Full nutrition profile here.
I have only tried this bread once, as the Ezekiel variety was always my first choice from this company and the odd time that I would eat bread altogether. It was as one may expect, very delicious as the raisins added a natural sweetness, while the hint of cinnamon added a richer overall flavor. The bread still uses some sprouted grain and can make a good choice for those who wish to avoid wheat altogether, as it uses spelt. It can also make a great “treat” for kids (or anyone really), instead of unhealthy baked goods like cinnamon or raisin buns, as it tastes delicious warmed up in a toaster oven with a little coconut oil or almond butter spread on top.
Organic Spelt Bread
Ingredients: Organic Whole Spelt Flour, Filtered Water, Organic Sourdough Bacterial Culture, Organic Sprouted Spelt, Pure Sea Salt. Full nutrition profile here.
The Organic Spelt Bread is ShaSha Co.’s most popular variety. In having tried it a couple times, I found it similar to the Ezekiel variety, in having a uniform texture (no whole food pieces), dense slices and a mild, pleasant taste. Like the Raisin bread above, it offers a great alternative to wheat breads, while being adaptable to any meal, sweet, salty or spicy. And as with the previous two, the ingredients are clear, simple and straightforward.
Organic Spelt with Chia & Poppy Seed Bread
Ingredients: Organic Whole Spelt Flour, Filtered Water, Organic Sourdough (Organic Spelt Flour, Filtered Water, Bacterial Culture), Organic Chia, Organic Sprouted Spelt, Organic Poppy Seed, Sea Salt. Full nutrition profile here.
This is one of three new sourdough and organic breads that ShaSha added to their product line in November 2012. It is part of their "superfood" breads, which include selected superfood ingredients. In this case that would be the chia seed, although one can consider the poppy seed (and almost every seed) a superfood as well. This bread maintains ShaSha's high quality to nutritional integrity and purity. The density of its slices is very similar to the traditional Ezekiel or Spelt breads above. Of course what makes this bread stand out is the added nutritional benefit of the amazing chia seed. Extra nutritional benefits also come from the poppy seeds, as well as a hint of their great flavor. Yes, having these seeds included means having some texture in this bread of actual seeds, but it is a very wonderful experience. The poppy seed taste is mildly apparent, and not overpowering even though it is richly incorporated into the bread, which also makes it easy to eat without worrying about having all these poppy seeds stuck in your teeth. Finally, this bread provides a great option from ShaSha for those who wish to avoid all wheat, while still enjoying their bread benefits.
Organic Ezekiel with Chia and Sunflower Seed Bread
Ingredients: Organic Whole Wheat Flour, Filtered Water, Organic Sourdough (Organic Spelt Flour, Filtered Water, Bacterial Culture), Organic Sunflower Seed, Organic Whole Spelt Flour, Organic Chia, Organic Sprouted Wheat, Sea Salt, Organic Sprouted Flax, Organic Sprouted Spelt, Organic Sprouted Rye, Organic Millet, Organic Sprouted Barley, Organic Sprouted Oats, Organic Sprouted Lentils. Full nutrition profile here.
This is the second of the three new superfood breads that ShaSha introduced in the fall of 2012. And I have to say that if I had to pick my favorite bread from ShaSha, this would be it. It has the wonderful flavor of sunflower seeds, along with the nutritional benefits of being sourdough, using sprouted grains and legumes, and to top it off chia and sunflower seeds! Its has some texture to it as well, which I always enjoy, coming from the seeds, and the same slice density that one can appreciate from ShaSha's breads. It is an optimally healthy bread choice for those who choose to include bread in their diet and definitely gets my recommendation.
Organic Country White with Semolina and Quinoa
Ingredients: Organic Wheat Flour, Filtered Water, Organic Sourdough (Organic Wheat Flour, Filtered Water, Bacterial Culture), Organic Semolina Flour, Organic Quinoa, Organic Sprouted Wheat, Organic Sprouted Rye, Sea Salt.
This is the third of the three new superfood breads that are part of ShaSha's bread varieties and one that I was a little surprised by. You can easily guess why, as it includes a non-whole flour. I imagine ShaSha is trying to cater to those in the population who are stuck on eating "white bread" and offering a white bread version that at least has some nutritional value - and that it does. It contains the superfood quinoa, which has an excellent nutrition profile. It is created with ShaSha's sourdough technology and even offers some sprouted grains. It also includes semolina, which is nutritionally more valuable than refined flour, as it is composed of the endosperm particles that contain a higher protein composition along with some other nutrients like iron. As with typical white bread one can expect a uniform texture, which will be appealing to those who don't like actual grain or seed pieces in their bread. But unlike unhealthy white bread options, this was is not spongy or fluffy, but has ShaSha's typical dense quality to its slices. So while this wouldn't be my first choice, it is a bread that can make a great transition product for those moving towards healthier choices and easing their dependency on nutritionally inferior commercial white breads.
Overall Bread Characteristics
In terms of nutritional value, the breads are rich in protein, with about 6g per slice. The Ezekiel breads provide an easy source of complete protein and are also rich sources of iron. The breads contain no unhealthy fats, being extremely low in fat overall. When it comes to processed food, including bread, sodium is usually a major issue. With the ShaSha Organic Sourdough breads, the sodium is neither high, nor low, but a reasonable (healthy) amount. (Roughly 1 to 1, calories to sodium is a good rule of thumb to estimate a reasonable sodium amount, and what these breads contain). What is nice as well, is that the breads are rich in potassium, which further offsets the sodium amounts.
However, as with any high-heat processed product, we have to remember that we are not consuming a living food item, with all of its naturally occurring vitamins, enzymes and any other heat-sensitive nutrients. As I always mention, this is not a big deal if we eat a largely raw diet, but does take a toll on our system if we eat a largely cooked, baked, grilled, fried diet.
The slices are not too thick and not too thin. Likewise, it is not too hard and not too soft. It would make a great choice for those people who dislike the taste of commercial whole wheat breads, or the rich, whole food textures that come with most “healthy” breads. The slices do tend to be on the smaller side, but are quite versatile in their use. Its texture and flavor is enhanced when the bread is warmed in a toaster oven.
In terms of price, the breads tend to be a little pricier, but given their quality ingredients, health conscious individuals can appreciate their price. They cost around $5 per 550g (slightly over 1 pound) package. It is again valuable to remember that when it comes to breads, we want quality over quantity.
The breads are most readily available in Ontario, Canada and are one of the best, if not the best, options of a “healthy” bread if you reside in this vicinity. The company is environmentally conscious and when we choose a local product it helps us make more sustainable choices as well, while supporting local community businesses.
Although I personally myself have little bread in my life, when I do I am happy to make this one, one of my first choices and feel comfortable recommending it to others.
The breads come packaged in a plastic bag, which can be recycled once product is finished. Their size/weight is about 550g.
Price (as of this posting)
- Around $4.50 – $5.50 CAD per 550g loaf
- Available at grocery stores across Ontario, Canada
- To find a store near you, check the store locator
- Excellent ingredients
- Organic ingredients
- Uses natural fermentation of sourdough
- Great nutritional value
- Good taste
- Good texture
- Vegan & vegetarian friendly
- Some Wheat-free
- No added colors or flavors
- Fair price
- Not suitable for people with gluten intolerance
- Not suitable for raw foodists (high heat processed)